Help me find cool gifts for two hard-to-buy-for boys.
November 25, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Please hope me! I am trying find a suitable gift for my pre-teen and early teenage relatives.

My partner and I are bookish, music-loving, humanist, vegetarian.

The relatives for whom we are trying to find presents are 12- and 14-year old boys who have been raised in privilege; they have lots of stuff with little deep value, as it were. They don't read books, except under duress. As far as I know, they don't have any favourite bands or even spend much time listening to music; I know they don't play any musical instruments. They have been raised in an evangelical, conservative Christian denomination. They watch lots of TV and love violent games like "Call of Duty IV." Both play school sports -- basketball, baseball, soccer, but they don't have favourite teams outside of their own school teams -- and they are both very interested in hunting; both own guns. The older boy seems interested in zoology, but I think that interest may be peripheral to an interest in taxidermy.

My partner and I feel like we have very little in common with these kids, and we've struggled in the past to come up with presents for them that they will like and that we feel are within our moral comfort zone (e.g., not "Call of Duty IV" or, you know, actual bullets or something). I've given them what I consider Really Good Books in the past that are both accessible and action-packed, hoping that the books would activate some latent desire to read, but their response has been, "Oh. Great. A book. Thanks," and the book in question promptly gets abandoned.

I think there's a value conflict with the boys' parents at the core of this dilemma, but I'm not willing to make that a focal point or be self-righteous about my own views with this family, ever really, but especially during the holidays. In the past, we've done Heifer International donations on their behalf, but these get thrown away, and I don't feel like they really served their intended purpose -- though, yay for Heifer International!

I'd really like to give these boys something cool that they'd love, but I'm feeling a bit stuck. Nice fleece jackets? Boring, but useful. Some hunting video game? All of the current ones seem pretty mediocre. Can you give me some better ideas, or places to start?
posted by Spinneret to Shopping (18 answers total)
Best answer: Paracord bracelets (popular with my tween/teen boy patients and perhaps useful to a hunter), a good pocketknife, and fancier toiletry products (for example, Aveda Men deodorant/hair products). Since they are interested in hunting, you might go to someplace like Cabelas and hit the stocking stuffer area, putting together a kind of gift basket of things like small maglites, handwarmers, mossy oak accessories, gun cleaning kits, etc. You might also look into buying a session at the local gun club for target practice or a class.
posted by rumposinc at 6:33 PM on November 25, 2012

Stick with generic stuff: T-Shirts with goofy sayings on them, novelty hats, super cool looking flashlights or movie gift cards. Gifts should take into account the needs and wishes of the recipient, not the giver.
posted by myselfasme at 6:34 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar boat with my one cousin in that he's a spoiled little punk who never even says thank you for the stuff I get him and he's kind of a tool BUT what I'm getting at is that the only thing he genuinely appreciates is an Amazon gift certificate since it lets him be in control of what he ultimately gets out of the present.

We can't change who these kids are. We also can't control what they're interested in, and it's an uphill battle to try and influence them when really, they are who they are by this point. Get them the Amazon gift certs and let it go. They may come around. Don't stress about it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:36 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If they hunt, how about a Cabela's gift certificate.
posted by HuronBob at 6:37 PM on November 25, 2012

ask them
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:43 PM on November 25, 2012

What about a good multitool?
posted by moons in june at 6:50 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far.

ask them

They each emailed me a list of five things they wanted. Not much was within our budget -- iPad, new game system, laptop computer, etc., and the remaining things were the latest incarnation of Halo and bullets for their guns.

We have considered gift certificates, but we really would rather give something more personal. I'm fine with stuff we wouldn't feel comfortable buying for our own children, but I don't feel comfortable giving them stuff that directly encourages or glamourises violence. I have nothing against deer hunting, it is just hard for me to get my head around the idea of buying bullets for children.

I love rumposinc's suggestion. Please keep them coming.
posted by Spinneret at 7:01 PM on November 25, 2012

Can I re-iterate the idea of an Amazon gift certificate? I know that feels impersonal to you, but to the kids, it'll be the very best thing they could get, because then they get to choose *exactly* what they want, so it's the most personal gift of all, really. In this case, giving them a gift certificate allows them to have some agency in their gift, which is a pretty cool thing when you are a young teenager. I guess I'd encourage you to discard the notion that a gift certificate is impersonal. It's not at all, when you know the recipient will love it.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:08 PM on November 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have tweens and they are really into getting to shop for themselves, so do consider small amount gift cards for stores they'd love or iTunes/Amazon. Mine are girls, but they're fairly tomboyish and have a lot of boys as friends, so I hope my ideas can help.

Head lamps
Gloves with conductive fingers that can be used with devices
Toy weapons like Nerf guns/bows and lots of extra bullets/arrows
Heavy-duty outdoor socks for skiing/hunting/general play--these can be very ordinary looking or pretty fun and funky, depending on the specific kid

We like to have slipper/mukluk type socks for camping, to change into when we go in and out of our tents.

Camera accessories--my daughters are huge into taking pictures wherever we go. If you know that your relatives have a certain camera type, consider a lens adapter kit, a waterproof case, or something similar that might help them use their camera/camera phone/iPod on the go.
posted by padraigin at 7:15 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

A big cage, wheel, food, litter, water bottle, and a pair of large male pet rats.
posted by Sophont at 7:19 PM on November 25, 2012

Survival kits (example), Beanie with headphones (example), settlers of catan, hoodie of their fav sports team.
posted by quodlibet at 7:27 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

So what about using their interests to utilize your pro-reading agenda? Something wilderness savvy like a survival guide or wilderness medicine thing, maybe something on tracking/hunting whatever game of choice they hunt if you're comfortable with that, funny hunting stories, or maybe something less "hunting" and more "outdoorsmanship" like recognizing plants and such in their part of the country, etc.?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:49 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

it is just hard for me to get my head around the idea of buying bullets for children

it's like buying paint for a kid who paints. i'm assuming they're responsible, properly supervised, ... whatever. but buying something that they'll use while developing a skill, putting effort into mastering a skill, regardless of what it is, should be a good thing.

i'd suggest you re-evaluate your views on video games, it seems like you have a very surface-level understand of what they're about.

i think the easiest thing for you to do is to give money to their parents and ask, as a favor, that they put your name down as the person it's from. then, they can get them something they want, and you don't have to worry about it if you don't know what it is.

it sounds like you want to wish your nephews would be more like you, but no one can do that.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:29 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm tempted to suggest My Side of the Mountain, a delightful book that deals with hunting, survival in the woods, and a strong love of the wilderness, but it sounds like your previous attempts at books haven't worked. Still, if you come across a copy, you might include it and perhaps it will be one that sticks. I think the idea of a book that would teach them to track sounds interesting. Or, if they have an outdoor facility for it, how about a skeet shooting set? I understand the clay targets are fairly inexpensive but I don't know about the little slingshot apparatus that tosses the targets. I would probably not be down with hunting, but the few times I've shot skeet I've had a lot of fun and it would make their marksmanship better.
posted by PussKillian at 8:38 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The older boy seems interested in zoology, but I think that interest may be peripheral to an interest in taxidermy.

Most wildlife biologists are hunters and grew up hunting so yeah, he's likely genuinely interested in wildlife and conservation. Hunters typically are. Some fun things they may like in order of fun:
-a cheap motion activated game camera (about $40-50- hunters love these)
-one of those Special Forces Survival Handbooks (we had the SAS one as kids and adored it. Consulted it for every eventuality.)
-nice field guides for the appropriate location, either brand new or really old and second hand. These are huge hits even if they are for some insects and the recipient is a birder. Biologists love field guides. I always recommend birds plus trees plus general local fauna. Audubon, Sibley, Peterson and National Geo make good ones
-Tom Brown tracking books
-a GPS, no idea what your budget is but these are fun gifts and I think you can get a decent one well under $100 these days
-a Cabela's gift card or a Sportsman's Warehouse gift card
-some of the modern youth adventure Boys Own-but-updated style novels (I loved these and I'm a girl, there are tons of series at any book store, just ask)
posted by fshgrl at 8:48 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ghostride the Whip in getting a book that reflects their interests.

Since they like video game violence, and guns, and you like books, might I suggest The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks? It's tongue-in-cheek, and IIRC I don't think that the violence described is too graphic for a kid. I read it a few years ago, and I have a cousin who's read it who's about 15-16 and he loved it.
posted by Angel of Khaos at 8:51 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just got a hunting family member a solar-powered charger, since he is often out in the wilderness with phones, gps, radio etc that need charging.
posted by lollusc at 10:41 PM on November 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Walkie-talkie's might make a good combo gift that they can use while hunting or other outdoor activities.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:26 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

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