Outside the box gifts
December 11, 2022 12:51 PM   Subscribe

These days a phone or a computer seems to sum up everything a kid would want. What do you offer a teenager if you don't want her to get stuck to a screen ? I'm looking for offbeat ideas for my 12 yo daughter.

I live in France, so I don't expect actual items, but rather directions, ideas, clues.
(If you've got a really clear idea and think the item is available, though, don't refrain)
She likes reading - comics and books - judo, her friends, listening to music, and we tend to try to keep her off electronic stuff.

Thanks !
posted by nicolin to Human Relations (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Good colored pencils and/or pasterls, more complex coloring books, plain paper.
Book on origami, origami paper.
Music lessons - she could pick an instrument. Music affect brain development in a very good way.
Video editing software to use with phone camera video.
posted by theora55 at 12:57 PM on December 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Does she like jewelry and shiny things? Might she be interested in making her own? I've seen kits for making shiny trinkets out of resin. Epoxy resin is a super interesting material and the results are very cool.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:29 PM on December 11, 2022

Best answer: A one-off class? There are all sorts. I've used Wecandoo, to make my own shampoo, soaps, silver rings, a leather coin purse, paper, and I have my eyes on pottery, knife-making and woodcarving classes. I think Cultura also has some classes, and if there's something special she would like to learn/discover, you can probably contact a local artisan.
posted by snakeling at 1:29 PM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: - Graphic novels! Let me know if you need some specific recommendations.
- Albeit it's on a screen, but classes on Outschool (there are teachers there teaching all kinds of interesting things).
-Dance or musical theater lessons/participation
-Tickets to performances (dance, musical theater, music concerts) or athletic events (judo tournament, etc.)
- Summer camp
posted by Dansaman at 1:29 PM on December 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Not sure if this would hold her attention but knitting if you know how to knit or taking her to a local knitting store and having her look at the yarn and inquire for classes for teens/preteens. I loved making my first coaster and mini-scarf.

A good baking set with a good baking book for teens and a money card for groceries. Ask her to make items for her judo class or friends or have her friends come over and help. I bet you they would have a blast.
posted by ichimunki at 1:30 PM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Board games, e.g. any recommended by Le Passe Temps.
posted by Wobbuffet at 1:40 PM on December 11, 2022

A musical instrument and a few classes. A guitar and a learn to play book was my favorite gift, hands down, at that age. A ukulele is a great start for not too much money, for example.
posted by gemmy at 1:42 PM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Every 12y.o. needs a knife.
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:44 PM on December 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I second the spirt of a lot of these, especially in the craft and arts arena.

If you're looking to pick among them, I'd take a look at what kind of style, art, music, and culture your daughter and her friends are into. What I mean by that, by way of example, is that the people in my life who've gotten into knitting were also the type of people who wore knitted things, and were into that type of thing stylistically. Maybe she would be more into some embroidery supplies (needle, thread, hoops, fabric to practice) in order to do visible mending of holes in clothing. Or maybe it's not fabric at all, but metal or wood (jewlery? figurine carving?) You know her, what does she have around that she loves and why does she love it?

I would follow Adam Savage's advice about tools, which is that you buy cheap to start if you don't know if you'll need it or use it much. I think this is true for beginner's crafts as well BUT it can be a mistake if the quality of the tool prevents quality work being created. Young people have a surprisingly good understanding of what is good and what is not, and it can be frustrating to early creative efforts, as Ira Glass pointed out famously, and you don't want cheap tools to get in the way. Luckily many, many crafts are very cheap to start (most fiber arts, for instance -- crochet hooks and a ball of yarn and a used copy of a crochet book is like a $8 investment).

Re: music, it can be hard (in my opinion) to justify the cost of a nice musical instrument for a kid unless either the kid has a demonstrated interest or you all play music in the house regularly, meaning there's a culture of that. I feel like electronic pianos (especially ebay'd!) can be an affordable entry point, or if she's into something more electronic than a guitar or piano, something like the Pocket Operator synths?

The advice I've always been given is that you're most likely to learn a skill if you have a project or a goal in mind, so I think understanding what that project could be ahead of time for your daughter might be give you an idea of what skills or crafts she might be interested in, or what music she might like to create (show tunes? country songs? synth heavy bangers?).

The only other random ideas I had was gardening supplies for spring (seeds can be started a lot sooner in the year than many people think!), if that's something she might be into, or an event/trip (big time Judo championship?)
posted by AbelMelveny at 1:58 PM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Escape room, either one she can go to with friends or a boxed one they can do together.
posted by metasarah at 1:58 PM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Geocaching app and a plan to go geocaching together.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:06 PM on December 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

Experiences: is there a cat Cafe or a pedicure place or climbing gym or white rapids or a musical or something that is off your beaten path but might appeal?

You can make it out for you and her or her and a friend.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 2:08 PM on December 11, 2022

Bicycle (or bicycle upgrade)?

If not that specific item, then something that similarly increases the scope of where they can roam? When I was a kid things were, admittedly, different.. but any expansion in our independence and freedom of movement was hugely meaningful to us compared to other gifts.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:15 PM on December 11, 2022

Age 12 was around the time my daughter got into polymer clay (aka Sculpey). Easy to work with and then can be baked in an oven to harden it. There are a myriad of guides/books/videos on how to make nearly everything and anything.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:20 PM on December 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Tickets for her and a friend to... museums, theaters, concerts, places she might not think to go to on her own but might have a cool experience exploring on her own terms.
posted by trig at 2:23 PM on December 11, 2022

Best answer: Or maybe, if time and costs permit, go together on a trip (even a very short one) to a destination that she picks (within a certain radius, say) and with an itinerary that she plans.
posted by trig at 2:27 PM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Tennis paddle or pickle ball paddle and lessons. Horseback riding lessons. Windsurfing or kiteboarding lessons. An inflatable standup paddleboard?
posted by gt2 at 3:32 PM on December 11, 2022

record player and a couple records (or a gift certificate to a local record store where she can purchase some records). a music fanzine or two.
posted by smokyjoe at 3:53 PM on December 11, 2022

12 is a great age for a sewing machine if you don’t have one in the house (and if there’s any interest).
posted by vunder at 3:53 PM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Guitar, or other instrument? She may end up using a screen to learn the instrument, or you could get her a decent instructional book or lessons.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:02 PM on December 11, 2022

Best answer: Since she's into books and comics, maybe a trip to a book/zine fair with her friends next year? Here's a list though it looks like it might be a bit out of date. Sometimes comic stores also host zine-making workshops, which could be fun.
If you know the illustrators that she likes, sometimes you can find ones that send mail through their Patreons.
posted by sincerely yours at 4:02 PM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

A really nice sling shot/wrist rocket?
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:29 PM on December 11, 2022

Best answer: If you can learn more about the music and/or comics she likes, most creators have some sort of merchandise for sale. Pins, tshirts, hoodies...
Or something for her personal space? Fairy lights, comfy pillows, slippers, a book light?
posted by nkknkk at 5:47 PM on December 11, 2022

Best answer: I was introduced to pottery and throwing on a wheel at 13, through a teen class offered by a community college. What a wonderful community I entered, in-person, obviously. Other students were just as novice and I made pottery friends as we worked together. In many studios people enroll for classes semester after semester and get to know each other well; pottery becomes a community.

It is much harder to throw a pot than you'd think, with so much reward when you can finally make a teeny weeny bowl, but there's a wonderful world of bowls, vases, plates (really tough to throw without warping and cracking, but you learn) on your own personal list of challenges. Each teacher adds his/her own perspective and artistic and technical approach. There are always challenges, which are internal and external, and engage the student to persevere to attempt to master larger pieces, to explore glazing, firing, wood-firing, raku, hand-building, sculpture, molded ware, mosaic, and so much more.

I think this kind of gift of lessons, whether pottery, glassblowing, stop-motion film making, acting, would be a gift of not just a skill, however valuable on its own, but an introduction to a similar teen or preteen community.
posted by citygirl at 6:01 PM on December 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know how it is in France, but right now in the UK Dungeons & Dragons is really hot among the twelve-year-old set, and the current D&D Starter Set box is possibly the best introduction to the game ever. It's a game that encourages its players to get creative with art, writing, painting miniatures and loads of other activities, and it's given my daughter a whole new social circle.
posted by Hogshead at 4:48 AM on December 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you don’t know for sure what would command interest, shopping spree at a high-end book, music, art, or hobby supply store. This will help you learn what your child likes and minimize waste. This should be integrated into a “day in the city” experience that includes a quality meal/snack and perhaps some light walks or sightseeing.
posted by shock muppet at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2022

Response by poster: I really want to thank you all for your ideas. This is really appreciated, and I definitely plan to use several of them in the very short term and the not-so-short one. Thanks !
posted by nicolin at 11:10 AM on December 17, 2022

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