Best gifts for a 12 year-old girl
December 17, 2007 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Some co-workers and I are sponsoring a family for Christmas, and I picked the youngest (12 years-old) daughter of the family. Help me come up with some nice things that are are fun, functional, and long-lasting.

All of us are male, and most of my co-workers are significantly older. I was a bit concerned that the daughter would get the short end of the stick, so I really want to do a good job, and get some solid opinions from the parents and relatives of young almost-women.

I'm starting off with the obligatory Daring Book for Girls, and a light winter coat. Recommendations for other books or games that aren't based on horrible things (Bratz, etc) would be super-appreciated. Thank you!
posted by Optimus Chyme to Shopping (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Blank books (journals, diaries) and sparkly (or otherwise interesting) pens have been huge hits with every twelve-year-old girl I have ever given presents to. Crafty things, like jewelry-making kits or boxes that you can decorate, also have a tendency to go over well.

Books are trickier, especially if you don't know the girl and what (or if) she likes to read. I would recommend maybe some Tamora Pierce (the Alanna series especially) because I think it straddles that line between "good books that a well-meaning adult can give a twelve-year-old without getting a guilty conscience" and "books like the unicorn warrior princess series [no, really] by five different authors that I, and every other girl I knew, was addicted to at the age of twelve." I would also recommend The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, for roughly similar reasons. They are all good, fun books with that hyper-addictive quality that makes twelve-year-old girls fall in love with them.
posted by posadnitsa at 6:45 PM on December 17, 2007

Best answer: My daughter is 12, and she doesn't really play games much anymore. To my horror, she's way more interested in makeup than games, although she LOVES the Daring Book.

Hannah Montana CD, if you think they might have the Disney Channel.

cool scarf - These can be found anywhere and are cheap.

jewelry - necklaces and earrings (do you know if she's got pierced ears?)

a watch - Kohl's has cute ones that my daughter always wants.

fun socks

purse - especially small-ish ones

toiletries like fancy bubble bath, body sprays, lotions, nail polish
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:53 PM on December 17, 2007

Sorry, my suggestions were not what you were looking for. Eek! Must read questions closer.

There is a Hannah Montana CD game. Really, if you can get past the Manufactured Disney Star Thing, H.M. isn't bad. Catchy pop music and all the tweens are into it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:58 PM on December 17, 2007

See also.
posted by SassHat at 7:00 PM on December 17, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry, my suggestions were not what you were looking for. Eek! Must read questions closer.

No! They were good! Don't restrict yourself to books or games on my account - go nuts with whatever.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:03 PM on December 17, 2007

I would say rather than a purse maybe a messenger bag that she can use as an overnight bag for going to friend's houses or school. Sparkly pens and blank journals that look "mature" (no characters on them) are great - maybe some really basic art supplies like colored pencils.

Oh! A learn-how-to-knit-kit can be had at Target for something like $11 and they were a HUGE hit with my 12 year old cousins last Christmas.

As for books - go with a few classics that she can appreciate and maybe even grow into - some Jane Austin along with Madeline L'Engle are two that I loved when I was that age.

Good luck, you're doing something great!
posted by banannafish at 7:15 PM on December 17, 2007

SuperSquirrel's ideas are awesome. I'm seconding jewelry (Kohl's, Claire's, etc. are great places to find inexpensive 'tween stuff) and maybe a cute jewelry box of some kind, maybe the kind with a little lock and key? A little purse, and posadnitsa's suggestion of blank books is also a fabulous idea. Maybe a gift basket of stuff from Bath and Body Works -- they had some nice but affordable sets when I was in there for a similar purpose last week. Cute pajamas/loungewear would be fun, they have tons of cool stuff like that at Old Navy (which is a great place to get stuff for kids you sponsor for the holidays -- cheap but just fashionable enough).
posted by justonegirl at 7:18 PM on December 17, 2007

Best answer: Trendy wintery clothes: pastel scarves, hats, gloves and socks.
A gift card where she can buy new clothes when she gets 3 inches taller overnight and all of a sudden none of her clothes fit.
Colorful lip gloss.
High School Musical paraphernalia.
Any of the crafty books published by Klutz.
Some sort of children's cookbook.
Books by Lois Lowry, Judy Blume, Ray Bradbury, Tamora Pierce, Phillip Pullman, Jerry Spinelli or E.L. Koinsberg.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:25 PM on December 17, 2007

You could also get her a kit of some kind, something that lets her while the time away while learning a skill or a craft or something. I used to LIVE on those kits as a kid - my family were more scientific so I tended to play with science kits and my neighbour had this electronic thingy where you learnt how to make cool stuff on the same board. I was also obsessed with magic at the time so I used to have a LOT of magic stuff.

If you want some kits on the crafty end of things, Etsy has some good stuff - search for "kit" or "tutorial".
posted by divabat at 7:26 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding nice winter-wear in a soft fabric (matching gloves, scarf, and hat), and/or nice pens/paper/blank journal. Pajamas (and matching slippers?) are a great idea; a person can always use another pair. I think sets of things that match like that are really nice; especially if you can't afford much, getting a bunch of things that look nice together can make a person feel special because that's not an extravagance you're used to.

I worry about jewelry or knitting or anything too girly. My friends and I eschewed all that stuff after about 5th grade. I'm sure you've met girls that age who think that jewelry and pink stuff are stupid. I know some love it, but some don't. Since you don't know much about her, I'd stay away from that.

I would also stay away from novels (who knows what she likes) or music (I'm not sure Hannah Montana is especially cross-cultural). The Daring Book for Girls looks cool though. Maybe The Kids' Book of Questions or something like that, too?

Good luck!
posted by tk at 7:46 PM on December 17, 2007

When we sponsored a family through work one year, I bought for the daughter (13 years old, so a similar age) and heard she was kinda creative and arty. I bought her a lot of art supplies -- not crayola kid stuff, but art supplies: nice, big sketch books, proper pastels, good drawing pencils, stuff like that. I asked the people at the art store to help me cobble together a kit for a relative beginner that covered a lot of ground and those were the sort of things they recommended.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:47 PM on December 17, 2007

Good point about Hannah not being cross-cultural.

A small purse, rather than a messenger/book bag, is useful thing at this age because they are anticipating their first period (or may have already started) and a gal needs something in which to carry her girly stuff around at school.

You could buy a TracFone for $15, and spend not too much more for a phone card.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:28 PM on December 17, 2007

Does the family have a computer?

If so, get her a refurbished Shuffle or some other small mp3 player.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:51 AM on December 18, 2007

Best answer: Some great suggestions above. I would nth the journal/diary idea, but not too girly-looking.

I have a 12 year old girl, and these are the items that both she and her friends have been asking for for birthday gifts/holiday time:

Apples to Apples (game)

Twister (game)

Hair notions, like wide headbands in colorful fabric; clips and pins.

Hair glitter (Bath and Body Works item)

If you know her shoe-size, a pair of knock-off Ugg boots would be the best thing ever, at least around here. Costco has them now for a very reasonable price.

Matching hat/scarf/mittens. A lot of lower-income kids get these items hand-me-down, so they never match. Matching stuff is very important at this age.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:31 AM on December 18, 2007

Chiming in to agree with the journal idea -- a nice blank journal with a ton of cool pens is awesome -- and to second (or third) the craft/knit-kit idea as well. Maybe a bunch of smaller things like that inside a cool messenger bag?

(Also, thanks for including the Daring Book! I hope she likes it!!)
posted by mothershock at 5:34 AM on December 18, 2007

Nail polish is great if you think she'll wear it at all. This or this.
posted by anaelith at 6:23 AM on December 18, 2007

I would say rather than a purse maybe a messenger bag that she can use as an overnight bag for going to friend's houses or school.

Second this. Prohibiting backpacks in the hallways is the new thing for American secondary school, so kids are abandoning backpacks in favor of slim messenger bags which can actually fit in a locker during the class day... and the girls I know in this age bracket aren't carrying actual handbags yet.

Also seconding martinX's bellbottoms that this child will be growing like a weed, in directions no one can possible predict if you don't know her personally. Clothes will be sweet but might miss the mark if she's very tall, very short, very thin, or any permutation of height and weight off the percentile.

I bet she would love gift cards -- 12-year-olds are right at the prime age for wanting to have their own funds and making their own purchases... only, an "angel tree" family might not have lots of discretionary income floating around for the girl to be able to buy things at the mall as her friends do.

So, as crass as it sounds, I say give her the Gift of Shopping... which will let her pick her own things, and allow her a bit of fun money for treating herself... and insure that you don't make a gaffe by incorrectly assuming her tastes, interests or body shape. Barnes & Noble, Bath & Body Works, Wal-Mart, Target, Claire's, Kohl's, Macy's, all have awesome and affordable goodies that tweens love, and a $20 (or more) gift card would go a very long way for any 12-year-old.
posted by pineapple at 7:36 AM on December 18, 2007

I agree with pineapple. I'd vote for a gift card to Old Navy, Forever 21, or H&M instead of Walmart. Kids this age are very label-conscious, and though Old Navy etc. is cheap, it doesn't have the same stigma as Walmart. If there's a local mall that everyone goes to, you might be able to get a mall-wide gift card (useable at any store in the mall). Shopping is very much a social activity at this age, too, so a card would be a fun gift.

I'd stay away from Hannah Montana or High School Musical. Both of those have aged way down, and some tweens see them as babyish now. Not all of them do, but I personally wouldn't risk it. You'd have to survey the local junior high school to know what TV shows, movies, and music is popular with her -- it's very regional (I could go on and on about this, as it was part of my job for a couple of years, but I'll stop now...).
posted by chowflap at 8:16 AM on December 18, 2007

Gift cards for families "adopted" through agencies are *NOT* a good idea...most of the time the gift card will either get used by the agency to buy stuff for families that got shorted, get used by the adult in the house to sell for cash for food, or outright stolen. It sucks, but its true :(

Did you get a list of what she asked for? The list we got from our adopted family was enough to get us an idea of the sorts of things the kids liked so we could go 'off road' as it were and get extra stuff that wasn't on the list. And we got creative with the stuff that was one the lsit as well, the boys didn't just get clothes, they got skater/surfer/snowboard clothes so they wouldn't feel like they got "just" clothes.

12 year olds are tough...some of them can't get enough Hannah and HSM, others think that its the most idiotic thing in the world.

I think the suggestion of nice hair stuff without going the makeup route, don't want mom/dad getting ticked off as she might not be allowed makeup yet (Ok, thats just the old fart in me I guess:)

I've read that since the advent of the Food Channel, kids that age are interested in cooking...maybe a kids cookbook? They have some out that aren't so kiddie that the 12 year old would be put off.

Books are tough...A set of the Lion Witch and the Wardrobe books? The second movie comes out this summer? Figure she's already read Harry Potter, but does she own them? There was a series of books based on the Princess Diaries that might be fun, I think there are books based on High School Musical that are directed at her age group.

Most of all, good luck and have fun! We had a ball shopping for our families!

posted by legotech at 10:35 AM on December 18, 2007

Hello, I'm a mother of five, four of whom are girls aged 11.75, 9.5, 8 and 4.

Seconding strongly both the messenger bag and the advice to avoid High School Musical. HSM is an enormous hit with 8 year olds, and almost insulting to anyone above 9. Ditto with Hannah Montana.

I'd avoid anything branded with any movies or specific personalities/musicians. It's too hard, and not long-lasting.

I don't know your budget, but if you can spend almost $100 and she's at all crafty, there are some great (reliable, simple, workhorse) sewing machines available. Check out the reviews on Amazon for the Brother machines. It could spark a lifetime hobby, or at least open the door to something that will let her express her creativity and make repairs.

(My mother just bought a sewing machine from Amazon for all my daughters to share and they are LOVING it. They are making clothes for their dolls, (11 still has dolls, just plays with them differently) planning skirts, have made journals (sewing paper to cardstock and covering with fabric), and a few purses...)
posted by Juggling Frogs at 11:45 AM on December 18, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your suggestions - I got some nice things that I think she'll really like, and nothing (I'm pretty sure) insulting or childish or dumb. I really appreciate all your help. :)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:48 PM on December 18, 2007

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