The Best Gifts for 10-Year-Olds to Keep Them Playing, Creating, and Feeling Confident

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Experts and almost 900 parents helped us find tweens’ favorite toys, STEAM kits, games, and more.

<p>Parents / Marcus Millan</p>

Parents / Marcus Millan

Medically reviewed by Dr. Ann-Louise T Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP

The preteen years can be challenging in more ways than one, but picking up the best gift for a 10-year-old in your life doesn’t have to be. Kids this age are in a stage of “middle childhood,” which is marked by a focus on peer relationships, increasing independence and desires for responsibility, and newfound interests—all of which can be fostered by the right gift.

For instance, STEAM-based toys can build self-confidence and new skills, a child-appropriate smartwatch can help grant independence in a parent-approved way, and even early makeup kits for kids can help foster self-expression.

Every child is different, but to help you find the best gifts for 10-year-olds, we scoured and researched the best-selling holiday toys, visited toy fairs, and surveyed close to 900 parents from our research panel and our own staff to curate this guide.

Crayola Ultimate Light Board for Drawing & Coloring

$19 at

$30 at

My 9-year-old daughter is currently obsessed with this lightboard, and it’s a toy that sparks creativity thanks to its removable back panel that lets kids trace a design or make their own. It also features convenient built-in storage for the six included washable gel markers. Be sure to pick up at least three AAA batteries, so it’s ready to be powered up right away.

Price at time of publication: $29

Disney Doorables Ultimate Mega Pack

$43 at

$21 at

This is basically 30 gifts in one because each “door” opens to reveal a new Doorable figurine inside. The possibility of unboxing 30 new figurines may just be more fun for a 10-year-old than getting one big gift. This Mega pack includes 15 mystery and 15 exclusive figures, including beloved characters like Elsa, Tiana, and Pocahontas.

Price at time of publication: $43

Tamagotchi Uni

$60 at

See at

Millennial parents may remember the Tamagotchi time of their youth, but Gen Alpha’s digital pet has gotten an upgrade with a wearable option and a rechargeable battery. The Tamagotchi Uni hatches pets that live in the smartwatch as well as “Tamaverse,” the Tamagotchi world that brings owners across the world together. Kids can enjoy DIY activities and connect their Uni to other Unis to have playdates or interact together. Our editor’s 10-year-old has had his Uni for a few months, and though he does get slightly bummed when his digital pets die (sometimes just a day of neglect will do them in), he’s always eager to hatch another and start anew. It’s a low-stakes lesson in responsibility, and it’s one of the few toys to keep him engaged for months.

Price at time of publication: $60

Related: The Best Hoverboards for Futuristic (But Still Safe!) Fun Outside

Crazy Aaron's Super Scarab Thinking Putty

$15 at

$15 at

Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is an ideal sensory and fidget toy all in one, with the addition of color-changing tones. Kids can stretch it, bounce it, pop it, tear it, or sculpt it—and the non-toxic silicone putty will never dry out. It’s also a lot less messy than slime (though you still don’t want to find any of this ground into your carpet or lost in the wash!).

Price at time of publication: $15

Ravensburger Mysterious Owl Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle

$30 at

See at

Puzzling gets an upgrade with this premium wooden puzzle that also features a special woodsy scent. These wooden puzzles are printed directly onto wooden pieces, so they won’t peel or crack and can withstand even the most enthusiastic preteen puzzler. They’ll also love that instead of the standard jigsaw shapes, these pieces are cut into interesting figures like birds and butterflies.

Price at time of publication: $30

Bitzee Interactive Digital Pet

$25 at

See at

Bitzee is another digital pet that responds to real human interaction. Unlike Tamagotchi pets, these are projected onto rapidly moving plastic, so you can actually reach a finger out and pet them, which is surprisingly gratifying, as they respond to touch. Bitzee pets start out as babies and require physical swipes, tilts, shakes, and touch to nurture them as they grow. Plus, the more Bitzee is played with, the more pets appear. Once grown, Bitzees become “Super” and owners can dress them in outfits, play games with them, and feed them treats.

Price at time of publication: $30

Squishmallows Squishville Sweet Tooth Squad

$16 at

See at

One child in our survey said their Squishmallow is a sometimes toy, “sometimes pillow,” and we can’t think of a more apt description. Children love these plush toys’ softness and squishiness, not to mention their irresistible shapes based on animals, food, and more. This particular pack comes with six sweet-inspired 2-inch toys, no sugar added.

Price at time of publication: $16

STMT Sparkling Disco Decor Kit

$15 at

$15 at

I can personally attest that these craft kits with the tiny mirrored tiles are tons of fun and they’re oddly soothing to apply. My 9-year-old got in on some STMT craft fun at our local library and has a rocking tiled mushroom to show for it. This kit includes a disco ball, ice cream cone, and heart that can be hung for some DIY decor.

Price at time of publication: $15

Related: The Best Gifts for 8-Year-Olds and Their Big-Kid Brains

BIC BodyMark Temporary Tattoo Marker

$20 at

$29 at

Tweens looking to create their own tattoo version can get “inked up” with temporary tattoo markers in black, brown, red, pink, purple, blue, light blue, and green. The kit comes with stencils to help with their designs, too. All of the markers comply with FDA cosmetic regulations, according to the brand—which is an improvement over the permanent markers many kids wind up using on themselves—but we do recommend testing them on a small patch of skin before anyone gives themselves a full sleeve.

Price at time of publication: $35

Hasbro Gaming Twister Air Game

$14 at

$14 at

It’s Twister, with a twist. Thanks to augmented reality (with an app on Apple or Android devices), even one player can compete in solo mode by “twisting” on the screen. Instead of the plastic mat of our youths, wearable bands allow players to pose to match colored spots on the screen for hours of fun.

Price at time of publication: $20

Related: The Best Family Board Games That Will Make Kids Forget All About Their Screens

Elmer’s All-Star Slime Kit

$40 at

See at

That’s right—the slime craze is not over yet, but the slime kit lets kids enjoy the fun of slime without all of the mess of creating it. The kit includes different colors, slime ready-to-go in a jar, and plenty of slime activators. “I expected it to be a mess-maker that created some short-lived sensory fun, but they actually created some pretty neat art pieces with it,” one of our surveyed parents admitted.

Price at time of publication: $40

National Geographic Microscope Science Lab

$34 at

Aspiring scientists can experiment in a mini lab complete with prepared plant sides, rocks and minerals to investigate, and blank options to construct their own slides. The microscope magnifies up to 400x and has extra large knobs to help kids focus on their own.

Price at time of publication: $40

Kiss Naturals DIY Lip Balm Kit

$27 at

$25 at

Recommended for ages 6 and up, this non-toxic lip-gloss-making kit from Kiss Naturals lets young chemists and beauty enthusiasts combine safflower, beeswax, and shea butter to create their natural lip balms in less than 30 minutes. The lip balm ingredients are paraben- and sulfate-free and do not contain synthetic flavors and colors.

Price at time of publication: $25

National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler Kit

$51 at

$49 at

Rock tumblers were a highly coveted gift of our youth, and they’re still every bit as fun for kids. This easy-to-use tumbler from National Geographic also includes nine gemstones and everything needed to polish any rock.

Price at time of publication: $70

Elenco Teach Tech Mech 5 Mechanical Coding Robot

$22 at

See at

Emerging engineers can put their skills into action by first building, and then coding their very own robot that can throw, lift, kick, draw, and move. Coding is made simple here with the coding wheel that allows for “snapped” circuit buttons. This is from the same company that makes Snap Circuits, which teaches younger kids the basics of electrical engineering, so we trust them with this next level in our kids’ STEM education.

Price at time of publication: $47

Thames & Kosmos Lollipop Lab

$25 at

See at

Learning just got a whole lot sweeter with chemistry and math combined into a lollipop lesson. One set includes everything kids need to make a total of 16 lollipops and a giant ring pop in blue raspberry or cherry flavor, all with non-toxic materials.

Price at time of publication: $22

4M Solar System Planetarium Kit

$12 at

$26 at

Kids can assemble and paint this 16.5 x 16.5-inch solar system model and then enjoy displaying it in their room. It comes with stencils, glow-in-the-dark paint, a paintbrush, a fact chart, and quiz questions.

Price at time of publication: $13

Thames & Kosmos Candy Claw Machine

$23 at

$25 at

Tweens will enjoy the gift of togetherness with this hand-powered claw machine gift because it usually requires adult participation to assemble. In the process, they learn about hydraulics and other physics concepts. Once it’s built, everyone can try their hand (claw?) at picking up the included lollipops or candy boxes. And you can fill it up with other objects too!

Price at time of publication: $40

Hasbro Gaming Monopoly Barbie Edition Board Game

$19 at

$20 at

Barbies (and Kens and Allans, of course) of all ages can play the Barbie-themed twist on the classic Monopoly game, complete with pink tokens and Barbie bucks. The rules are the same, but this “Dream” economy feels just a little bit friendlier.

Price at time of publication: $25

National Geographic Metal Detector Starter Kit

$42 at

$50 at

Uncover hidden treasures up to 4 inches deep with this adjustable metal detector. At only 1.2 pounds, it’s lightweight enough for kids to carry and will make a day at the beach extra fun. Plus, it’s waterproof, so there’s no fear of wet sand ruining the dig.

Price at time of publication: $50

Gionlion 6,000-Piece Clay Beads

$15 at

$42 at

You absolutely cannot beat the price of this (often on sale) kit, which includes a total of 5,520 polymer clay beads and 550 charms, plus all the strings and even a pair of scissors to get crafting as soon as the gift is unwrapped. One parent from our survey said this is a favorite craft kit of her daughter’s—she especially loves making earrings for other people—because “it allows my daughter to be creative, make something all on her own to be proud of, and also give gifts. She loves to wear the things she makes and loves when other people wear them as well.”

Price at time of publication: $30

Lego Technic Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica

$40 at

$50 at

Lego and car enthusiasts alike will enjoy all of the fine details of this model car, from the V10 engine to the doors that actually open. One parent surveyed noted that the Lego model car sets are especially great for kids because they can build them according to the instructions and then put the pieces together in new ways for completely original designs. Unlike some of the more complicated Lego Technic kits, this is easy enough for ages 9 and up.

Price at time of publication: $50

Lego Ski and Climbing Center

$120 at

$120 at

This 1,045-piece Lego ski center came highly recommended via our parent survey because it’s a highly entertaining set on its own, but kids can also put it together with their friends or other family members. Plus, our parents found that kids enjoyed adding their own toys and accessories to the center to keep the fun going. “It helps kids build their motor skills and [helps] with problem-solving,” one parent noted.

Price at time of publication: $120

Micro Kickboard Sprite Scooter

$100 at

See at

Our family owns several of these scooters because they’re the best of the best and even through five kids and farm life, they’re still holding strong. I do not recommend being around your kids when they ride them unless you enjoy destroyed ankles, but on the plus side, they’re lightweight and sturdy enough to hold up to 220 pounds. Plus, you get a two-year manufacturer’s warranty when purchasing, and all the parts are replaceable, should anything on the scooter break.

Price at time of publication: $100

Related: The Best Scooters for Kids, Powered by Their Own Boundless Energy

AOSTAR LED Photos Clips String Lights

$10 at

See at

This very string of lights has adorned one of my teens’ bedrooms since she turned 10, and it really is such a simple yet impactful present. The gift serves as both a night-light and room decor, and the best part is that kids can easily clip and unclip photos to mix up the look. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the battery power on this thing—I have not had to change it once in three years.

Price at time of publication: $9

MGA's Miniverse Make It Mini Kitchen

$36 at

See at

Budding mini bakers can prep, set, and display in this mini kitchen playset. Miniverse kits have been a TikTok sensation of late, as kids and adults enjoy making miniature dishes of artificial food that harden and set in the sun or UV light. This set comes with kitchen basics like a fridge and shelves for storing miniature ingredients, as well as an oven with a working UV light for “cooking” each dish. It also comes with bonus recipes, mystery ingredients, and mini oven mitts.

Price at time of publication: $40

Petite ‘n Pretty At First Glow Makeup Start Set

$36 at

For preteens who want to start experimenting with makeup, this starter set includes just the right amount of sparkle in cruelty-free makeup that promises to be “age-appropriate” for tweens. Kids can play with eyeshadow, blush, highlighter, and lip gloss that are all pediatrician-, ophthalmologist-, and dermatologist-approved, according to the brand.

Price at time of publication: $36

K'NEX Education STEM Explorations: Swing Ride Building Set

$38 at

See at

This set is the ultimate for kids who love to figure out how things work. The kit comes with a total of 486 pieces (including a battery-powered motor) that kids can put together solo or as a team, learning physics along the way. Once created, the kit will build an iconic (and fully functioning) carnival swing ride, a boom ride, and a Ferris wheel. One parent surveyed noted that the set reminded her daughter of Disney World and that it was a fun project for everyone.

Price at time of publication: $40

VTech KidiZoom PrintCam

$69 at

See at

Even preteens who aren’t on social media love taking selfies, and you can help them bring those selfies to life with a camera and printer all in one. The camera will print up to 80 black-and-white images per roll. Kids can also play games on the camera and choose to jazz up their pics with effects, stickers, filters, and borders. They can even print out greeting cards or comic strips.

Price at time of publication: $65

Crunch Labs Build Box Subscription

See at

Give the gift of a monthly surprise with a Crunch Lab subscription—the subscriptions are good for three months at a time and you can cancel anytime. Each box includes a new DIY toy as well as an educational video from former NASA engineer-turned-Youtube star Mark Rober to encourage budding engineers. According to our parent survey participants, “If your child likes robotics and coding experiments, it’s for them.”

Price at time of publication: $30 per box

Our Review Process

To choose the best gifts for 10-year-olds, we surveyed 774 parents from our research panel as well as 101 parents and caregivers on our own staff to find their kids’ favorites. We also carefully evaluated new toys displayed at various toy fairs and press events throughout the year to incorporate some of the exciting new finds on the market. Finally, we consulted several major retailers’ holiday toy lists to see what the best-rated and most popular toys are for the preteen crowd.

Our Experts

While researching which gifts to add to this list, we also spoke to the following experts about 10-year-olds’ developmental growth and educational needs:

Factors to Consider When Buying Gifts for 10-Year-Olds

10-Year-Old Developmental Milestones

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that the age of 10 falls into “middle childhood,” from ages 9 to 11 years old. This time of middle childhood is marked by increasing independence away from the family unit, more emphasis on peer relationships, and the start of physical changes from puberty.

“Ten-year-olds start to form stronger friend and peer relationships; it becomes extremely important social-emotionally for them to have friends, especially of the same sex,” notes Huntington. “ Children become more independent from the family unit and form different peer communities along mutual interests or hobbies.”

According to the CDC, some of the key milestones that children at this age are approaching or going through include:

  • Increased independence and responsibility. At this age, children’s attention spans tend to increase and they start to understand others’ points of view more, the CDC explains. That means that 10-year-old children will start to be able to handle more advanced tasks and responsibilities, which could translate to gifts that require more attention and care.

  • Peer-to-peer relationships. Not only are peer-to-peer relationships—especially of the same gender–more important at this age, but peer pressure also can increase at this age. Building confidence in a 10-year-old through gifts and toys that foster their own skill set and interests can help them navigate the tough world of middle school.

  • Self-expression. Puberty brings a lot of change, and the beginning stages of puberty can start as early as 8 for some children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Consider gifts that help support self-confidence or allow children at this age to experiment with new ways of expressing themselves.

  • Physical changes. Puberty also brings new physical changes with growing and shifting bodies, and the CDC and AAP support at least one hour of physical activity in this age group to foster a life-long love of movement. Gifts that get children moving or encourage the whole family to play together are great ways to encourage fitness at any age.

Other Factors

  • Child’s Interests: “Support children’s increasing independence by following their interests,” suggests Dr. Lorenzo Kennedy. “Have a 10-year-old niece interested in dinosaurs? Consider a fossil dig kit or a book about dinosaurs or a magazine subscription. Have a 10-year-old son interested in trains? Consider a model train kit.”

  • Safety: Huntington suggests keeping in mind that despite 10-year-olds' increased desire for independence, they aren’t quite ready to handle things like motorized vehicles or even violent video games. To promote safety and encourage independence, she points out that safety gear related to preferred activities can make great gifts. “For example, bike helmets and soccer shin guards can [be] gifts for 10-year-olds interested in those activities,” says Dr. Lorenzo Kennedy.

  • Educational Value: “All children learn about socialization through play, and 10-year-olds are no exception,” Dr. Lorenzo Kennedy notes. To go alongside the increased emphasis on peer relationships, she recommends gifts that can help kids socialize, like board games. She also points out that learning to lose is important at this age: “Find a game that you both like and don’t be afraid to win at it, then talk about why you won,” she suggests. Many other types of gifts can also have educational value. For instance, puzzles encourage logic and critical thinking, and gifts like crayons, paint sets, or knitting supplies “are great at this age,” she adds. But educational value aside, she also points out that any gift you give a 10-year-old that provides the opportunity for interaction will have tremendous value. “The biggest gift will be playing along with the 10-year-old in your life,” she says.

  • Trends and Gender Norms: While Dr. Lorenzo Kennedy points out that there are plenty of gender-neutral gift options available, from Lego sets to sports equipment to games, she also adds that it’s always best to follow a child’s lead when possible. “Many children follow gender norms, too,” she says. “Use their interests, not society’s norms, to decide what to gift.”

  • Cost: There’s no one “right” cost to spend on a gift for a 10-year-old, but Dr. Lorenzo Kennedy encourages parity in spending equal amounts if you’re giving to a lot of children, as well as remembering that low-cost gifts can be even more meaningful too. “Remember, even though kids at this age are increasingly independent, they still prize a close connection with the loving adults in their lives,” she says. “Doing something together, like playing a game, or going to a museum, might be even more valuable than a video game.”

Your Questions, Answered

How much should I spend on a gift for a 10-year-old?

“How much to spend depends a lot on family norms, as well as the surrounding community, as well as your relationship with the child,” says psychologist Dr. Lorenzo Kennedy. Gifts can range from free or low-cost, such as the gift of spending time together on an activity, to several hundreds of dollars on electronics or an expensive toy.

What should I give if I don’t know what a child wants?

Psychologist Dr. Lorenzo Kennedy suggests starting by asking a child’s parent or guardian for gift suggestions. “You might get good ideas for what to get—and what not to get,” she says. When in doubt, she adds that money or a gift card can be a good option to allow the child the freedom to pick their own gifts. “They often don’t have ways to earn their own money, so a gift card might be a real treat, even if it feels impersonal,” she explains.

What should I avoid giving a 10-year-old?

Avoid any materials with inappropriate content, suggests Huntington. “Ten-year-olds are very susceptible to suggestion and advertisements,” she says. She also suggests keeping a focus on gifts that encourage relationship-building, like puzzles, board games, or play sets that can be enjoyed with others. “Many video games and handheld devices do not encourage children to interact with each other, and peer interactions are critical at this age,” she explains.

Who We Are

Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN, is a nurse turned writer and editor. She specializes in health and parenting topics and has intimate experience with both topics as a mom of five. She also has two children near the age of 10, one of whom loves calling her “bro,” which feels like an important qualifier for this list.

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