Birthday gift ideas for tween friends (that aren’t a gift card)


Gift ideas for tween friends that don't suck

I get it, coming up with acceptable gift ideas for tween friends can be next to impossible. When the kids are younger and you say to them, “What should we get Eugene for his birthday?” they give you a mile-long list of all the things they know Eugene would love. Of course, these are secretly all the things that our own kid would love, but that doesn’t matter. We have a list.

Fast forward to the tween years and we ask the same question, “What should we get Cecily for her birthday?” and they say… I dunno. They are too busy worrying that any friend present might not be cool enough. So, of course, we end up grabbing Cecily a gift card when we’re doing the grocery shop.

While I appreciate every single gift received, I’ve got this thing about giving kids’ gift cards as gifts. I know, I know, the whole marketing blarney is a gift card allows them to ‘get themselves the gift they truly want’… but, really, by the time they do that, is it really your gift?

More  ideas here too: 21+ unreal gifts for teens they won’t hate


Retailers make shitloads on gift cards that are never used to their full amount (or even at all). This is especially true for those given to kids. Unlike their parents, they generally don’t have the means to use up that last $2.17 on the card with cash from their wallet.

Anyway, I digress. Gift card presents make me ramble.

There are just so many other really good gift ideas for tween friends that I don’t want to see another gift card stuffed in a card in future (please note, my own tween kid says a gift card stuffed in an envelope is just fine by her, thank you very much.)

Gift ideas for tween friends that don’t suck

1. Books

Stay with me here, because I’m always going to recommend books as the first option for kids’ gifts. Books make an ideal present because there is definitely a book out there for everyone. The trick is to spend a bit of time searching for just the right book. And definitely get your tweenie to write their friend a special message inside the book before they gift it.

 You’re bound to find the perfect match on one of our book lists:

Books about raising girls - best recommendations for mothers of older girls

If your tween really is just not a reader, you can inspire them to pick up a book by gifting them a graphic novel or comic book. You’ll find loads of ideas here.

PS – Book Boy has plenty more ideas!

2. Pyjamas

Buying an outfit for a tween is just asking for trouble, but jammies are always a good idea. You can find a set that matches their personality or interests. PJs come with everything from skateboards to dogs and cats to Taylor Swift emblazoned on them. Guaranteed to make a tweenie smile on their birthday.

Love Haidee pjs are a great gift ideas for tween friends

These cute sets from Love Haidee would be perfect for tween girls. They are made from a super soft bamboo viscose and  not frilly or fussy. We’re talking full comfort with just the right amount of ‘girly’ to make them special.

More fab pyjamas can be found at:

3.  Headphones

You can never have enough headphones, which is why they make the perfect gift idea for tweens. Make them a Bluetooth set, as different phones have different connectors these days. It’s super-helpful if the headphones come in a case so it’s easier for them to take care of them. 

If you can swing it, pooling your gift with other families to make it a set of iPods will mean massive kudos for a very long time. Oh, and don’t forget to buy a cute sleeve for the little charging case. Using little Lego people is a really fun way to present your gift too:

Gift ideas for tweens that they will actually like

You can buy a decent set of Bluetooth headphones from places like:

4. Phone accessories

Love it or hate it, most tweens will have a phone (but do check first!). They love to decorate their phones to make them individual or cool. You can buy phone cases and sleeves, cable covers, card holders, phone rings, portable speakers, power banks and docking stations. You could also gift a tween a prepaid SIM with plenty of data (but do ask permission from their parents first!)

A great gift ideas for tween friends is phone accessories

5. Graphic tees

While I’d be reluctant to buy any other kind of clothing (besides pyjamas – see above!), graphic t-shirts are one of the super-fun gift ideas for tween friends. There’s been a massive surge in popularity of wearing your thoughts on your t-shirt. You can pick up some fun tees at places like:

Graphic t-shirts make a great gift for tweens

6. Board games

Not all of tween life is high-tech. Plenty of kids still love playing board games with their siblings, family and friends. Check in with your tweenies parents to find out which games they already have before you shop.

Gift ideas for tween friends - board games are always a good idea

Don’t underestimate the fun of old-fashioned games like Scrabble or Monopoly. They have been continuously played for decades for a reason.

Here are more board games that most tweens will be into:

Don’t forget a nice deck of cards: 6 card games kids love just as much as screens

7. Kits

I don’t know why the whole ‘craft’ thing is deemed okay for girls, but not boys. It makes me go grrrrrr. Sadly, by the time they hit their tween years, crafting is definitely seen as a girl thing and not a boy thing. That said, don’t be shy asking your tween friend if a craft kit is something he might like to receive. Plenty of boys are into drawing and making.

Fortunately not all craft kits are an explosion of pink (WHY do we keep doing this to our kids!). Something my own tween girls have always appreciated.

Craft kits that aren’t majorly girly:

Cool gift ideas for tween friends - solar printing kit

A solar printing cynotype kit from Elemental Leaf in Melbourne would make an amazing gift for a crafty tween friend.

There you have it: seven fantastic gift ideas for tween friends that aren’t a gift card! Do you reckon you’ve found something your tween friend would like on this list? Personally, I’m putting in an order for a printing kit for myself! And I don’t know how I’ve managed to get through life without a cute cable cover for my phone charger cord…

What do your own kids like to receive as birthday gifts?

Feature image by cottonbro; Book image by Annie Spratt; pyjama image supplied by Love Haidee; iPod image by insung yoon; phone image by Julia M Cameron; Monopoly image by Suzy Hazelwood; printing image by Elemental Leaf 

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than 10 years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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