When selecting a gift for your child’s middle school classmate’s birthday party, which option is the best?

August 19, 2023
  • A toy
  • Tech gadget
  • Subscription box
  • A book
  • Experience
  • Gift card
  • Cash

Ah, middle school. The time when awkwardness and growth spurts reign supreme, and a simple birthday invite can make you break into a cold sweat. What in the world do you buy an 11 to 13-year-old? Will a teddy bear make you seem too juvenile? Is cash too impersonal? Fret not, dear reader, because we’re diving deep into the great gifting conundrum.

A toy

For the child in every tween

Remember that age-old saying, “You’re never too old to play”? It holds water even in the tween years. Some kids still cherish action figures, board games, or even the latest LEGO sets.

“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.” – Diane Ackerman

Tech gadget

For the tech-savvy tween

It’s the age of technology, and let’s face it, even toddlers have tablets these days. By middle school, most kids are tech enthusiasts. Headphones, simple gadgets, or even funky tech accessories could be a hit.

However, while tech gifts are trendy, be mindful of budget constraints and ensure parental approval (you don’t want to be the person who gifted a gadget that mom and dad didn’t approve of).

Subscription box

The gift that keeps on giving

Subscription boxes are like those infomercial products that you never thought you needed until you got one. From science kits to art projects, there’s something for everyone. In fact, Forbes reported that the subscription box market has grown by over 100% each year over the past five years.

“Subscription boxes can be the monthly highlight for curious kids.” – Jessica Alba, actress and entrepreneur.

This gift can keep the party going all year long, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

A book

For the budding bibliophile

Remember the joy of getting lost in a world where dragons roamed and kids went on quests? That magic still exists. With series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, books can be an excellent gift for tweens.

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” – Neil Gaiman

Regrettably, the proportion of American children aged 9 to 13 who express reading for pleasure nearly every day has seen a decline from a decade ago, reaching its lowest since the mid-1980s or earlier. Gifting a book could potentially help reverse this trend.

Here are some popular books to concider:

  1. “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling A saga that needs no introduction, the Harry Potter series charts the journey of an orphaned boy who learns he is a wizard on his eleventh birthday. As he attends the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry not only discovers magic and friendship but also confronts dark forces that threaten his world. This seven-book series is renowned for its immersive world-building, intricate plotlines, and memorable characters.
  2. “Percy Jackson & The Olympians” series by Rick Riordan Dive into Greek mythology with a modern twist as Percy Jackson, a seemingly ordinary boy, discovers he’s a demigod. Throughout the series, Percy embarks on quests, battles mythological creatures, and navigates the challenges of adolescence, all while attending Camp Half-Blood, a haven for young demigods. Riordan’s books are celebrated for making ancient myths relatable to contemporary readers through humor and adventure.
  3. “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins In a bleak future, the Capitol demands that districts offer their children as tributes to participate in a televised battle to death. Katniss Everdeen finds herself in the center of this brutal competition but uses her wits and will to spark a revolution. Collins masterfully blends thrilling action, dystopian setting, and thought-provoking commentary in this unforgettable series.
  4. “Divergent” trilogy by Veronica Roth In a futuristic Chicago, society is divided into factions based on virtues. Tris Prior discovers she’s “Divergent,” not fitting into any single category, which makes her dangerous in the eyes of the governing body. As Tris uncovers sinister plots and confronts her fears, the series delves deep into themes of identity, loyalty, and courage.
  5. “The Maze Runner” series by James Dashner Waking up with no memories in a mysterious maze, Thomas, along with other boys, seeks to find a way out and discover the purpose behind their captivity. With each book, the stakes get higher as secrets unravel, alliances form and break, and the boundaries of trust are tested. Dashner crafts a series full of suspense, mystery, and dystopian elements.
  6. “Warriors” series by Erin Hunter Through the eyes of feral cats, the Warriors series immerses readers into the adventures, battles, and politics of the forest-dwelling clans. While focusing on themes of bravery, loyalty, and identity, the series offers a richly woven narrative that spans multiple generations of cat heroes and villains.
  7. “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) Orphaned siblings Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire embark on a series of misadventures as they try to uncover the truth behind their parents’ death and evade the clutches of the wicked Count Olaf. Darkly humorous and brilliantly written, the series offers a unique blend of mystery, wit, and resilience.
  8. “Artemis Fowl” series by Eoin Colfer Young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl clashes with the fairy underworld in a bid to restore his family’s fortune. What starts as a kidnapping plot evolves into alliances and adventures that span eight books. The series brilliantly fuses fantasy, tech, and espionage elements, making it a hit with young readers.
  9. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry Set in a seemingly perfect world devoid of pain, suffering, or memories, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to inherit the memories of the past from the Giver. As he learns about love, pain, and the realities hidden from his community, Jonas faces difficult choices about his society’s future. This thought-provoking novel tackles themes of memory, individuality, and the cost of a pain-free existence.

Each book or series provides a unique blend of narrative style, characters, and worlds, ensuring a captivating reading experience for kids in the 11 to 13 age range.


Memories over materials

Why gift an item when you can gift an experience? Be it a trip to the local zoo, a cooking class, or tickets to a theme park, experiences can be memorable. According to a survey by Harris Poll, 72% of Americans prefer experiences over physical gifts.

“The best things in life are the people you love, the places you go, and the memories you make.” – Unknown

Especially at an age where they’re forming lasting memories, an experience can be a cherished gift.

Gift card

The sweet spot between personal and cash

Can’t decide? A gift card to their favorite store might be just the ticket. It gives them the freedom to choose, yet shows you’ve put thought into their interests.

“Gift cards are the universal language of love.” – Oprah Winfrey (Okay, Oprah might not have said this, but she would if she thought of it!)


Old school, but gold

Cash might seem impersonal, but sometimes, it’s the best way to let them indulge in what they really want. At an age where they’re starting to understand the value of money, a little financial boost could be appreciated.

Cash, though aging, is always in vogue

In conclusion, middle school gifting is not for the faint-hearted. But with a dash of thoughtfulness, a sprinkle of observation, and a generous dollop of love, you can find the perfect gift for that 11 to 13-year-old. Whether it’s a toy, a book, or the gift of choice with cash, always remember it’s the thought that counts. And if all else fails? Stick a bow on it and hope for the best! Happy gifting!

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