Friday, December 21, 2018

The Best Gifts for Nerdy Tween and Teen Girls

That just kind of says what it is, right? I mean, my girls are a tween and a teen, and they're pretty nerdy. They come by it honestly, at least. They're also TERRIBLE to shop for, with neither of them giving me ANY ideas for Christmas this year. That's so unhelpful that it's almost mean!

They do like some stuff, though, so if you, too, have a situation in which you, too, have a nerdy tween or teen girl and no idea what stuff they might like, here's a list of my kids' favorite stuff. Feel free to try some of this out on your own little nerd!

ComicBoxer Subscription and/or ComiXology Unlimited

You know that comics and graphic novels are the traditional havens for the nerdy tween/teen. Our whole family loves comics, and we read them often. One year I bought Matt a subscription to ComicBoxer, and the whole family got really into it, sitting around and watching him unbox each package when it came, hanging out the whole evening after and passing around everything that came in it, then waiting impatiently for new issues of our favorites to come out at the local comic shop or the collections to make it to our library.

ComiXology Unlimited is even better for the avid reader, because you've got at your fingertips access to a huge collection of comics, some complete sets and some ones that get you hooked on the series. The girls' uncle bought this for Will one birthday, and we haven't been able to do without it since.

Fair warning: comics are written for all maturity levels, and both of these services have comics that you might not want your kid to read.

Indie Comic Strip Prints

Along the same lines, but more directly supporting a real, live artist, there are SO many awesome comic makers out there who shill their own work by producing high-quality, signed prints. If your tween or teen is into anyone in particular, they will, I guarantee, LOVE a signed print of their own. I own several prints and collections created by Emily's Cartoons (she does My Life as a Background Slytherin), Syd treasures her signed Bill Amend print--

--and Will, too, follows a ridiculous number of science- and nerd-themed web comics.


Your kid probably doesn't want a boring old teddy bear. We first saw the Crocanana at a Comic Con, and both of my kids are OBSESSED with them. I don't pretend to understand the appeal--I think it's something that speaks uniquely to the tween and teen mindset--but hey, they're a small business that markets mostly at comic-cons. What's not to love about that?

Hatching Dragon Candle

You can also find a hatching dinosaur candle or a hatching unicorn candle, so there's one for everyone! I bought Will this hatching dragon candle for Christmas last year, and our whole family thinks that it's just about the most stinking cute thing ever. Will won't really burn it down to reveal the whole dragon, as a matter of fact, because she likes the look of the egg candle too much!

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Book Series

Start with The Hobbit, go all the way through the Lord of the Rings, and don't watch the movie until you've read the book! This series was our family read-aloud for years, and we just finished the final chapter of the final volume earlier this autumn. Tolkien's world is gorgeous and immersive, and while most kids have read a Harry Potter or two, if you're lucky YOU could be the one to introduce a kid to this, their other future great love in literature.

Lava Lamp

This is pretty old-school, but if you've got a kid who's not into whatever the trendiest thing is, then it's likely that they'll appreciate some old-school entertainment. Lava lamps are inexpensive and tend to be super sturdy; our family is still regularly using the one that I received as a present back when I was a teen, myself.

Not to mention: this thing is soothing as hell, and tweens and teens these days need all the anxiety relief that they can get!

Miniature Classic Nintendo

I don't normally do electronics as gifts for my kids, but this is another old-school classic that's worth the exception. Matt actually gave this to me for Mother's Day this year, because he knows me completely, and the kids have been super into playing with me. It's nice because video games are so complicated these days that this is just about the only kind that I can manage to navigate to play with the kids, and there's nothing that kids like better, even kids at the ripe old ages of 12 and 14, than to play with their parents!

Novelty Ear Headphones

This won't fit in with every little nerd's favorite interest, but if it works, then it really works! I mean, everybody needs headphones, so it's a practical gift, but headphones with cat ears or a unicorn horn, or earbuds with elf ears attached, are a pretty epic score for those who are way into fantasy.

Here, look at this:

That's my kid listening to an audiobook on her light-up cat ear headphones, while making an elaborate string art portrait of a unicorn. That's what I'm talking about.


We've loved this game since the kids were small, and we still love it--it's a family game night favorite. The idea is to make sets of shapes, and there's a lot of great strategy involved. It's especially nice because our visual thinker is naturally good at this game, while her usually more logic-minded sister has to work hard to keep up. Fun fact: we have NEVER kept score during this game, nor have the kids ever asked to. We try our best, of course, but when we're finished, we generally just admire the pretty patterns that we've made and then pick them up to play again.

Sculpey Polymer Clay

Like Perler beads (which aren't on my list this year, but are nevertheless hard favorites with my kids), Sculpey is a great nerdy gift not because of what it is, but because of what you can DO with it. I buy this specific set over and over again, and over the years, we've collected a few special tools and I sometimes stock up on larger packages of colors, but this set is the kids' favorite. Sculpey is dead simple to work with, and there are so many step-by-step tutorials to make everything under the sun on YouTube that you can't really mess it up. And you can make ANYTHING! Syd uses it more, and has made the most magical things with it--she recently finished making her Secret Santa in the ballet program an actual avatar of that actual kid in her actual Nutcracker costume, and it was epic--but even Will can follow a tutorial or her own imagination to make dragons and castles and unicorns, and my favorite piece of jewelry is a Sculpey tentacle pendant that I made using this exact tutorial, and I'm not an artist.

Tweens and teens who are very passionate about specific things often spend a lot of time immersed in that one thing, so this is a good way to engage them in a different kind of activity while still allowing them to indulge their obsessions.

Themed Craft Kits

These are along the same lines as the Sculpey, but for folks who need more guidance to create the nerdy artwork of their dreams. We own SO many of these--we've got Disney art kits, Marvel and Star Wars felt stuffie kits, Halloween and Star Wars origami kits, paracord crafting kits to indulge Will's military interests, Sherlock and Doctor Who coloring books, Harry Potter and Tolkien and Dr. Seuss cookbooks...

Whatever your kid is into, there is undoubtedly some fan art craft kit for them somewhere.


This tile-laying game is one of those board games that's easy to learn and impossible to master. The randomness of the draw, as well as the unpredictability of others' moves, means that even a novice can have luck on her side, but there's nevertheless tons of strategy involved, and the design of the game, itself, is gorgeous. Look at that dragon on the front of the box!

Women of NASA LEGO Set

If your girl is into STEM subjects, then she's probably a fan of at least one of these women of NASA. Mae Jemison, in particular, is super inspiring--the girls and I got to hear her speak at our local university a few months ago, and it was amazing!

A lot of this you can apply to whatever your kid is a nerd about. No matter passion, there's pretty likely some fan art of it, a craft book for it, a LEGO kit to build it, books or games themed around it, etc. With a little effort, your little nerd could find herself wearing themed pajamas, eating a homemade cake decorated to her thing, playing with a kit that's related to her theme, with something even nerdy on for background music. That's how you live the dream!

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