Wednesday 25 November 2020

(Ad|Review) Gift Ideas For Pre-Teens - 8-12 Year Olds

Choosing gifts when your child enters that 'in between' stage can feel like you are entering the wilderness. They don't play with toys very much, but they aren't necessarily ready for gig tickets, make up and alcohol. We've been there 7 times now, and actually there are tons of things that have been universally enjoyed here, so there must be at least a couple of other kids out there who would enjoy them too... 

A Telescope.

It doesn't matter who you are, the sky is vast and full of possibility, and the stars are hypnotic. Wishes waiting to fall. We were sent a couple of great examples this year for review, and they're incredibly different. 

Boys messing about and making each other laugh  with telescope in garden

The GeoSafari Vega 360 Telescope (Age 8+) from Learning Resources just needs the large parts screwing together and you are good to go. We spent a long time examining the moon with this, and the owl in our tree! 

GeoSafari 360 Vega Children's Telescope review for Learning Resources

Comes with different eyepieces, a guide and activity booklet. Rrp £48 in store or direct from Learning Resources.  Here's our full GeoSafari Vega 360 Telescope Review

A Paper or Card Construction Craft Kit

If you are a bit more interested in how things work, and yours is the type of child who takes things to pieces, or gets joy from making something themselves, then we also reviewed the Build Your Own Telescope Kit (age 8+). They have several different models available, including a fantastic marble run. 

Build Your Own Paper Telescope STEM toy review Age 8+

This is a really clever thick paper model that goes together easily. It's entirely recyclable and plastic-free, an impressive size, and my son really enjoyed building it. It definitely works, but it's trickier to use than a shop bought pre-made model. The fun is partly in the build. 

sq looking at the stas with a home made cardboard telescope

Engineering and astrology in one. Rrp £19.99 with free UK postage on the Build Your Own website, where they've got several different models). Find out more in my Build Your Own Telescope Kit review

Top Trumps. 

Top Trumps are a classic for anyone aged 6+, and I cannot begin to imagine how many hundreds of battles I've played over the years. It's a simple game of 'my number beats your number', and available in just about any variety you can think of. 

Top Trumps Toy Story and special edition 007 card games in packaging on table

We've been sent Toy Story 4 Top Trumps (rrp £4.99), and this rather fabulous Limited Edition Top Trumps, 007 Every Assignment (rrp £5.99). Somewhere in my house we've got everything from Moshi Monsters to Horror Films, Supercars, Awesome Animals, The NHS and Disney Princesses. It's an eclectic mix, with something for everyone. I reviewed some Retro Top Trumps 3 years ago if you haven't seen them before. 

Marvel Top Trumps Quiz Packaging shiny double-sided card holder

Top Trumps have expanded not only their range of card sets, but their range of games, with the new Top Trumps Quiz (Age 12+, around £13.99-£15.99). I'd not seen these before, and they're pretty clever, in a really neat double sided side-opening metallic cuboid. We've been sent Marvel - excellent. 

Marvel Top Trumps Quiz game card examples

Inside are 2 packs of cards - with 500 questions and answers. Players split into two teams, shuffle and deal five cards to each team. Teams take it in turns to read question one to the other team. If just one team answers correctly they keep both cards, if you both answer correctly move on to the next question, and keep going until someone gets it wrong. Win 3 pairs to win the game. 

You can find a huge range of Top Trumps games in all good toy shops, including online at Amazon (affiliate link), prices start at £3.99. 

Hexbug Flash nano and ordinary nano robot insects


There are still some great toys for older primary and even younger secondary aged children. We're particularly fond of miniature vibrating robot bugs Hexbug Nano (age 3+) and we've reviewed several Hexbug sets

Hexbug nano flash playground set review layout

New out this year are the new sets with jelly walls and plug together pieces to create a playground for your Hexbug Flash Nano - brilliant fun, and your Hexbugs no longer fall on the floor! Full playsets start at around £15 - there is a great Hexbug store on Amazon (affiliate link) which gives you a better idea of the whole range. 

Hexbug Junk Bots review Age 3+ dumpster full of really exciting  trash

There are also the very different scrapyard  Hexbug JunkBots, which really captured my children's imaginations. There's plenty of scope to challenge yourself and create something really zany. These start at under £5, our dumpster is rrp £19.99, and makes at least 3 models at once, with motion and light modules. I love these myself. 

Hexbug Junk Bots review 3 possible models fridge camera robot guy and dinosaur bird

Another toy which seems to span the ages well is Micro Machines. Small worlds get incredibly small once you children get a bit older - and they're ever-popular. We recently reviewed some of the brand new Micro Machines sets for this Winter. 

Micro Machines Hauler vehicle transporter with cargo

My daughter may not have been so keen on the vehicles, but the boys all played with these teeny tiny cars and playsets for years, and they've lasted incredibly well. We have sets that must be nearly 20 years old, and they've had weeks worth of play, but the wheels still spin just as smoothly. As a bonus for parents, you can store about 40 thousand in a small box. 

Micro Machines Mini City Vehicle 2020

A toy which we reviewed in late 2018, but I still think offers excellent value, is ridiculously fun to play with and looks fantastic, is the totally reinvented marble track - Gravitrax. Suitable for age 8+, the Starter Set is plenty enough to create all kinds of tracks, and the add ons are reasonably priced in case you want to expand later. The rrp is £54.99, but the Gravitrax Starter set is currently £35 on Amazon - bargain. (And an affiliate link). 

Gravitrax marble track review shows catapult


We've had card games already, but as your child gets older a whole new world of competitive, challenging, clever and even embarrassing games begins to open up. 

Harry Potter Match Cube Game in box

Harry Potter Match - 'the crazy cube game' is another game from the makers of Top Trumps. Suitable for age 4+, but still good even if you're a grown up. I've played this a few times and it's harder than it looks - age isn't a guarantee you'll play better! It's like Connect 4 with 1 eye open. Players insert the cubes into the frame in turn. The aim is to match 5 faces the same to win, but be careful because each side of the cubes is different, and if you make the wrong move, you might just win it for your opponent. 

Portable Harry Potter game box

One of the things I particularly like about this, is that it all packs away really neatly to take with you. Currently reduced from £15.99 to £13.08 on Amazon, so here's a handy Amazon affiliate link.  

Lexicon Go by Waddingtons game semi unpacked with tiles on the table

Lexicon GO is a bit of a classic for anyone age 8+. Inside the uniquely shaped zip-up bag are 52 tiles printed with a letter and score number. There are 2 main games - take 10 tiles each and race to be the first to create words to use up every letter, or create words and score yourselves for each letter used (kind of a freeform Scrabble game). No set up, no tricky rules, and just enough brain exercise. Lexicon GO costs around £10, and is currently on offer at a bargain £8.22 on Amazon (affiliate link).

Hedgeways strategy game tiles on table mid game

Hedgeways strategy game is from the makers of Sproutword, and it's a beautiful lifetime keepsake. Place 1, 2 or 3 tiles in turn, and create the greatest number of enclosed fields to win. 
These are beautiful wooden tiles and the nicest box I've ever seen for any game. Eco-friendly paint and made locally. Designed for 2 players of any age (but definitely better with age 7+), we've actually played 4-player and it is a quick game, but it works. Rrp £25.99. Find out more, and buy on the Sprout & gherkin website. If you are reading before 6th December, I've got a Hedgeways game giveaway too!

If you fancy something a little more involved, then 8 is the age when young folk begin to be able to keep up with their parents in more complex board games. Catan (10+) or Carcasonne (8+) are great games for newer gamers, and a family favourite is Ticket To Ride (8+), with it's gorgeous little trains and maps of our world to travel around. The Board Game Family by Ellie Dix is a great place to start if you are a family getting older, and thinking of moving on from the same old kids games, but haven't a clue what's out there in the more grown up world.  

Movies and Box Sets

Gift Guides Christmas 2020 dvds

At this age your children are starting to enjoy TV shows and films with a little more plotline and longevity. Put away the Fireman Sam and Shimmer & Shine, and raise the game a little. Although be careful not to push too far, and remember no-one really uses DVD's any more. Digital Downloads are often the most easily accessed by youngsters. 

Active Stuff

Nerf SurgeFire blaster dart weapon firing

By 8 you will be beginning to get a good idea of whether or not your child is sporty, and if they aren't then you still need to encourage them to run off their energy and be active somehow. Visiting parks, water fights and outdoor toys, skateboarding, bikes, trampolining and light-hearted football are all great if you can get outside, but if you can't, and your child needs a little more encouragement, there's always Nerf... 


Last but not least, kids love to collect things, and stamps aren't in fashion right now. There are tons out there, with blind bags or mystery figures, collectible cards and sticker albums, and there's something for everyone. Funko Pops don't only make models, they recently sent us some of their Funko Pops games to review - Disney Something Wild! and Marvel Battleworld Battle Balls. Both have a collectible figure, both have a game, and both are pretty cool and well priced. 

Funko Pops Games review

I was sent almost all of these items for review, but chose to add them into this post. Any Amazon links are affiliate, which earns me a few pence 'thank you' if you buy through my link, but never costs you a penny extra. It helps keep the website running. 


  1. Love these. Gravitrax is a firm favourite here for all ages. I do like the cardboard telescope, but my favourite has to be the pictures of your boys. They certainly made me smile xx

    1. I love that photo. That was a lovely evening - it was the first clear night in ages and we sat outside until about 11pm with a fire and the telescope :D Gravitrax really is something special, and it'll take a lot of beating.

  2. This is a really good list, I think my 10 year old would be happy with most, if not all of them and we're definitely having the 'what to buy' debates.

    1. Awww thanks Pippa. I hate cobbled together lists, I'd much rather pull it all together from what I know. Glad you agree! :)


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