Basic Gear for Tweens and Teens

What to Expect Developmentally.


Learning Through Play. During the tween and teen years, play continues to be an important path to learning. Although the attraction is to more electronic gaming, and many children leave childhood toys behind, there are still many activities that older kids enjoy. They are ready for more complex games that require strategic thinking. They enjoy playing brainteasers that challenge themselves solo time as well as social games they can play with family and friends.


More complex craft kits, that may lead to long term hobbies, offer satisfying ways to try new skills without a giant investment. They like kits with end products they can use, wear, display or give as gifts.


Dexterity and Problem-Solving Ability. Building complex constructions with moving parts challenge their more dexterity. They now have the ability and staying power to handle more elaborate building toys and art materials. They learn about patience and persistence with projects that take several days or even weeks. Their finished products provide satisfying lessons in mastering their own patience as well as their craftiness.


Active Group Play. These are very social times when kids long for acceptance among their peers and deal with their own self-doubts. Sporting equipment, being on a team, joining a dance or yoga class, owning the current in games or computer take on new importance. All ways of belonging and trying out new roles in the world.


Independent Discovery. Happiness is being with a friend, but tweens and teens also need to be encouraged to discover the joy and benefits of solo time, as well as off-screen time. Mastering a complex construction set, playing a musical instrument, painting a picture, reading or listening to a book are activities that are done alone. Many products on our lists are good tools for developing such self-sufficient and satisfying learning skills.


Basic Gear Checklist for Tweens and Teens (nine and up)


*Sports equipment

*Board Games

*Brain teaser solo games

*Elaborate construction sets


*Craft Kits

*Art materials: Water, acrylic, and oil paints, markers, stampers, color pencils, pastels

*STEM toys (Science experiments, math games, elaborate ball runs, programming games, etc.)

*Camera

*Musical players

*Electronic games/learning machines(talking globes, etc.)

*Puzzles (100, 500, 1000 pieces)

*Game machines


Toys to Avoid with Tweens and Teens:


These toys pose a safety hazard:

*Chemistry sets that can cause serious accidents

*Plug-in toys that heat up with light bulbs and can give kids serious burns

*Audio equipment with volume controls that can’t be locked

*Projectile toys such as darts, rockets, B-B guns, or other toys with flying parts that do serious damage

*Super-powered water guns that can cause abrasions

*Toys with small parts if there are young children in the house (Set up a special place for working these)

*Movie and TV show merchandise with themes of violence.


The following is developmentally inappropriate:

*An abundance of toys that reinforce gender stereotypes: for example, hair play for girls and gun play for boys


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