What toy would make a 10-year-old's eyes all aglow?
December 13, 2007 7:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm seeking affordable gift ideas for a 10-year-old boy we've "adopted."

My husband and I are "adopting" a couple of families this holiday season through a charitable organization, and one of the children, a 10-year-old boy, has me stumped. His requests on the form (or those his parents specified for him) consisted of a robe, pajamas, a comforter, and roller skates. We've acquired all of these things, as well as a helmet and pads to go with the skates. However, I'd really like this child to have some additional things to open on Christmas, but I don't know what kinds of toys 10-year-old boys generally like these days.

I've ruled out any type of video game (unless there exists some type of individual handheld game) since I doubt he has a gaming system of any kind. Similarly, I've also ruled out anything having to do with digital media of any kind. I'm looking for fairly universally adored toys and games for kids of this age. I reckon he's probably an active child since he asked for skates, but I have no idea what other interests/abilities he may have.

We're looking to add gifts totaling about $50-75. I'm partial to this boy having several things to unwrap, but if there's something awesome and worthwhile that will blow the whole budget, that's OK too. I'd appreciate it if the toys could either be purchased in a major retailer (Target, TRU, Walmart, etc) or ordered online with rush shipping, as we need to deliver gifts in about a week.

Oh, and if it makes a difference in your suggestions (not sure that it would), he's an African American boy from an underprivileged part of Baltimore, and the only child in his immediate family. Thanks so much!
posted by justonegirl to Shopping (30 answers total)
How about a gift card to Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Virgin Records? I have several teen/preteen nephews, and trying to guess what they want is, in my experience, hopeless. Let him choose.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:48 PM on December 13, 2007

A hockey stick, a street puck (or ball), and a goal net/stand to go along w/ the skates.
posted by jamaro at 7:50 PM on December 13, 2007

Based on what he (or his guardian) wrote on the form, it sounds like clothes might be what he really needs. I know you are going for the wow factor here, but he (and his family) might be just as appreciative of a package of tube socks or t-shirts or a scarf and gloves. It is hard to keep boys that age in clothes that fit because they grow so fast. Sure, unwrapping a sweater isn't a big thrill for a kid, but it really might be the gift that he could use.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:53 PM on December 13, 2007

it sounds like clothes might be what he really needs...

That could well be true. But maybe a combination of the practical, and the wonderous, has its place?
posted by R. Mutt at 7:57 PM on December 13, 2007

Just a warning about the gift cards. I don't know how it works for the charitable organization you're donating to, but it is not uncommon for charities that act as go-throughs for these Christmas gift collections to use gift cards themselves to buy presents for your family, or other families who are low on gifts. The rationale is gift cards are more likely to be sold on the street or used for the parents' needs instead of the child's.

I second jamaro's suggestion of the puck and net and hockey stick.
posted by schroedinger at 7:58 PM on December 13, 2007

Thanks for the suggestions before? I forgot to mention that we are planning on picking up some clothes for him, as we were given his sizes.

Is it consensus that gift cards are a good idea or not? I had pretty much figured they wouldn't work (and I neglected to mention this in the question, sorry) because I don't know what kinds of stores he'd be able to get to, and I'm guessing online shopping is out. But he might be more resourceful at getting around than my 10-year-old self would have been, I don't know.
posted by justonegirl at 8:00 PM on December 13, 2007

I vote against gift cards. Like I said, I worked at a non-profit that ran a holiday program, and they just confiscated gift cards before handing the presents over to the needy family. The gift cards were used to buy presents for families who hadn't received as much from their matched donors, or, in some cases, for the non-profit's personal use. You can decide whether or not that bothers you, but if you get the boy a gift card it may not actually go to him.
posted by schroedinger at 8:03 PM on December 13, 2007

Thanks schroedinger -- we are delivering these items directly to the family but it did occur to me that, like you mentioned, a gift card might be used for something other than this particular child's gift.
posted by justonegirl at 8:06 PM on December 13, 2007

This may sound funny, but I've heard that a flashlight is fun. I know many people who loved being able to read under the covers at night. Maybe a multi-color one, with the new Harry Potter? Or one of those no battery ones with the hand crank?
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:11 PM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

It never hurts to tuck in a couple of Hot Wheels cars - they're cheap, they are small, they fit in a pocket. I always add some pencils and drawing paper, just in case. Maybe a game jersey for your local basketball team and a basketball? That's what 3 or 4 kids here asked for last year. Game jerseys tend to be expensive, but a lot of kids really like them.
posted by clarkstonian at 8:11 PM on December 13, 2007

The ten-year olds on my list are getting a wide selection of lavishly-illustrated books, bike/skate decals, patches, subscriptions to magazines (along with a few back issues of each) tailored to their interests, Legos, footballs, bunch of inexpensive games, some favorite food items...

The fourth-fifth graders with whom I spend my time tend to be the most exited about "collections" of items. There's a real authority and pride of ownership that comes with having ten stussy stickers, six issues of national geographic, all the lego star wars droids, etc., that can actually make things pretty easy for the gift-giver.
posted by mr. remy at 8:13 PM on December 13, 2007

Nerf Basketball!
posted by MegoSteve at 8:14 PM on December 13, 2007

I asked my kids (10 and 14). Their first response, a guitar. That might not fall within the price range, but it would be an awesome gift. Truth be told, they are both guitar obsessed, and have quite a few guitars between them. When pressed for an alternative they both agreed that a remote control helicopter would be a pretty cool toy. I hope they aren't reading this, as now I have an idea for them.
posted by caddis at 8:18 PM on December 13, 2007

If you do go for the guitar, I recommend the Fender Squire Mini (plus a cheap amp). It is way over your budget though.
posted by caddis at 8:27 PM on December 13, 2007


posted by caddis at 8:29 PM on December 13, 2007

Kool Stuff includes things like skateboards ($100), guitars (anything under $100 is going to be crap, unfortunately)... those little razr scooters are a lot of fun and cheap. Beware of anything that requires batteries. Basketballs, frisbees, kites, boomerangs (if he has access to any open space).

The best gift imaginable for a kid that doesn't have one is a bike.
posted by unSane at 8:32 PM on December 13, 2007

it's a good guitar

I shut up now.
posted by caddis at 8:33 PM on December 13, 2007

First, good on you.

Second, I wouldn't get the guitar ... he may have zero interest or already play something else, and for the your budget it wouldn't be a very good guitar anyway and would just frustrate him.

But yes yes on R/C Chopper. This one flies indoors. These things are catnip for kids that age.
posted by Camofrog at 8:51 PM on December 13, 2007

Camofrog correct. Be careful of gifts that have a steep up-front learning curve; you risk turning a kid off of something he might discover organically on his own, later.

I endorse these as a cheapie add-on type of gift – fun, but breakable.
posted by mr. remy at 8:55 PM on December 13, 2007

A YoHo Diablo or SpinStix. So, so much fun, easy to learn, and no batteries required. My brother works at a toy store and they are two of the hottest selling toys.
The national geographic shop also have a whole range of toys/games that are aimed right at kids his age.
posted by cholly at 9:23 PM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Legos, Legos, Legos. My son is turning 14 in January, and he STILL loves getting Lego sets, especially Bionicles.
posted by headspace at 9:25 PM on December 13, 2007

A watch. Classic and nice, or cool and tech.
posted by yehaskel at 9:33 PM on December 13, 2007

We attend a congregation of well-off older people, and they picked my kids for secret gifts last year. I guess we look poor. They got my boys (ages 7 and 10) these large, die-cast classic automobiles. I thought they were totally boring old fogey toys but they have lasted a year and the kids play with them still all the time.

Legos are very awesome too. I would also suggest Marvel Heroscape on sale for $13 on Amazon but it might not ship in time. Good imaginative fun. Heroscape Swarm of the Marro is even better.

the r/c helicopter is cool, but fragile.
posted by mecran01 at 11:26 PM on December 13, 2007

Get him a refurbished Ipod nano from the apple store.
posted by mecran01 at 11:33 PM on December 13, 2007

We just did this at work too :) For the clothes for the boys in that age range we got skater stuff so it was clothes, but cool stuff that wouldn't be boring for them...otherwise, do you know if there are other kids in the family? We got ours board games to play with their brothers (but they did ask for that) and soccer, basket and footballs.

Lego, you can get one ginormous hugemegous castle/ship/city set for $50-75 or several $10-$12 ones that have TONS of replay value (big set or many small ones)

The iPod would be totally cool, but does he have a computer? Our family didn't
posted by legotech at 11:43 PM on December 13, 2007

I was going to suggest a basketball, but I worry that since he's only 10 years old some "big" kids might eventually take it from him. (It happens a lot on Detroit playgrounds, I know.) I love the idea of Legos or Lincoln Logs or some creative toy like that that he can play by himself and that is also creative. Who knows, it might inspire him to become an architect when he grows up.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:01 AM on December 14, 2007

A box of trading cards of his favorite sport.
posted by brujita at 4:27 AM on December 14, 2007

If you get boardgames, ask around at Boardgamegeek and get him something cool with lots of replayability.

Lego sells a Viking chess set that is pretty cool.
posted by mecran01 at 7:31 AM on December 14, 2007

I was once a kid with skates, and agree with the first comment: a stick, puck and net would be sweeeeeet.
posted by yeti at 9:17 AM on December 14, 2007

Thanks again everyone...I just got back from my marathon charitable shopping trip today, and got him a remote control helicopter and Uno Attack to go with the skates, safety gear, and clothes we had already purchased. I also added an additional "adopted" family as of last night, and took into consideration some of the other suggestions here for those kids. It looks like it's going to be a very merry Christmas indeed! Happy Holidays to all!
posted by justonegirl at 12:52 PM on December 14, 2007

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