Uncle Scrooge presents
December 9, 2009 6:19 AM   Subscribe

What to gift an 11 year old boy with too much stuff?

My husband's nephew has divorced parents and doting grandparents, so every Xmas he makes out in the gift department. This year (as usual) we were given a list from his mother but the only things on the list are video games. We gave him 2 games last year. Undoubtedly he will get several games from others this year.

So we are left with a dilemma. Naturally we would like to give him a gift he would really be excited about and use, however my husband would like to give him something that will stand out and be memorable, possibly even give him something that won't be too exciting at Christmas, but will prove enduring. So my question is twofold: Should we just give him what he wants? If not, what are some ideas for something around $50.00? Bear in mind that my husband gave him one of his old guitars for nephew's birthday and is fixing up a used bike to give him just to have around.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy to Human Relations (41 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Try to transition him to reading with some nice editions of adventure or fantasy books? I am thinking Jack London, Tolkein, John Christopher tripods books, stuff like that. I gave one of my nephews a nice illustrated hardcover edition of The Hobbit some years ago. Got to get them away from that tv screen.
posted by aught at 6:24 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Swatch watches are great, and my little sister wore hers for years after I gave one to her. Hers was a Flik Flak (the children's models). He might be out of the Flik Flak range though. There are great designs related to almost anything he would be interested in (Star Wars, animals, cities, etc) for pre-teens or teens.

If you live by a Swatch store, it would be fun to take him there to pick out one himself. Make a mini-day of it!
posted by timpanogos at 6:33 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not so sure about 11-year-olds, but I think I was around that age when someone gave me Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing by Martin Gardner. It's a nice mix of challenges to test your code-breaking skills, information about different kinds of codes you can make, and juicy tidbits about how you might make hidden drops and so forth if you were a spy. Now, at 29, I'd still like that book, maybe paired with some cool modern "spy-gadget" like an audio-recording pen. (The latter would be awesome to show off in school).

When I was a little older 14-16, I had some relatives who gave me unexiting-but-enduring gifts that I used for years. In particular a really cool backpack (still with me--my students tell me it looks like the backpack in WoW), and a really nice, thick, heavy bathrobe. I still think of those as two of the best gifts I've ever recieved.
posted by mathtime! at 6:45 AM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: From my experience, it is a universal truth that boys that age like stuff that shoots or explodes. Bonus if it's just a tad bit dangerous-seeming. ("You'll shoot your eye out, kid.")

I'd get him something slightly geeky, slightly dangerous, that would force him to go outside and enjoy the analog world. And then I'd set up some *time* to go use it with him and model for him how to enjoy it safely. You can sell it to mom by saying that it is educational -- which it will be.

A working scale model trebuchet or catapult or rail gun.
Model Rocket that really blasts off and lands.
A variety of innocuous guns: Zero Blaster, Burp Gun, potato gun, bug gun, shot blade, Airzooka (get several so that you can have a battle).
Airsoft gun (lower powered model with protective gear of course)
The Dangerous Book For Boys along with materials to do some of the cooler stuff in there (and your time to do some with him.)

You get the idea. Instead of Uncle Scrooge, you'll be the cool uncle.
posted by cross_impact at 6:45 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Why not get him something that will make him interested in exploring the world outside the X-Box? Compass, Swiss Army knife, tent, survival gear, etc. The toolkit for an adventure of his own making.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:48 AM on December 9, 2009

Give him a Kiva Gift Certificate.
posted by snowjoe at 6:49 AM on December 9, 2009

I'm an adult, and I really hope to find one of these Nerf Broadswords under the tree this Christmas, so I have to think an 11-year-old would love one.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:53 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Something activity based for him and a friend. Around here that could mean go-karting, auditorium filled with a massive trampoline, martial arts, or drawing class.
posted by Feisty at 6:56 AM on December 9, 2009

Don't buy him more stuff - buy him something interesting.

Can he water ski?
posted by devnull at 7:00 AM on December 9, 2009

How about a museum membership? They are often flexible enough to allow other relatives to accompany the holder, so spend an extra few bucks and get a family one. You're in a good place for this: "North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is the largest natural history museum in the Southeastern United States." $55 for a family pass for a year.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:01 AM on December 9, 2009

Seconding a museum membership, if his parents are willing to take him!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:17 AM on December 9, 2009

As much as I am no fan of Orson Scott Card's politics, I think my video-game-obsessed, Internet-addled, rather redneck 11-year-old nephew is getting a copy of Ender's Game this year.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:19 AM on December 9, 2009

Ooh, I love the idea of John Christopher's Tripods books. They're sci-fi boys' adventure books and would be great for a kid who is into videogames. Unfortunately, you can't get a box set of them anymore, but the newest paperback editions, available cheap on amazon, all match and look pretty bad ass, to boot.

I'd probably pair that with a trip to play laser tag or paintball.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:22 AM on December 9, 2009

a small assemble-it-yourself trebuchet and a subscription to 'make' magazine?
posted by rmd1023 at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2009

posted by rikschell at 7:46 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I should have been clearer about the flexible museum passes. Our example: Our kids were given family passes by one set of grandparents. So far the museum here in Manitoba has allowed the parents (us) and the other set of grandparents to take the kids in. So maybe an uncle could take him there on that pass as well, if the museum's cool about it.

Otherwise, take him and become the brother and sister-in-law for a day :)
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2009

What's in his room? What's he into? There really isn't a one-size-fits all gift for an 11 year old boy (or girl).

I sympathize with your desire to get him something other than videogames, but if you buy books or a museum membership when he isn't interested in those things, the gift will go unused and you'll have just wasted your money.

Try to find out more about him -- what kind of music he likes, his hobbies, etc -- then you'll be able to get a more relevant list of suggestions.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:53 AM on December 9, 2009

Tickets to something.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:11 AM on December 9, 2009

Yeah, I have to agree with those suggesting you buy an experience. Paintball, go kart, water skiing, 1 month kid membership at a local climbing gym with classes included...
posted by scrutiny at 8:30 AM on December 9, 2009

Take him on a camping trip, or pay for a group trip.
posted by phrakture at 8:56 AM on December 9, 2009

Are you close with with your nephew? Make a promise to take him somewhere and increase your bond and create a memorable experience. I think a gift certificate for the skating rink, tickets to the museum, baseball game, theme park, or other activity he would enjoy is a great idea. It would make him feel very special. This is what we want for kids after all. Your gift should stand out and be special for him. It's not his fault that his grandparents buy him a ton of stuff or his parents are divorced. I don't say that to be snarky. It does sound like you have the best intentions but remember to keep him in mind.
posted by Fairchild at 8:57 AM on December 9, 2009

Yeah, I'd take him somewhere he'd really enjoy. Especially if, as a child of divorced parents, maybe he doesn't get to do the sort of family outing (or even father/son type) stuff that can be really great if done well.

Does he like sports? Then decent tickets to a baseball/basketball/football game would be nice, spring for the hot dogs and stuff, buy him a pennant or some some other souvenir.

Otherwise if he/you are in a warm-weather climate, then maybe a trip to an amusement park?

On preview: pretty much what fairchild just said.
posted by dnesan at 9:04 AM on December 9, 2009

I know it's a little out of your price range . . . but a Geomate Jr. would be awesome. It's an easy way for him to go geocaching. I think it's gadgety enough that he'll have fun with the gadget as well as get him outside doing something!

I love the ideas of getting him an experience or museum membership or something along those lines.

Last year we got our kids bean bag chairs. They use them all the time (and if your nephew is playing video games, it'll be great for him to be all comfy in there while playing). They really are useful and we're sure they'll be around for a good long time.

My son not only loves video games, but loves ANY kind of game. Maybe your nephew would benefit from a non-video game. I like Back to Basics Toys for their nostalgic-type toys and games.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:24 AM on December 9, 2009

I +1 the "experiential" ideas with one qualification: Kids that age still like something to "open" at Christmas.

So I recommend a combo: fun gadget/toy followed up with related time/attention/experience.
posted by cross_impact at 9:36 AM on December 9, 2009

Make a donation in his name to a charity, or a book about giving to others.
posted by anniecat at 9:43 AM on December 9, 2009

Give the 11 year old a gift certificate to best buy or something like that. I am sure he would love to be able to pick out what he wants.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:46 AM on December 9, 2009

Not to fault the idea of a gift card, but at least in my case, Mr. F's family has issued strict and specific orders that gift cards to places that provide video games are Right Out, as all the kid will do is go and get yet another video game with it.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:16 AM on December 9, 2009

Try to transition him to reading with some nice editions of adventure or fantasy books? I am thinking Jack London, Tolkein, John Christopher tripods books, stuff like that. I gave one of my nephews a nice illustrated hardcover edition of The Hobbit some years ago. Got to get them away from that tv screen.

I love to read, and I would love to give books to children, but getting someone a gift you think they SHOULD want is not a good idea. If he likes to read, fine. If he doesn't, forcing him to read is not going to help.

I'll second anything that shoots (marshmallow guns are hugely popular this year), survival-type gear like Swiss army knives (if his parents are okay with that) or, if your husband can manage it, actually taking your nephew camping or on an adventure of some kind.
posted by misha at 11:19 AM on December 9, 2009

Give him an experience if you don't want to give him stuff; a camping trip as mentioned above, or a concert, or even $50 of guitar lessons.
posted by fings at 11:50 AM on December 9, 2009

Are there (rock) climbing facilities in your area? My 10yo godson/nephew apparently really enjoyed the introduction course to climbing where he could invite a few friends too.

Aside from that, I would have loved to get some stephen king books at that age. I had to buy them from my meager pocket money, and even stole one from the bookstore because I wasnt allowed to read them from my parents.
posted by ts;dr at 12:51 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rubber Band guns and plenty of ammo. Get several, so he and his buddies can go nuts.
posted by theora55 at 3:25 PM on December 9, 2009

Plans for a simple woodworking project, and the (hand) tools and materials to do it. If he likes it, he'd still have the tools, and only need to get more materials to start his next project. He'd get to be all manly with tools (and start his man-tools collection) as a bonus. Plus, he might get to do something fun with his dad, or maybe with your husband. And realize what a non-productive waste of time video games are. Oops, did I say that out loud?
posted by ctmf at 5:49 PM on December 9, 2009

The intro to rock climbing idea was genius! Except that, when I went to the local indoor climbing gym to check on such a thing for myself, the cost (counting membership sign-up fee, monthly charges, etc.) was Out-fucking-rageous. Maybe it was because it's the only one around, though.
posted by ctmf at 5:52 PM on December 9, 2009

Response by poster: There are lots of really good ideas here and I'm quite enthusiastic about the survival/camping stuff (I still have my compass that I got in Girl Scouts) but it is my husband's call. Nephew lives two hours away with his mom (my husband's sister) and comes to this area on sleep-over visits with his dad so getting alone time with him is a bit tricky. Also the museum passes are a nice idea, but again that would depend on his dad taking him and we don't have any contact with him.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:10 PM on December 9, 2009

Seconding some guitar lessons as was mentioned above. Or a DVD with lessons on it. What about a guitar tuner or accessories? Maybe the nephew and his uncle could practice together whenever they get a chance. That would give the nephew something to look forward to. And maybe practice for that.
posted by Taurid at 10:47 PM on December 9, 2009

Money doesn't buy happiness: except when it buys experiences...

Buy him an experience. Look for tickets to an event he might like that is age appropriate.
posted by gte910h at 4:10 PM on December 10, 2009

You could get him a tree - something to plant and appreciate more as he grows older...
posted by Bergamot at 1:05 AM on December 11, 2009

Response by poster: My husband found a Duck Hunting toy at Dick's sporting goods-- basically a wind-up duck that flies around and you have to shoot at it with a laser gun to bring it down. The duck flies pretty fast so you do have to run a bit to catch it. Everybody played with it at Christmas while it was still light outside. I don't know if it will be anything he plays with later.

Then we went shopping at R.E.I. and found an l.e.d. flashlight in the shape of a little kerosene lamp (surprisingly bright) which can be used as a key holder and a set of walkie talkies. The walkie talkies were what made his eyes light up. I was a little afraid that walkie talkies were outmoded in this day and age of cell phones, but he and his friends do a lot of biking together and he was quite enthusiastic.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:20 AM on January 6, 2010

Um, I must have misunderstood something in your question between the part about the "11 year old having too much stuff" and the part about "my husband would like to give him something that will stand out and be memorable, possibly even give him something that won't be too exciting at Christmas, but will prove enduring."

Then theres the part about "Bear in mind that husband gave him one of his old guitars for nephew's birthday and is fixing up a used bike to give him just to have around."

I don't see how your gift(s) answer your question. Lots of the above answers did though. many of the answers were quite good.
posted by Taurid at 12:52 AM on January 8, 2010

Response by poster: Gee, Taurid, sorry the gifts did not live up to your expectations. You do understand that it was ultimately my husband's choice of what to buy for his nephew?

The Duck hunting toy was another piece of crap and not something I would have purchased...but my husband saw it and wanted to play with it (which was really weird to me because he is not a gun/hunting enthusiast.) On the other hand, the walkie talkies may be something that he treasures and uses for years and prove memorable. They are a good pair-- not cheap toys-- and should last. He can use them in role playing as well: cops, spies, aliens...whatever.

As for the guitar, nephew is taking professional lessons. Hopefully someday soon the two of them (uncle and nephew) will be able to play together. The guitar and the bike were never meant to replace Christmas presents, I just mentioned them so that the obvious answers of instrument/bike were pre-empted. By the way, Mr. Gravy was puzzled that I mentioned them when posing my question. "Did you put that in there so they don't think we are cheapskates?" That never even occurred to me.

Interestingly, the boy got skateboards from both mother and father for Christmas so we weren't the only ones thinking that he needed more physical activity.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:37 AM on January 9, 2010

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