Gift for 13-year-old Boy
December 22, 2003 1:17 PM   Subscribe

What can I buy my 13-year-old nephew for $15-20 that doesn't suck? He's into computer games, magic the gathering, ps/2 and isn't all that athletic. He's a little sheltered, and when I asked him if he wanted a throwing star or a bb gun, he replied, "you had better check with my mother about that."
posted by mecran01 to Shopping (42 answers total)
Did you check with his mother? A Daisy might be just the thing to get him outdoors (assuming he's not the type to go berzerk with it).
posted by oissubke at 1:23 PM on December 22, 2003

Response by poster: He's not a berserker, but he does live in a suburban neighborhood in Portland, the kind of uptight place that would call in SWAT if they saw him with a bb gun in his back yard. I'm a huge fan of air rifles, but I don't think it would fly in this situation.
posted by mecran01 at 1:29 PM on December 22, 2003

Um, how about a book?
posted by mookieproof at 1:30 PM on December 22, 2003

Response by poster: Books are always good. I kinda wanted to get him something that he would enjoy, but not think of getting himself--a difficult task.
posted by mecran01 at 1:34 PM on December 22, 2003

Books. Definitely. Get him the J.D. Salinger set Amazon's selling.
posted by 111 at 1:35 PM on December 22, 2003

Maybe a DVD of some movie you think he would like or a gift certificate to pick out his own?
posted by catfood at 1:39 PM on December 22, 2003

Response by poster: He actually requested a "gift card." I am ready to give up on my dream of being "the cool uncle." I wish I knew where to get a switchblade around here.
posted by mecran01 at 1:40 PM on December 22, 2003

Whenever someone in my family turns 13, I give him/her Catcher in the Rye.

Holy shit! 111 and I agree on something!
posted by jpoulos at 1:44 PM on December 22, 2003

I have been wanting one of these Zero Fog Blasters, maybe he would like it too. Maybe not.
posted by thirteen at 1:45 PM on December 22, 2003

can't lose with those robot lego gizmos.

you know, mindstorms.

those are, however, more in the $50 range, looks like.

hey, when I'm an uncle, I know what I'm buying the kid: mini-drum set, all the way.
posted by fishfucker at 1:49 PM on December 22, 2003

Response by poster: I can't buy him a CD after reading this:

What a crappy present
posted by mecran01 at 1:57 PM on December 22, 2003

If he "isn't all that athletic" ... could you maybe get him something a little athletic or outdoorsy, then? A snowboarding lesson, a subscription to Outside or Backpacker, a day at a local trap & skeet range...

I had a lot of books and videogames as a kid, and I often wish I'd had a little more inspiration to to take up more active pursuits.
posted by Tubes at 2:02 PM on December 22, 2003

I am ready to give up on my dream of being "the cool uncle."

Cash. Nothing like a card with a $50 in it to make you 'the cool uncle' really fast.
posted by anastasiav at 2:05 PM on December 22, 2003

er ... a card with a $20 in it ...

I have no idea where that errant 5 snuck in from. Daydreaming, I guess....
posted by anastasiav at 2:06 PM on December 22, 2003

If you live near him - why not actually take him to Seattle for the day and GO to Wizards of the Coast? They have all sorts of neat things there, and you can probably get away with fun stuff in the $15-20 range, as long as you don't include gas. Just give him the trip in gift certificate form then go at your convenience. After all, Seattle's just a measley 3 hours away if you take I-5 at 80 mph.
posted by Happydaz at 2:06 PM on December 22, 2003

What about a subscription to something like Electronic Gaming Monthly or Playstation magazine?
posted by ferociouskitty at 2:14 PM on December 22, 2003

mecran01, a gift card would make you a cool uncle ... I loved getting gift tokens when I was a kid.
posted by carter at 2:19 PM on December 22, 2003

Well, I bought a gift for my nephew recently, and he has similiar interests... I was a bit worried that this might be a bit dated - but he and his friends played it all day while I was there, and enjoyed themselves immensely. I picked mine up at WalMart, I believe, for 20 bucks.
posted by bradth27 at 2:21 PM on December 22, 2003

is he nerdy? i once got a kit that let you make a little crystal radio (that kind-of works). that was pretty cool, and it was probably in the right price range (the kit contained a cardboard tube, a lot of wire, a diode and an earpiece, iirc). how much are those disposable camera that take a sequence of pictures and were cool a year or two back? if it's going to be a book, how about something like an idiots guide to communism or anarchy (those cartoony books, if they cover either of those). or, perhaps more expensive, an electronic eavesdropping bug (you can get something with a mic that retransmits on am radio, i think, pretty cheap). you could maybe get a very cheap digital camera, but maybe you have to be somewhat older than 13 to find tiny grainy pictures more interesting than what you can get with expensive gear ;o)
posted by andrew cooke at 2:21 PM on December 22, 2003

bradth27, either i'm going gaga, or you didn't say what it was!
posted by andrew cooke at 2:23 PM on December 22, 2003

Get him an introductory book on Python. Hook him on programming. Seal his geeky doom.
posted by namespan at 2:23 PM on December 22, 2003

there you go: Anarchist's Cookbook.

now, you're the cool uncle, with a side benefit that there's a great likelihood he'll probably blow a finger off or something.
posted by fishfucker at 2:24 PM on December 22, 2003

You know, that "What a Crappy Present" thing is lame. OK, sure, the major labels are evil. Whatever. What about the hundreds of indie labels out there? Find out what he likes, drive to your closest independent record store and ask them what's similar but non-major label released.

Alternately, get him started on a good graphic novel series, like Sandman or something.
posted by me3dia at 2:24 PM on December 22, 2003

For some reason, my links aren't going in - the gift that I bought can be found here.
posted by bradth27 at 2:24 PM on December 22, 2003

Get him Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein or Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. He'll thank you for it, I promise.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:02 PM on December 22, 2003

Don't undervalue the time that you can give him. I'd second notions of giving him a gift certificate to take him somewhere cool that he normally couldn't go himself.
posted by woil at 3:26 PM on December 22, 2003


Read my review.
posted by scarabic at 3:32 PM on December 22, 2003

Nothing says "I love you" like a home-made potato gun. Another great way to be the 'cool uncle' and blow the kid to kingdom come in one fell swoop.

(And, for the record, my dad gave me Ender's Game for my 12th birthday, and I loved it, and quite likely still would. A Wizard of Earthsea is another good one.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:50 PM on December 22, 2003

i second ender's game and also recommend phillip pullman's his dark materials trilogy.
posted by heather at 3:51 PM on December 22, 2003

The kid specifically asked for a gift certificate. You want to be the "cool uncle?" The best way would be to try not to force the cool so hard -- cough up the dough.

Or take him downtown to Powell's and turn him loose. Tell him you'll hang out in the coffee shop and he can come get you when he's ready to check out. If he's into scifi, he'll even be mostly within eyeshot from you (unless Powells' layout has changed since I was last there).
posted by majick at 3:56 PM on December 22, 2003

Another vote for Ender's Game. Better yet, buy him the first Preacher Graphic novel. Blood, sex, death and a guy called the Saint of Killers. Hoo yah! He'll be wearing black and scaring his friends in no time.
posted by madmanz123 at 4:08 PM on December 22, 2003

Thanx branth, all of a sudden 3 people I know are getting those joysticks.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 5:05 PM on December 22, 2003

Response by poster: has 4 rc tanks for $24 shipped! I might get that for myself. Thanks for all the cool suggestions!
posted by mecran01 at 5:27 PM on December 22, 2003

I second the Powells vote - plus he can learn a bit about labor relations from the disgruntled workers. In a few years you can start buying him gift certificates from The Lucky Lab and really become a great uncle. Does his family stay in the burbs or do they actually come downtown regularly?
posted by TomSophieIvy at 5:51 PM on December 22, 2003

The ZipZap R/C cars from Radio Shack are $24.99; I've been informed they are very cool this Yule...
posted by JollyWanker at 6:03 PM on December 22, 2003

I would have loved to have received pornography at that age. That aside, the Simpsons always has the best ideas. A device which has buttons on it and when you press em it makes farting noises or says 'shut up'. What a gas!
posted by wackybrit at 1:57 AM on December 23, 2003

A gift which shows some thought is probably better than cash (IMHO). However, I have an uncle who used to slip me a $20 (back when that was a lot of money) whenever he saw me. Don't recall him ever giving me a birthday present, but he still is my favorite/coolest uncle. Wish I had invested that money instead of spending it all on legos...
posted by evilelf at 10:49 AM on December 23, 2003

The Onion A.V. Club's Cheap Toy Roundup
posted by boost ventilator at 11:57 AM on December 23, 2003

LEGO is an investment, evilelf. No matter how old they are, LEGO will always remain a kickass way for kids to flex their imagination. I've saved my entire collection so that my children (or more likely, my nephews and nieces) will one day be able to use them.
posted by Danelope at 12:22 PM on December 23, 2003

Response by poster: We ended up going for a gift card at a local gaming shop, and I'll pick up a used copy of Ender's game if I can find one in time. Great suggestions, and many thanks.

"Ask.Metafilter: like Usenet, without the idiots."
posted by mecran01 at 6:06 PM on December 23, 2003

Ah - Powell's, the mecca for readers. Whenever I'm in Portland visiting the family, I always make a pilgrimage to Powell's. You might be able to find a used copy of Ender's Game there, btw.
posted by Lynsey at 11:50 PM on December 23, 2003

Response by poster: Followup: Got him the gift card at the local gaming shop. The shop itself was very cool, the real thing, and well-run. Littel nephew was decidedly unthrilled by the gift card, or at least the amount of the gift card, and let an unkind comment slip. That little sh*t needs to get a job and earn his own money. He's insulated by his parent's money--he's essentially a good kid, I think.

Couldn't find a used copy of Ender's game at the downtown Powell's or at the Hawthorne branch. Turns out he has read the first four books already and liked them. We ended up talking about the series and playing a freeware battletech clone.

Next year he gets a harmonica.
posted by mecran01 at 8:52 AM on December 26, 2003

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