By Guest Blogger Kelly Gunzenhauser
(Some) Teens are HARD to buy for. When TMOM asked me to write this blog about gift ideas for teens, I texted my 14-year-old and asked him what he thought: “Biggest suggestion: don’t write a blog about teens.” My other teen said, “Why would you even think to ask me about that?” So…yeah.
Even if you are lucky and have one who likes clothes, or has a hobby, or needs some new makeup, they don’t want ALL clothes, or ALL hobby stuff, or ALL makeup. Some, like my son, claim they want nothing. Nothing at all. That’s great but see, there’s this big group of relatives who still want to gift him with stuff, and beyond that, I can’t see letting him have nothing at all to open, and I don’t think he would be totally pleased about that, either.
Here are some gift ideas—and not one of them is money. (Hanukkah parents, I get it, this list is too late for you, but next year I want to write a blog all about Hanukkah gifts!)
Have them make a dang list—just like when they were little.
Forget the paper and pencil; have your teen browse Amazon for gift ideas and create an account (it can be under your name) and then add stuff to it. There is an easy way to add things not found on Amazon, too, still on that same list (post links or ideas). It’s not quite as good as the Sears Toy Catalog, but it’s still pretty good! And get over not surprising them—it’s more fun to get what you want, and there is a feature on Amazon that hides what has been purchased and what hasn’t. Don’t just let them fill it out once and forget about it, either. Ask them to revisit it a couple of times, or text you add-ons as they think of things.
Who can’t use a good school hoodie?
Many schools use third-party websites to create their logo clothing. You can add a sports team or club to the front. (Go Mathletes!) You might want to get your teen to browse with you, though, so you don’t end up with a “cringe” design (insert eyeroll emoji) or one that doesn’t pass muster if your child’s school requires Standard Mode of Dress. (You can also get them a yearbook—schools are selling those already, as well.)
Got a child graduating? Pass on the high school sweatshirt, but include a voucher for college gear if they are going, once they figure out where, or for some good work clothing if they are interviewing or heading for a job.
Favorite snacks are always welcome. I usually get one kid a big tub of cheeseballs, and the other a huge box of goldfish or else peanut butter pretzels, and sometimes we do a gingerbread house. This year my son has clued me in that he misses Welch’s fruit snacks—like, a lot. Other favorites at my house are Skittles (the kind that come in a tube shaped like a candy cane, of course), Andes Mints, and dark chocolate.
If you have a teen who likes to cook or bake, assemble a kit for them to make a favorite dish. One of the best things I ever got for my niece was a fancy cookie decorating kit with cutters, decorations, and icing tubes.
For older teens getting ready to leave home, you can also create a recipe box or book with their favorite foods in it. (If you are really cool, create it on Google Slides and share it.)
Electronics are a necessary evil.
My younger kid loves his portable battery-operated phone charger—it saves us every time the power goes out, and we take them on long trips so no one has to fight over the outlets.
Music is pretty important these days. Air Pods are expensive but have been a well-loved item for my younger son. I think both kids would enjoy their own Alexa Echo Dot, too, especially since one of them has started listening to music while showering (which is like, half the day now).
Accessories are a good idea. Even if a new phone is not in your budget, a new phone case could be—along with a wallet sleeve for new licenses or debit cards, and a couple of extra charging cables. iPods and laptops need cases, too, if you’re struggling for ideas.
Finally, consider a subscription to Audible if you have an avid reader. Audible has a wish list function just like Amazon (they are the same company) and I think you can even buy gift cards.
Hobbies can lead to great presents.
Some hobbies require plenty of gear that makes great presents. Art, any sport at all, music, and outdoor pursuits like hiking or cycling all have plenty of gear that always seems to need refreshing. Instead of asking what your hobby-obsessed teen wants for Christmas, get them talking about their hobby and you can even be sneaky about the fact that you are fishing for ideas.
There are good hobby-inspired teen gifts that don’t involve you picking out the gear yourself. For example, if you have a Scout in the family, consider a gift card to the local Scouting store. If you have an artist, get a piece of work that they loved framed for hanging in their room.
Shower some love on their vehicle.
Getting a car for Christmas is a big deal, but even if your teen already has one, you can get a ding fixed, or give them a gift card to get the car detailed. Purchase a roadside emergency membership for them. Provide a set of jumper cables and a tire pressure gauge, along with a lesson for how to use them. Get a first aid kit for them to keep in the trunk, or If they won’t hate you for it, further supply their car with a readiness kit—a reusable shopping bag with things like wipes, a roll of paper towels, some plastic bags, bottles of water, disposable masks, an umbrella, a flashlight, and so-on. For a laugh, don’t forget the pine tree air freshener stocking stuffer!
Update the hangout room.
Creating or updating a hangout room for the teens is expensive, but it’s an investment and plenty of kids would really appreciate something they will use so often. Even if it’s not a full makeover, adding a coat of paint—that they get to pick out—and rearranging the furniture can make a big difference.
Experiences make wonderful gifts.
It may be a bit late to plan a trip for Christmas break since many places are booked, but you can always do a day trip or just an outing. We have gone to the zoo and the Lazy Five Ranch over the holidays. Something as simple as buying movie tickets for a friend group, visiting a favorite restaurant, paying for a mani/pedi with a buddy, making some art in one of the local studios, or going to a sporting event, can be really fun and out-of-the-ordinary. (My favorite sports destination after Christmas is usually a Thunderbirds hockey game, although this year I think there’s a bowl game in our future!)
Don’t forget your teen is almost a grown-up.
It may be time to upgrade a childhood favorite. Maybe it’s time for the adult-sized bike or an electric scooter, or some longer skis, or a better tennis racket. New equipment can help revive an interest in an old pastime, but be sure to discuss it a little before dropping a lot of money on something that won’t get used.
Giving back is the best gift of all.
Finally, when considering gift ideas for teens, remember there are people in need all over our community—and the world. Perhaps the best gift you can give is to teach your child how good it feels to give to others. Give your teen the gift of helping others. Your child can pick out a favorite charity to give to, or can volunteer to help someone who needs some holiday cheer. There are literally hundreds of ways to help others. See this directory for ideas.
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