Well I don’t have a lot of experience in buying for tweens but Mark is officially one and I have put together a series of gift ideas that a nine year old boy would like. A lot of friends have asked me what I was getting Mark and the kind of things he likes which is partly what this list is based on. As a rule we spend about $100 on Mark for Christmas (gifts from me, Wendy, Oliver, Maggi and Santa Claus) and Lee spends a little bit more than that from him and Hutch so don’t think he is getting anywhere close to everything that is on this list. Since there are a couple of video games listed here, I’ll disclose that Mark has a Nintendo DS and we have a PS2 in the house so I won’t discuss many Wii, Xbox, PSP, or PS3 only games here. You can find them at the links provided.
- Backyard Baseball :: We have this game for Mark and he loves it. We have a couple of sports games which has historically ignored in favor of the backyard version of the games. The games are enjoyable enough to play that Wendy and I join in as well. All of the Backyard games have simplified controls which is great for playing as a family. Much taunting comes after you hit a homerun 186,000 miles or throw a zig zag ball. It limits the game play a bit but it makes it evens out the game play a bit for epic family series.
- Backyard Football :: Backyard Football 2009 offers 7 on 7 teams with wild arcade style power moves and comes loaded with current NFL Superstars as kids (at least one from every team). The game features new Pro Bowl and tournament modes, season play or single games, custom teams and players, un-lockables, and multiple levels. Outrageous game play and awesome power ups are mixed with authentic NFL action. The cool thing about this version when you compare it to Madden is that Mark doesn’t have to know the intricacies of the Tampa-2 defense to win a game.
While you can get the Backyard series from Amazon.com, we picked up some of them at Wal-Mart for $10.00 a title.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days :: If you kid is like Mark, he has read the earlier books in this series already. Mark is also at the age where the books of Jim Kjelgaard come alive. You can find his classic trilogy, Big Red, Irish Red, and Outlaw Red on Amazon.com or at your local bookstore.
- The New Way Things Work :: This is a classic book that has been re-released in an updated version. A few items (parking meters and bicycle brakes) have disappeared into obsolescence, a few new ones have appeared (camcorders and airbags). Either way I think it will fascinate a lot of growing minds.
- Namco Museum for Nintendo DS :: Wow. Pac-Man is back. The game that defined my childhood can be mocked for it’s horrible graphics and dumb game play by my son. Of course the plus side is that when we are at the lake and he has taken over my PSP, I have a game of his that I can play. It also has a cooler two player mode than what we had a kid and now other DS players can hunt you down as the ghosts. Maybe if Atari would have thought of this in the 80s, things would have turned out better for them. Then again, the more I read about Atari’s history, a couple better games would not have saved them.
- Aquarium :: We had aquariums growing up and Mark has had a great time with his pet goldfish and a beta. Eventually it’s time for an upgrade and several pet shops and Wal-Mart have had small full features aquariums for under $20. Just make sure you it has a pump and light.
- Telescope and Binoculars :: Over the years we have bought Mark a beginner telescope and some binoculars for use up at the cabin and he has had a lot of fun using them. The binoculars we bought for Mark were about $10 from XS Cargo and have been a lot of fun for him. We have three pairs up at the lake and they get used for on hikes and for some bird watching. They aren’t kids binoculars but aren’t anything that spectacular. They serve two purposes at the lake, they are used for viewing from and for teaching Mark the importance of taking care of something (he did a great job). The telescope we have up there is a pretty cheap one and not for serious viewing at all but on nights with a full moon, it does provide for some dramatic views. Over the years I have bought Mark some cheap spy gear but within a couple of days, he wants the real stuff around. Next year I hope to get him a compass and will do some map reading together. I tend to be biased towards gifts that feed kids curiosity.
- True Heroes Black Hawk Helicopter :: What can I say, Mark watches a lot of history channel and is starting to read some military history. Some of my liberal friends like to chide me about Mark’s growing interest in all things military but we have had some cool and interesting discussions on Afghanistan, Iraq, and the ethics of military might.
- Nintendo DS Internet Browser :: The Nintendo DS Lite Browser was co-developed by Nintendo and Opera and provides web browsing on the Nintendo DS Lite. The Opera browser software is stored on the Nintendo DS Lite cartridge, a memory expansion you can insert into the GBA slot.
- Mark has all of the balls, bats, and gloves that he needs so I didn’t list anything here but I find that the strangest variations have become favorite toys. Mark and I were in London Drugs last summer and I bought a Nerf Howler for a couple of dollars. While he had lots of other football, this is the one that gets the use up at the lake. Another thing that surprised me was that I bought Mark a cheap set of lacrosse sticks that have also been used again and again despite the difficulty in mastering them.
- Mark was given a copy of Planet Earth: The Complete Series by the Reimers for Christmas and he loves it. Not only does Mark love it but so do Wendy and I. Its a series we will watch again and again and harkens back to the days of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom where the entire family gathered around the television to take in the sites and sounds of animals we came to learn a lot about.