Choosing a special gift for a tween can be challenging if you aren't paying close attention. Tweens develop emotionally and physically at different rates, and this can make it tricky when finding the perfect gift. Not only that, but the pandemic has unleashed an avalanche of mental health trouble to this age group, making it difficult to know what our children really want this year!
To make your 2021 shopping list easy peasy, I bring to you the coolest holiday gifts according to tween development. I'm certain these gifts will put a smile on the face of even the moodiest child! I also kept in mind while searching that it may have been a tough year financially for some families and most of the gifts listed are around $50 and under. To be clear, there are NO affiliate links in this email, just my favorite presents for tweens.
So, who is a tween these days? Typically a tween is a child between the ages of nine to twelve years of age. This stage of development is a pivotal time when children begin to mature and find interest in games, toys, and activities the older kids like. While they are drawn to their friends and socializing, they still crave time with their family and loved ones. Keep this in mind when choosing gifts, and always pick a few things you can do together.
You might be wondering what is social-emotional development? According to the California Department of Education, "Social-emotional development includes the child’s experience, expression, and management of emotions and the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others." (Cohen and others 2005).
To make gift-giving for your tween faster than a snapchat, I curated this personalized list to line up perfectly with your tween's social-emotional development.
Here's the inside scoop on tween development and the gifts they will LOVE:
1. They are building an identity outside of the family. Sniff, sniff. Children approaching the teenage years want to show off their style. The purpose of this is to develop an identity separate from their parents. This behavior is a sign of healthy psychological development and should be encouraged! Let them show off their individuality, even if it makes you cringe. Allowing tweens to spread their wings will support their self-esteem and increase confidence.
Tripod stand and ring light for social media videos
Apple pencil for her iPad to convert hand written notes into text or create art (cheapest on Amazon)
KiwiCo has incredible DIY maker crates for all different ages and interests. I have first hand experience with KiwiCo, and they get the thumbs up from me and my daughter. (this is not an affiliate link, just an honest endorsement.)
2. They are eager to learn. Tweens have an inner thirst for knowledge and the ability to maintain their mental focus for more extended periods, making these years ideal for learning new skills. Pay attention to the activities and topics they are naturally interested in and encourage them by finding a gift that correlates. This is also the time to help tweens broaden their horizons and take a shot at new hobbies.
Cool science experiments
Innovative musical instruments
Magazine subscription that will get them off their screens
Outschool Lego Class - and other online classes in their topic of interest
3. They are group-oriented and prefer group work. It's all about the "social game" for tweens. Which is why the past two years has been so challenging to this age group. They want and need to spend time with their peers as they navigate and learn the rules of friendship, empathy, and integrity. Tweens are determining their value system. Give them plenty of opportunities to explore their beliefs by including items with a spiritual connection. Children in this age group want to fit in with their peers, so pay attention to what other kids like and you will get it right every time!
Interactive card games like Throw, Throw, Burrito
Instant camera for group photos
Jenga (cheaper on Target than Amazon) can be turned into a social-emotional learning tool by writing questions on several blocks. When a player pulls a question block, she can choose to answer it or pass it to another player.
4. They are fascinated with secrecy and privacy. Tweens are all about secret codes and languages only their closest peeps are privy to. Allow them to have some privacy at this age. Ten to twelve-year-olds thrive when they have a sense of autonomy and personal freedom. Experiment with letting them spend some time alone with friends, as long as you know their friends well, and of course, always trust your instincts.
"Incognito" lock box for personal treasures and keepsakes
A journal with a code for writing in a private place. Journaling is beneficial for mental health, just don't go snooping!
How to write secret codes activity and puzzle
Detective agency kit - Osmo
5. They are concerned with appearance and personal hygiene. As children approach the teenage years, they start to notice others as potential mates. You will see your child is more interested in grooming herself. This behavior is built into our DNA as a tactic to attract a partner. Don't freak out, mom and dad! Developing romantic feelings is a normative part of childhood development, and you want to send the message that it is ok for them to express this part of their identity. Plus you will want them to come to you with relationship questions, trust me!
Guy Stuff - Self-care book for tween boys
Curl and spin hair styling tool (adult supervision may be required)
Perfumes/colognes most popular with tweens
Bath bombs with surprises inside
Frogsac no-slip headbands for tweens
Toiletry bag for overnight travel and gym class
6. They are more interested in playing sports than before, and have an increased attention span. Tweens are more interested in sports than they were in their elementary days. If your child didn't initially take to sports, now is a good time to reintroduce the idea. Children this age are excited about their favorite sports teams and icons. They are also able to focus for longer periods of time on learning new skills.
7. They place a higher value on friendship than they used to. Of course friends are important at any age, but during the tween years friendships trump just about everyone else in their life. This is completely normative and can sting a bit for mom’s and dad’s who might be feeling lonely without all the attention. Take this opportunity to support their most valuable connections by giving gifts that encourage social bonding.
A framed photo of the child and her besties
Lastly, think back to the gifts you enjoyed as a tween, and be inspired to share those same experiences with your loved ones this year!
Gifts I enjoyed as a tween girl that stand the test of time:
Collecting crystals, gems, and rocks
Music - air pods, headphones
Finding the right gift can be exhausting! With this list I hope you can give the young humans in your a life a meaningful present that is customized to their social-emotional development stage. I wish you a relaxing gift-giving season full of the joy and enchantment of the holiday season.
To learn more about social-emotional development and improving the mental wellness of the children you love, please join my Facebook group, Emotiminds. It is an educational group full of parents and mental health professionals who discuss parenting, healing from childhood trauma, and activities to increase emotional intelligence. We would love to have your perspective!
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