For some, gift giving is love language; they always know just what to give. Their gifts compel Cheshire cat smiles, squeals of delight, or on the rarest of occasions, they leave the recipient speechless.
Gift giving is not my strong suit. I labor over choosing the “right” present for someone; not because I’m trying to impress them, nor out of obligation, but because if I’m in the position of wanting (or needing) to buy you a gift, it’s a reflection of my relationship with you. It matters to me to give a gift that meaningfully expresses that. This is why I deplore gifting money.
Because graduation season is here, I thought it might be helpful to share some specific gift ideas for the special teenagers in your life who’ll be celebrating this momentous milestone. And fyi, I’m intentionally leaving off electronics here because of their lofty price tags.
Here are some of my favorite gifts to give a teenager when they graduate.
Top 5 gift ideas for her
1. Signature jewelry
Not restricted to monogrammed jewelry, these are “nice” pieces they’ll wear in college and beyond. A few examples:
- Pearl studs — Classic! If they don’t have a pair, this is the perfect time to gift them with the real deal. She’ll think of you every time she wears them.
- Wrist Watch. Given the majority (every?) of graduates have a cell phone, watches aren’t used as timepieces anymore, but they’ve made a definite comeback as a fashion accessory. Betsey Johnson is just one example of many offering fun and affordable options.
- Hand-me-down — Pass along a piece of jewelry significant to you. Sharing the story of the piece is just as crucial as the jewelry itself. My mother-in-law just gave my daughter the sterling cross given to her by her high school boyfriend for graduation; which happens to also be my daughter’s grandfather! Yes…many tears ensued. Charm bracelets, special rings–most any meaningful piece will be appreciated if it comes with a story.
- Hand-stamped pieces are BIG; I’ve given Lisa Leonard necklaces/bracelets/keyrings; she has a beautiful faith-inspired section at DaySpring and a more complete line at her own site.
2. Reusable bottles.
Today’s graduates seem to be better stewards of planet earth (or maybe that’s just my personal hope), and it seems that everyone carries water bottles. You can go as simple as a Nalgene for around $10 to a cool S’well bottle that keeps cool drinks cold for 24 hours/hot warm for 12; a bit more pricey at around $60.
3. Memory books
My daughter has repeatedly told me this One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book is probably her favorite gift from me ever. She’s not a writer, so the one line a day format is perfect! She’s completed her first book and is well into the first year of a second! It captured her college experience, and now that she’s engaged…it will be even more special. Fun picture frames fit in this category, too.
4. Organizers and household supplies
Think bathroom, laundry or school supplies — give a tote, basket or hamper and related consumable items to fill it. Think under the bed, too, which helps them make the most of small spaces. Several recent graduates have raved about a hanging jewelry organizer as well.
5. Terry wrap
More than just a towel or robe, a terry wrap like this is wonderful, especially for dorm life with shared showers. She’ll wish she had two!
Top 5 gift ideas for him
1. Cool poster in a frame for his dorm
Think sports or hobbies that reflect his taste, or campus landmarks from the college he’ll be attending. Spend more on the poster, less on the frame.
2. Insulated cup
You might say Yeti cups are the guy’s answer to the girl’s S’well bottles above. While either would be fine regardless of gender (of course), one of my son’s favorite gifts was the Yeti cup he received from a friend. He used it daily (and even washed it every once in a while (ewww!).
A pair of binoculars would be great for upcoming sports and concerts. It’s a gift he’d never think of, but glad to have them when an event rolls around.
4. A travel / Dopp kit
Back in the day this was a standard gift; today, not so much. My husband actually has the one he received as a gift forever ago and my teen boys recently asked for one.
5. Good earbuds
Because earbuds have a shelf life — and your home is like ours, they easily disappear — a new set of better earbuds paired with an iTunes gift card will make most anybody happy.
Top 5 gift ideas for him or her
Students prefer bright colors, and especially for the girls, monogramming is a nice bonus. Washcloths are helpful, but I doubt any student will hang up a hand towel.
2. Jumper cables
Include instructions on how to use them, and an added bonus is to show them. They won’t fully appreciate this until there’s a need — then they’ll praise your name.
3. Cell phone insurance
The voice of experience tells me this is a good gift to give, though I’ve never actually given it to anyone. I suggest it because my daughter has lost or destroyed three phones, and she’s otherwise very responsible. I’d beg someone to fund this for a year for her.
4. A tool kit
Get them a basic tool kit that includes a hammer and screwdriver, or find a kit with a little of everything. Who knew tools could be cute? Just look at this pink one for gals.
5. “Off to college” survival kit
This could include:
- Laundry supplies — include a basket, soap, a roll of quarters, and laundry tips.
- Snack attack supplies — a basket (preferably that they can use for something else later) filled with their favorite candies, snacks, and gift cards to their favorite restaurants.
- Cafeteria survival supplies — a hot pot for cooking those famed Ramen noodles, their favorite cereal and snacks, and a hand-compiled recipe book of simple things they can make with limited kitchen resources.
Want even more ideas? Once I started, I couldn’t stop, so if you haven’t quite found what you’re looking for, head to my blog to track my ever-growing list (updated for 2016).
Note: I’ve included affiliate links to some of my favorite products just in case you’re interested.