Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gifts for The Tough to Please....Tweens!

If you have taken a look at my 2015 Holiday Gift Guide, you will know that I put a whole lot of time and heart into it.  Since most of the kids I work with are between the ages of 2 and 8, putting together that list is easy because I test out the toys all the time.  But as kids get older, gift giving can get a bit trickier.  The holidays are a big deal and people want to make sure they give gifts that will not only be fun, but will be somewhat useful.  While shopping for kids in general can be difficult, shopping for a tween/teen can be super difficult.  If you have a tween in your life, you know that they have specific interests and "needs".  They ask for a lot, or maybe don't ask for anything at all.

I have a 5 year old daughter.  She is still really into Calico Critters and Disney princesses and actually makes gift giving really easy.  Every night Quinn spends time circling a bunch of stuff she doesn't really want in the catalogues that come in the mail.  She makes gift giving easy.  But I also have a 10 year old niece (who used to be super easy to buy gifts for) who I still want to impress with my gift-giving abilities.  I want her to know that thought is put into the gifts I give her and cross my fingers that she likes what I choose.  The toughest thing about shopping for this particular age group is that they are in limbo....they still want to be kids and get lots of gifts and play with toys, but they want to be a big kid and do all those big kid things at the same time.  They are hard to please which can make shopping for them more of a job than fun.  

I have a point here....I am getting to it right now.  Even though buying gifts for kids gets more difficult as they get older, there are still a lot of great options out there.  You may have to be more creative and you may have to step outside of what you feel comfortable giving.  It's important to keep in mind that the person you have to put first is the person you are buying the gift for, not necessarily standing behind your ideas and beliefs.  

I've done a lot of research and testing out and have come up with ideas for Top 10 List of  Tween/Teen Gifts:

1.  Polaroid Camera-as many of us know, tweens/teens are most likely spending more time with their phones than they are with anything else these days.  One of the things they like to do with their phones is take pictures.  Probably  more so than any generation of kids, tweens don't know a time where they couldn't see a picture immediately after taking it.  Polaroid Cameras are (kind of) immediate but also require a little bit of patience, focus and attention.  They require your kids to connect with their environment and make conscious decisions about what they will take pictures of since they won't be able to erase it.  I've been using a Polaroid camera with my kids at work and they love it and doing even mind having to wait to see the picture.  Both Polaroid and Fujifilm make instant cameras that come in a variety of fun, bright, bold colors.   

2.  Washi Tape-I'll admit, I am a sucker for some pretty Washi tape.  I find myself buying it for no reason other than it is so pretty.  My niece Julia, 10 years old, spends hours and hours playing and crafting with it.  You can buy it at all craft stores and I have seen it at some of my local gift stores including my favorite store ,Pink Olive.  The great thing about Washi Tape is that it's small and doesn't take up a lot of room.  It is also a reasonably priced gift (although you can go a little crazy and buy some more expensive tapes).  There are also a ton of things that you can do with it.  Check out this link to 100 Ways to Washi for some awesome ideas.  And let's not forget about the hours and hours you can spend looking on Pinterest for other ideas.   On my hunt for finding some new patterns, I stumbled upon these washi tape sticker sheets.  My daughter and I have had a lot of fun decorating and making some really cool pictures.  Washi tape is not only great for working on fine motor and manipulation skills, but also encourages creativity and imagination.

3.  Games-kids may outgrow certain kinds of toys, but good games will last through the ages.   I was actually in Target last week and noticed that they have a whole display of the classic board games in their original packaging.  They call it the Retro Series and they feature some of the best games ever...Sorry!, Clue, Twister, CandyLand and Scrabble.  I'm tempted to get a couple just because I like the old school packaging!
Games are great to play as a family or to take out when you have friends over.  Clearly, playing games works on developing language and social skills but there are also a ton of other benefits.  Depending on what games you choose, your child can work on improving their fine motor, visual motor/perceptual and executive functioning skills (focus, attention, organization, sequencing, etc.).  Some other great games to consider for your tween/teen:
*Jenga
*Pictionary
*Connect 4 (I'm a big fan of Connect 4 Launchers)
*Trouble
*Uno (I also really like Uno Dare because there is an added gross motor component built in)
*Apples to Apples
*Spot It
*Thumbs Up
Games are great to play as a family or to take out when you have friends over.  Clearly, playing games works on developing language and social skills but there are also a ton of other benefits.  Depending on what games you choose, your child can work on improving their fine motor, visual motor/perceptual and executive functioning skills (focus, attention, organization, sequencing, etc.).  

4.  Coloring Books-one of my favorite things to do when I am feeling a little stressed out is to color.  It's amazing how something from our childhood can bring such a sense of calm to us even as we get older.  Coloring is no longer something just for younger children.  Have you been into your local bookstores lately?  If you have, you will notice that there are now dozens of coloring books intended for older children and grownups.  I have blogged about this subject several times; you can read my most recent coloring blog here which was written in June.  Since then, I have discovered other great coloring books that are well suited for your tween/teens.  Some of my favorites are:

*Harry Potter Coloring Book by Scholastic
*Secret Garden Artist's Edition by Johanna Basford-the original edition is just as beautiful but this artist's edition includes 20 pictures that you can color in and then frame which might be a nice motivating factor for some of your kids!
*Large Coloring Pictures by Pirasta-I am in love with these giant coloring pages that are actually created right in my beloved Brooklyn.  This is a great group activity (we are actually planning on doing one with our group at The Meeting House).  Be sure to check out the Pirasta website to see their entire collection!
*Doodle Lit: Drawing On The Classics-kids can know learn more about classic literature in a fun and interactive way.  With Doodle Lit, kids can use their imaginations to complete pictures from Pride & Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, Alice in Wonderland and several others.  There are also pages that have activities that you can pop out and craft with.

5. Boodle Box-sometimes you just don't know what to get that special little girl you have to shop for. I had this issue with some of the older girls who I buy for this year.  I wanted to make sure that I got them something they would like but that wouldn't be too old/mature for them.  Then I thought about how much kids love to get mail and how they don't get much snail mail these days with email, texting, etc..  What could be more exciting than getting a box filled with fun new products??  The Boodle Box is a subscription for girls and teens (you pick one of two options based on the girl's age, 5-10 years of age or 11+) and comes with a handful of fun beauty or fashion products based on that month's them.  Some of the things that have been featured in the boxes are candy, nail polishes, lip glosses, hair accessories, etc..

6.  Loot Crate-while Boodle Box is geared more towards fashion and beauty products, Loot Crate is for that kid who is more into geek and gaming gear.  Do you have a kid who is really into comics and superheroes?  Each month, a box filled with fresh collectibles, tech gadgets and art products comes gets delivered to your child.  You never know what you are going to get which makes it more exciting for the recipient.

7.  PowerUp 3.0-while I know many parents are trying to avoid giving gifts that keep kids attached to their phones, I thought that this Smartphone controlled paper airplane kit was pretty awesome.  And it actually requires kids to be connected and focused to their environment more than to their phone.  First you make a paper airplane.  Once it is made, you attach the Smart Module to the paper airplane.  Now it is time to you make your airplane fly using your phone.  By moving your phone in different directions, your airplane will fly within 180 feet of your phone for up to 10 minutes at a time.  Great for working on eye-hand coordination,  motor planning, focus/attention and organizational skills.

8.  Arts & Crafts-no matter the age, kids like to craft and create things.  As they get older, you just have to be sure to find things that might suit their interests more.  I like to suggest arts and craft sets that might be good to do with a friend in order to practice teamwork, cooperative play and other social skills.  This helps to prepare this older group of kids for when they have to do projects in school with their peers.  Some of the best craft sets for this older age are listed below:
*Spirograph
*Edible Chemistry Kit
*Nail Style Studios (Klutz)
*ThinkFun Maker Studio Kits
*Loopy Mango Finger Knitting Scarf Kit
*Fashion Plates Deluxe/Action Plates Drawing Set

9.  Gross Motor Gifts-doesn't matter the age, kids need to move and get themselves active.  I especially like to suggest gross motor toys that get kids outside.  Not only
great for building body strength, motor planning and coordination, but if you choose the right products, it can be great for encouraging social skills.  Here are some of my favorites that your tween/teen will be sure to love!
*Pogo Stick-this one is good for kids weighing between 60 and 100 lbs.  Be sure to get one that is meant for kids or your might find they are too big or too heavy for them to use successfully.
*Zoom Ball-this is a great gross motor activity that works on bilateral coordination, motor planning and upper body strengthening.  A perfect activity to work on social skills, particularly team-work an cooperative play.
*Dueling Stomp Rocket-stomp rockets are one of the most underrated gross motor toys but bring hours and hours of fun. It is great for encouraging gross motor skills, motor planning, focus/attention and cooperative play. When I saw this double stomp rocket toy, I had to get it (and recommend it to everyone).  Just like the original stomp rocket, you stomp on the launch pad and send the rockets flying.  With this double one, you can have a competition to see whose goes further and who can run faster to catch/or pick theirs up.  Best part...no batteries required!
*OgoSport Discs-I love this sports game.  They call it a hand trampoline for all different kinds of balls.  Great for working on improving focus/attention, motor planning, organizational skills and upper body strengthening.  Additionally, a great activity to encourage teamwork and cooperative play amongst kids.

10.  Do It Yourself Books-these are great gifts for any kid, but especially good for your tweens/teens because they can do it independently.  Kids are so used to having to write about certain things for school and love the opportunity to tell their own stories without any rules. DIY books are great for encouraging imagination and creativity. They allow kids to express themselves in both words and pictures.  
*My Comic Book-this kit comes with ready-to-use page templates, washable markers, an artist pen, pencil and eraser, a how-to guide and a postage-paid envelope, order form and instructions.  Once kids fill in the templates, they can send it back to Lulu Jr. who will in turn send it back to you as a comic book!
*Story Lines Books-I love this collection of DIY books.  Each book comes with a story written already and it's your child's job to illustrate the story.  There are 10 different ones to choose from so you'll be sure to find the perfect one of your tween/teen!
*The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book-kids can be the author, illustrator and main character in this DIY Wimpy Kid book.  There are tons of interactive pages with space for your child to write their own life story.
*And Then I Wrote A Story/And Then...Story Starters Set 1-this journal and story starters set is perfect for those kids who want to write and draw but need a little help.  The Story Starters set comes with 20 beautifully illustrated cards and the beginning of a story.  It's up to your child to decide how the story will end.  They can write their stories in the And Then I Wrote A Story notebook.
*Crayola Story By Me (hardcover)-this kit by Crayola contains book and cover page templates, washable Crayola markers, brainstorming sheet (genius idea since we know kids tend to have a hard time getting their thoughts all organized), instructions, book redemption form and a prepaid envelope.  Once your child writes and illustrates their story, they can mail all the materials in and will then get it back as a professionally printed hardcover book.

11.  Loome: this simple (and totally affordable) crafting tool can be used to make pompoms, tassels, friendship bracelets and much, much more.  I was introduced to it this weekend when at a makers Holiday Shop in Brooklyn.  Of course, I loved that I finally found a tool that made making pom poms easy for me.  But what I loved more was that my 5 year old daughter was able to do it with some assistance from me.  A tween would be able to use this independently and spend hours creating with it.  Great for working on improving fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination and increase creativity skills.  There website has links to several how-to videos for your child to watch.  Can be done individually, but also could be done with friends.  I have already made a pom pom Christmas garland with mine and plan on making some pom pom and tassel necklaces with my daughter.  You can buy just the loome (there are a few different ones to choose from) or pick up one of their kits which comes with all the supplies you need.  


12.  Blink Blink Kits-these creative circuit kits have all the necessary tools to make your own arts and crafts and fashion projects.  They were created by two woman specifically for girls to encourage and inspire them to become more interested in technology and engineering.  I picked up the Paper Circuit kit this weekend and am already excited to try it out with my own daughter and nieces to make ornaments and other kinds of light-up paper projects.  Great for working on fine motor and visual motor/perceptual skills.  Also great for inspiring creativity and social skills if done in a group.  Be sure to check out their DIY Tutorials on their website for lots of great ideas!
**there is no reason that you can't pick one of these sets up for boys as well

So, here you go.  I had a lot of fun putting this list together and consulting with some of my tween/teen friends to find out what they want this year.  If you have any great ideas for tween/teen gifts, please share with me and my readers!  Your suggestions could help make things easier for other parents/gift givers this holiday season.  I am always a click away and love hearing from you all!



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