Written by parenting teens contributor Robin Dance of Pensieve.
For some, gift giving is love language; they always know just what to give. Their gifts compel Cheshire cat smiles, squeals of delight, or sometimes render 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, and it matters to me to give a gift that meaningfully expresses that. This is why personally, 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.
- Charm bracelet — let the “starter” charm include the engraved high school graduation date. Don’t choose the prettiest charms you can find; make your selections personal and reflective of the receiver’s interests.
- Pandora bracelet— These are the modern-day equivalent of the more traditional charm bracelet mentioned above. Choose beads to reflect their high school colors or the college they’ll be attending. The one I designed for my niece had a glass bead in her college’s colors, a snowman because she collects them, and a bead to reflect graduation. Darling!
- 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.
2. Dorm art
Inspirational words, pictures of their favorite places… if you know the graduate well, you could choose something really special. DaySpring and Red Letter Words are good places for spiritual encouragement, Successories for motivational posters.
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 chronicled her senior year and because it’s a five-year book, it will also capture her college experience. 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, like this darling storage bag. 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. Team apparel
If he’s headed to college, pick a tee or sweatshirt from his upcoming school; if not, choose his favorite professional team. It might be the only thing he wears all semester.
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. An LED flashlight
I’ve only recently learned that bigger isn’t better when it comes to flashlights; new technology allows smaller lights to give off substantial brightness, such as this one. I’d recommend a size that’s good for cars, apartments, or dorms, and make sure to include batteries.
5. Good earbuds for his mp3 player
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 2013).
Please chime in! Share the most memorable graduation gift you received or suggest your best ideas in comments.
Note: I’ve included affiliate links to some of my favorite products just in case you’re interested.