If you think shopping for the teen girl in your life is difficult, try finding the perfect gift for a tween girl. Tweens, who are between the ages of 9 and 12, are exceptionally tough to please because their tastes tend to oscillate between the realms of children and teenagers. While some tween girls love playing with dolls, others are more focused on trying the latest TikTok beauty and makeup trends.
But according to James Zahn, senior editor at the Toy Insider, lots of kids continue playing with toys through their tween years, just in a slightly different way. “Due to the influence of toy content on social media and the rise of the kidult market of adults that still play with and collect toys, we’re seeing more thoughtful expansion of the category,” Zahn says, explaining that, with dolls in particular, some kids will shift from playing with them to collecting them instead.
To help you navigate this divide while shopping for the tween girls in your life, we asked child-development experts, shop owners, toy-trend forecasters, parents of tweens, and lots of actual tween girls — most of whom are between the ages of 9 and 12 — what’s at the top of their must-have lists. We also organized their picks into categories, so if you know what type of gift you’re looking for, you can use the table of contents to jump right to that section. Otherwise, read on for room décor, art supplies, books, and dozens more gifts they say are sure to impress the tween in your life.
And if you’ve got kids of different ages to shop for, don’t miss our other gift guides, including for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and 10-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and 12-year-olds. We’ve also got gift guides for teenage girls and teenage and tween boys, and the meticulously curated Strategist Toy Store, filled with all our greatest hits.
Toys, crafts, and hobbies gifts for tween girls
After trying crochet for the first time, 9-year-old Ava T. says she’d get a ton of use out of a yarn kit. Though it’s a challenging hobby to master, Ava says she plans to keep practicing until she gets the hang of it. This beginner-friendly kit has everything you need to get started, including crochet hooks, a needle, seven colors of yarn, and step-by-step instructions to create projects like a coaster, place mat, and belt.
The 3Doodler pen offers a kid-friendly introduction to 3-D printing. This “essentials” set comes with the pen, 72 strands of filament in a rainbow of colors, and ten stencils to get them started. Jennifer Lynch, content developer and toy-trends specialist at the Toy Association, told us it’s a beginner-friendly kit that will allow crafty tweens to “create anything from jewelry to desk décor.”
A faster-paced version of the traditional Rubik’s Cube, Speed Cubes have a fluid, easy-to-twist design for quick spins. Not only are they great practice for any kid who wants to get better at solving a Rubik’s Cube, they can also function as fidget toys. This three-piece set comes highly rated on Amazon with one reviewer noting that her “daughter has been playing nonstop with them since she received them,” and she loves that “they have smooth movement.”
Quinn Copeland has this to say about roller skates among tweens: “Basically they are just cool in general.” She’s been coveting these sky blue-and-yellow skates from Impala — which also happen to be one of our picks for the best roller skates for beginners — since watching a girl do tricks at her local rink: “It would be so fun to pick up my skates, put them on, and go for a spin around the street.”
For the adventurous tween girl, try a gift that’ll let her explore a new hobby, like aerial arts. “Who doesn’t want to be upside down and spin all around at home?” says Gia G. “Aerial silks are my favorite thing to do!”
For a more affordable set of markers that are still top quality, rising sixth-grader Olanna and 11-year-old Margot Ferraro told us that these YouTube-famous markers offer an addictively smooth glide across paper and are “way better than watercolors,” Margot notes.
Perhaps you know a tween who would prefer a skateboard with a little more power than the typical basic model. For that, twins Leah and Ava Clements, who have more than 1 million Instagram followers, recommend this electric skateboard. “We’ve recently gotten into skateboarding, and we really love this mini e-board,” they say. Its smart-sensor system allows a kick-to-cruise experience that requires less legwork and detects weight and motion, “automatically stopping the board when you dismount.” Add a helmet too for safe cruising.
LOL Surprise! dolls are also still among tween girls’ favorite toys. Model Lizzy Kern and Tessa D. both say they love to play with them because you can get creative as you style the dolls’ outfits. Kern particularly likes collecting the OMG series.
A few years ago, musician Madeleine Valencia started a band with her sister, Caroline, and her friend Claudia. “We cover the Go-Go’s as well as other ’80s and ’90s female artists,” she says. She has her eye on this ultramarine drum set because it “happens to be my favorite color and matches my room.”
Books for tween girls
11-year-old Regan T. developed a love for baking as a way to pass time at home during the early days of the pandemic and enjoys trying out fancy recipes. The next one on her list is a cronut, a flaky donut-croissant hybrid created by chef Dominique Ansel. Regan says she’s had her eye on Ansel’s cookbook for that reason: “I’m thinking it must be very challenging to get the recipe right, but it looks so fun to make,” she says.
Books Are Magic event coordinator Kristina Rivero recommends The First Rule of Punk, which centers on a 12-year-old girl named Malú, because its main character is totally captivating. Malú doesn’t fit in with popular kids at her school but finds a group of “like-minded misfits” who appreciate her punk-rock style and love for skateboarding and zines. She and her friends must stand up to a fun-busting school administration for the right to express themselves, and Rivero notes that the book is “a great bridge for those more comfortable with graphic novels” thanks to the black-and-white zines printed throughout.
For tweens who love a good origin story, consider this enticingly illustrated history of desserts. “If your kid is hooked on cute graphic novels with fluffy plots, you’d be shocked to see how quickly they’ll take to this nonfiction title,” Rivero says. “Nestled in the same aesthetic they’re always begging for, they’ll learn the delicious story of desserts through facts, legends, and even a few recipes.”
Room décor and household gifts for tween girls
With 400 letters and expressive emoji to choose from, seventh-grader Mackenzie H. says that a light-up cinema box is a great gift that allows “kids to show their emotions on it or use it for decoration.” This tabletop-size display box works with AA batteries or the included USB cord.
Soft, supercute, and available in dozens of designs and sizes from mini to extra-large, Squishmallows are a plushy crowd-pleaser; Tessa D. says they are cozy enough to sleep with, and she uses them to decorate her room. “My favorites are the avocado and the blind-bag axolotls,” she says. “Some of them are scented, too!” And Ava T., who is a Sanrio superfan, dreams of decorating her room with pillows like the Squishmallow version of the character Pompompurin. (She also has her eye on Kuromi and My Melody.) As Tessa said, some Squishies are scented, while others are available in a blind bag, and some are just plain adorable plushies.
Spence told us she would be the “most excited” to get this machine that turns frozen fruit into nondairy sorbet within minutes. She wants to experiment with different flavors like mango and banana: “So much fun!”
Three of the tweens we spoke to say the enduringly popular Hydro Flask is another failproof idea. One of them is Ariella, who says the Hydro Flask is the “water bottle all of my friends want or carry right now, so it’s definitely the perfect gift for a tween.” She adds that they’re durable, keep water ice-cold for long periods, and are good for the environment (three points of praise we’ve heard from countless others who have recommended Hydro Flask water bottles to us, which makes them one of the best water bottles out there).
“I love picking out stuff for my bedroom,” says Grace Keane. “This pillow looks very comfortable and is so soft.” In addition to the pink cover she chose, it comes in other “pretty” shades like white and gray. Don’t forget to grab the pillow insert, which is sold separately.
If your tween girl is up on her cozy blankets, she will definitely appreciate one from Barefoot Dreams. Its throws are beloved by everyone from tween TikTokers to Delilah Belle Hamlin to Brie Larson, who told us she bought one after hearing about it from her 13-year-old neighbor.
Beauty gifts for tween girls
Spence has these Static Nails, which were featured in our roundup of the best press-ons, on her must-have list. “These nails are so fun to wear,” she says. She loves to pop them on for the holidays or a birthday party: “They come in so many sizes and lengths with so many in each set. You can pop them off after you are done so you can wear them again.” With proper application, they can last up to 18 days.
If the tween in your life has started to wear makeup to cover hormonal acne, Strategist beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton says this tinted serum is an excellent option for tween and teen girls looking for something that offers medium coverage and won’t irritate their skin. She notes it’s chock-full of good ingredients like hyaluronic acid and squalane for extra hydration as well as SPF to protect their skin from the sun.
Chances are good that most tween girls will recognize this beloved blow-dry brush that is also famous on TikTok. According to TikTokers we spoke to, it’s one of the things people buy most after seeing it there. Because it’s a hot tool, it’s probably best for someone on the older side of tweendom who is just learning how to style their own hair.
“Lush bath bombs are super-fun to use, and they smell amazing,” says Ella M. “I love them because there are so many different varieties in lots of colors and scents to try.”
Jewelry and clothing gifts for tween girls
Nine-year-old Valentina P. highlighted Lululemon’s ever-popular belt bag as one of the things that all her friends are into right now. The small yet sturdy bag can fit day-to-day essentials like lip gloss and a cell phone, and since it is compact, your tween can still carry their backpack without feeling like a bag lady. Strategist editor Maxine Builder — one of the bag’s grown-up fans — says that, despite its miniature size, it is spacious enough to fit her phone, wallet, keys, and sunglasses. There are 15 colors available to choose from right now.
For tweens who like the stacked look, these handmade Pura Vida bracelets are made of waterproof colorful threads connected by an adjustable closure. Tessa D. likes them because “they are comfortable, and they are something to fidget with, and come in a lot of colors” (she has a pink one).
When we polled 100 teens in 2021 to find out what’s actually cool, they cited the TikTok-famous polarized Pit Viper sunnies as a top pick. And according to 10-year-old Gia P., who loves “all the different colors and styles,” they are still a trendy must-have. The wide-framed glasses are stylish enough to pair with outfits and extra useful if the tween in your life is into outdoor sports like cycling or snowboarding. You can choose from two sizes, double-wide and single-wide, and the arm of the glasses can be extended for a more custom fit.
Air Jordan 1’s have held their spot in the sneaker popularity pyramid since their release in the mid-’80s. With different colorways always going in and out of stock, they are still the object of style, and Gia P., who owns a few pairs, likes the way they look and “loves collecting them.”
Vans sneakers will also be a hit, say three of our tweens. Nia Gisselle is a big fan of the brand, and pointed out both the checkerboard slip-on skate shoe and the original sneaker as popular styles. Abigale Meehan agrees: “Vans are always my go-to sneakers because they are supercute and comfortable.” Actress and singer Charlize Tuozzo loves the Old Skool sneakers in particular. “They have a flat sole, so they’re perfect for skateboarding,” she says, describing the shoes as having a “fun skate, surf, California vibe.”
Tech gifts for tween girls
More of an accessory for their existing tech, three tweens told us a brightly colored phone case was a must for their back-to-school ensemble. Seventh-grader Tess said all of the kids in her school have one from Wildflower, and Ellie, a teen, told us it actually works to keep her phone safe when she drops it. The cases come in sizes for iPhones 11, 12, 13, and 14 and an array of colors, patterns, and designs.
Protect their most prized possession on pool or beach days with this stylish waterproof pouch. Available in four bright and shimmery colors, the plastic case locks snugly, floats, and allows tweens to scroll, text, and take selfies through its touchscreen-friendly surface. It also has an adjustable lanyard so it can be worn as a cross-body.
After she served as the flower girl in her elder sister’s wedding, Reed says she received two of her favorite gifts ever: an Apple iPad and an Apple Pencil she can use with the tablet. She says the Pencil is great because it allows her to write on the iPad and convert it to text.
Spence says this kit makes for a great gift because it includes a Fujifilm Instax Mini camera (which topped our list of the best instant cameras) along with all the accessories you need to take a picture — including a selfie lens, carrying case, and colored filters. It also comes with stuff for displaying the instant photos you take, such as sticker frames, hanging frames, clips, and string. She calls the camera “easy to use” for snapping pics of her family and friends and puppy, Gus. A Fujifilm camera is on Emma Cason’s wish list, too: “I want this because it would allow me to take photos anywhere. But instead of it being online, like a phone, it would be a physical photo.”
“I spend a lot of time watching YouTube and TikTok,” says Valencia. Watching videos has inspired her to make more of her own. This kit from Movo, she says, would allow for a “better setup for recording” because it turns a smartphone into a “mobile studio.” Included are a grip rig, stereo microphone, LED light, and wireless remote — everything an aspiring TikTok star needs to put herself out there.
Spence recommends customizing a pair of AirPods Pro with your recipient’s name — a nice touch she appreciated when she received a set of the ubiquitous earbuds as a birthday present. You can engrave anything from a date to an emoji for free at Apple. (If you don’t want them personalized, Amazon and many other retailers also carry them.) She says they have “great sound quality,” whether she’s using them to “listen to music and podcasts, FaceTime with my friends, or dance to TikTok.” And when she wants to chill out, she can just “put them on noise-canceling mode.” They’re on actress Laurel Emory’s list, too: “I would really love to be able to walk away from my devices and still be able to listen to music or be on the phone.”
Since its release in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has held its top spot on many a kid’s wish list. Whether your tween is into classic games like Mario Kart or excited to try out newer releases like Pokémon Violet or Pokémon Scarlet, there are options for everyone. When we talked to Jamin Warren, the founder of TwoFiveSix, about the best gifts for gamers, Warren said the console’s seamless docking, consistent stream of new games, and overall versatility make it “a perfect device.”
A Nintendo Switch aficionado, Tessa D. previously told us that she was really into playing Splatoon and was gearing up to jump into the third installment of the game. And while she is still loving Splatoon, Tessa (who is now 12 years old) told us that most of her friends are impatiently waiting for the fourth installment of Pikmin to drop. For tweens who aren’t up on the Pikmin games, you can start with the first three. Pikmin 1, 2, and 3 are all available for digital download, or the first two can be preordered as a physical bundle that’s coming out in September. Pikmin 4 will be released on July 21, but you can preorder it now.
Spence says these headphones are “so great” for making YouTube videos and gaming with your friends. “They have noise cancellation, a great microphone, and the super-fun LED lights make them extra cool.”
While lots of the stuff on this list nods to the ’90s, musician Dallas Knight’s preferred way to listen to music dates to an even older era. She tells us she would love to receive a vintage record player because “I am very into music and, as a singer and guitarist, love listening to classic rock and pop songs.” Since shopping at vintage stores can be a bit of a crapshoot, consider this Crosley record player. It has that vintage look while still being compatible with more modern technologies like Bluetooth.
Additional reporting by Dominique Pariso.
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