Creative Gifts for Teenagers and Tweens
Whether they are on the brink of just being “tweens,” are right smack in the middle of teen hood, or are about to graduate high school and leave that period of their life behind (yes, you’re allowed to breathe a sigh of relief), teenagers are notoriously hard to buy for at any point. There’s always some reason why that present is met with a shrug and a murmured thanks, then promptly put high on a shelf. Maybe your gift just went out of style (don’t blink, you’ll miss the latest craze). Perhaps it’s too young for them. Or it could be that it’s simply not “cool” enough by their standards. We get it: it can be hard to win in this department. So our editors channeled their inner teen spirits to find the best gifts for teens and tweens that are available on the Internet. That’s right—there’s no need to settle for writing another check and sticking it in a card this year. From faux-fur sleeping bags perfect for all night movie marathons and the makeup kit to end all makeup kits (it has more than 100 shades for less than $40) to Instagram photo books that show off those selfie skills and a velcro emoji beanie, we’re certain at least some of these holiday finds will hit. But, if you get to the end and still feel totally stumped, there are hundreds of other gifts to choose from in our other holiday gift guides. See? We’d never leave you hanging.
LC Lauren Conrad Kitty Earmuffs
For the tween girl with a feline obsession: She’ll think these statement-making earmuffs are the cat’s meow.
To buy: $32; kohls.com.
Mark It Stamp It Set
For the teen who is fluent in emoji, this art supply set features marker tips on one end and symbol stamps on the other.
To buy: $14; amazon.com.
Karaoke Bluetooth Microphone
Rising stars will love this self-contained karaoke microphone, which plays background music through the built-in speaker and saves recordings of their top hits.
To buy: $40; containerstore.com.
Unicorn Zip & Flip Pillow
Invert the rainbow neck pillow to form an enchanting unicorn bolster for her bed. You have to see it to believe it.
To buy: $40; amazon.com.
Ulta Beauty Illuminate the Day Blockbuster
The ultimate makeup kit for every experimental teenager features a rainbow of eye shadows, 12 cheek tints, and three brushes to apply it all.
To buy: $30; ulta.com.
The Ultimate Wisecrack Generator
This entertaining all-ages flipbook lets you combine random words to construct hilarious zinger and quips. (Perfect for the dinner table or a sleepover.)
To buy: $10; amazon.com.
LED Rock On Wall Decor
Light up a music-lover’s creative space with this vintage-inspired LED wall art. A great gift idea for teenage guys and girls.
To buy: $200; rhteen.com.
Great Smoky High Tops
These unisex high tops are available in soft jersey or classic canvas and each purchase aids entrepreneurs worldwide. 20 percent of each sale helps provide recyclable loans (when one company repays their loan, that money is re-invested into another).
To buy: $62; bangsshoes.com.
A go-anywhere couch that sets up in seconds: Wave the empty sack around to fill it with air, then seal it tight to form a comfy cushion.
To buy: $31; amazon.com.
Victrola Modern Acrylic Bluetooth Turntable
A turntable that will also turn heads: This wireless acrylic sound system offers modern amenities and retro appeal.
To buy: $199; urbanoutfitters.com.
Sheepskin Rug Knit Kit
A cushy gift that doubles as winter break entertainment, this kit teaches her how to knit a faux-sheepskin rug for her room.
To buy: $170; echoviewnc.com.
Amika Polished Perfection Mini Straightening Brush
Mini but mighty, this brush heats up to ensure frizz-free hair. Great for holiday travel—or weekday mornings as the school bus arrives.
To buy: $35; sephora.com.
All That Shimmers Brush Set
Charm the makeup maven with five assorted brushes contained within a sparkly, confidence-boosting holder.
To buy: $58; ulta.com.
Sugar Lip Beauty Box
Better than any box of crayons, this tin features five of the ultra-popular lip tints, plus a pair of colored pencils to add personal flair to the container.
To buy: $45; fresh.com.
Boys: an Illustrated Field Guide, by Heather Ross
This sweet coming-of-age storybook is perfect for the teenager in your life. In it she’ll find a guide to all the different boys she’ll meet and the all the relationships she might have, but she’ll learn that the most important relationship of all is the one with herself.
To buy: $13; amazon.com.
The classic Rubik’s Cube is all grown up, with a decidedly modern twist. The Skewb Ultimate is a 12-sided, 12-color spatial challenge created by designer Tony Durham. It’s based on a similar concept to the classic puzzle—twist the sides to mix up the shades, and then solve by getting one solid color to take up every side—but this version rotates in all directions. It’s got another purpose when it’s not in use, too: In Pucci-esque hues instead of the standard primary colors, it doubles as a pretty conversation piece for a nightstand, bookshelf, or coffee table.
To buy: $20, mcachicagostore.org.
Ear(s) For Music
Meow! Upgrade your tween’s run of the mill, ho-hum headphones to Brookstone’s ultra-cushioney, cat-theme pair, which lets her listen to all of her favorite tunes on her own or with a group of friends—all she has to do is flip a switch to use the “ears” as speakers. The hipster headphones also come with a detachable gaming mic, included carrying case, and LED accent lights on the speakers and ear cups. The battery charges via USB. (Optional: You can make her a playlist to go along with the gift, too.) Available in blue and purple.
To buy: $100, macys.com.
Brik Books Build-On Macbook Cover
Transform his laptop into a personalized work of art. This click-on laptop cover will become the foundation for your teen’s latest Lego (or Mega Blok, or KRE-O) creation. He can use his sibling’s leftover building blocks to create an 8-bit masterpiece or ask them to design a cover just for him. Great for the teen who has a hard time committing to one design, this cover can be updated any time he wants. He can even search online for templates showing him how to create everything from emoji faces to gaming characters and more. Available in MacBook styles only.
To buy: $50 (Use code RS2016 through December 31), thinkgeek.com.
Pineapple and Watermelon Earrings
Why choose just one earring style when you can have two? These whimsical, mismatched enamel earrings are a fun pick for the middle schooler with eclectic taste. Presented in a pretty glass vial with a cork top, this package makes for a great grab bag gift. Each earring is gilded in 22-karat gold and has hypoallergenic posts to keep them from irritating sensitive skin. If you’re not feeling the fruit, you can choose from two other available styles (a unicorn and rainbow duo or a simpler color wheel and gray scale pair that can skew a bit older).
To buy: $24, blueribbongeneralstore.com.
Think you might have the next Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran on your hands? Give this journal to help get those creative juices flowing. The 160-page (room for 72 songs) journal is lined on the left side for lyrics while the right side has staffed pages for composing melody, and fret diagrams for writing guitar fingerings. It also includes tips, prompts and words of wisdom from current songwriters for inspiration. The hardcover journal has an elastic band on back to mark where you left of or to keep the journal closed. There’s room in the back pocket for storing notes or ideas.
To buy: $13, papersource.com.
biorb HALO 15
This aquarium feels like a modern-day lava lamp—with LED lights that you can change with the click of a button and 16 pre-set colors and brightness controls on a remote. The lights on this spherical fish tank play off of the filter’s bubbles for an extraordinary effect. Available in glossy grey or white, this acrylic habitat is actually stronger than glass and can hold up to four gallons of water. Accessorize your tank with sea fans, pebbles, kelp, and ferns of all different shapes and sizes to create a happy home for your fish.
To buy: $99 (decorative accessories sold separately), biorb.com.
Girls’ Faux Fur Earmuffs
She can keep her ears toasty without sacrificing any style points with these bold earmuffs. Choose from black or white faux fur—the white is topped off with a velvet band and bow, while the black is finished with satin. No matter the activity—building a snowman or walking to school, perhaps—these fuzzy ear warmers will make her feel cozy and comfortable. Wish they came in your size? Good news: they do. And if you order a pair for yourself now, well then that means once she grows out of hers she can always borrow yours.
To buy: $28, katespade.com.
Lipstick Queen Frog Prince Story
Don’t get turned off by the unconventional color of this makeup set: the bright green formula actually mixes with the user’s pH level to create the ideal rosy hue, meaning everyone who uses it will end up with a different, unique result. The outcome is part beauty product, part science experiment—how fun is that? And with the holiday and New Year’s Eve festivities fast approaching, it would make a great addition to your tween’s makeup collection—she can even experiment on her friends and family to compare how the results differ from person to person.
To buy: $45, lipstickqueen.com.
Whether he has serious musical ambitions or just love to rip on karaoke, this recording microphone is fun across the board. The full size microphone plugs into the headphone outlet in your smartphone or tablet and can be used to record vocals, speeches, instruments, or other sounds. You can also download the app that comes with it to sing along with music from their library and add effects to the sound. Even if it just ends up being used as a prop when he’s jamming to his favorite song in the privacy of his own bedroom—it will be a cool addition.
To buy: $45, papersource.com.
Julep 12-Pack Nail Polish
Wondering what holiday gift to get your hard-to-please tween or teen niece? You’ll be sure to, er, nail it with this set of a dozen durable mini polishes. The collection will cover her for every kind of outfit and occasion, featuring a bunch of Julep’s most popular colors: a shimmery shade of melon (Lindsey), an iridescent celadon (Shay), a sparkly pink (Mickey), a smoky navy (Finley), and more. And not only are the polishes pretty, but they’re also quick drying and long-lasting too. Each color is made with a vegan-friendly formula that includes Hexanal (a strengthener) and green coffee extract (an antioxidant).
To buy: $48, ulta.com.
She wants to look cool and you want to keep her eyes safe. Your teen knows that no matter the season, a great pair of shades will enhance any look. Help her complement her ever-changing style—and safeguard her vision—with these retro-inspired, rounded metal shades. In addition to offering necessary UV protection, they give her the option to match whatever mood she’s in with plastic lenses that can be swapped out. And she can even switch in her prescription ones if she has them. Choose from eight colors, including yellow, tortoise shell, Bordeaux, amber, and more.
To buy: $55, madewell.com.
Speck Pocket-VR With CandyShell Grip
Virtual reality is now more accessible than ever. For the immersive gamer or wannabe world traveler, this flat-packed VR viewer will allow him to experience it all in 3D. The easily transportable goggles come complete with an ultra-protective phone case and can be put to use in a snap (literally). Access the lenses by sliding the panels outward then in, and secure them directly to the phone. These goggles will allow him to “walk” along his hometown streets on Google maps or explore the depths of the ocean—sans wetsuit.
To buy: $50 (Use code RS20 through December 31), speckproducts.com.
Marble Phone Charger
We all know teens’ lifelines are their smartphones. Ensure they never have to worry about it going dead on them again with this trendy charger pack. The slim design—it’s the size of a credit card—won’t weigh them down (read: no complaining about carrying it around), and with the sleek marble design, they won’t be embarrassed to pull it out in front of their friends either. It comes with a USB cord to charge (usually within three to four hours) and is compatible with most smartphones. Now they’ll just have to set reminders to charge it.
To buy: $24, urbanoutfitters.com.
Whether she’s storing her makeup or pens and pencils (or both!), this perfectly-sized pouch will keep her both organized and on trend. Inside there’s a slip pocket for divvying up smaller items from the larger ones, while a zip top ensures nothing will fall out. About half the size of a piece of printer paper, the bag can easily fit inside of a backpack or tote—or it can be carried alone as a clutch for the school’s winter dance. The black fabric and foiled print make it a fashionable choice no matter the time of the year.
To buy: $16, ulta.com.
Kids Leather Jacket
Let your tween get in on the leather trend with this mini leather jacket. Made of faux-leather, this lightweight jacket comes with all the right metal snaps and zippers to look cool (what outfit isn’t elevated with a leather jacket thrown on top?) while still being age appropriate. It’s available in black and light pink to suit multiple styles. Both are adorable and are just right for fall and spring temperatures. They can also be dressed up or dressed down so they can get extra wear. And you can hand wash to save yourself from any expensive dry cleaning.
To buy: $23, forever21.com.
Custom Photo Book
With the rise of digital photos and social media, the days of spending hours and hours cutting out printed pictures to scrapbook your memories is long gone. But sometimes we get nostalgic for that feeling of paging through a book of photos—don’t you? Get the best of both worlds by turning your teen’s year of selfies and countless hours on Instagram and Facebook into a series of books that they (and you) can keep and look back on when there’s (gasp!) a digital glitch. The 6-by-6-inch books won’t take up too much room, and you can choose either a soft or hard cover using as few as 30 pictures or up to 366.
To buy: From $8, chatbooks.com.
Game of Phones
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! Forget trying to pull your family away from their screens. Now he won’t have to put his phone away—in fact, he’ll need it!—for this new game. Turn over a card to receive a prompt (“Most cracked screen wins,” “Send a message to your parents. First reply wins,” “Create an emoji masterpiece,” etc.) and use your phone to get the answer. The person who collects the most cards wins. This cell-friendly twist on family game night promises to deliver on the belly laughs—and most likely a selfie or two along the way.
To buy: $20, uncommongoods.com.
Beauty Advent Calendar
Make the countdown to Christmas even more exciting for the makeup lover on your list with this beauty-themed advent calendar. Beginning on the 12th of December, she can start opening up one festive little package a day to be surprised with lip glosses, glitter, lip liners, and more. Even better? They’re travel size so they’ll easily fit in her makeup bag or overnight tote without weighing her down or getting her stopped by TSA on the flight back home from the holidays. Bonus: it will (help to) prevent her from asking to open the presents under the tree early!
To buy: $18, ulta.com.
Help her to express herself with these sophisticated memo boards—whether she spells out encouraging words, a meaningful phrase, a quote from her favorite movie, a lyric from the song of the moment, or something out of her own imagination. Choose between different sizes (10x10, 16x20, or 24x30) and various colors (grey, black or white felt with white or wood trim) to fit your teen’s room and style. Each board comes with a set of letters. And not to worry, additional letters are sold separately to replace the ones that inevitably become misplaced. They’re also ideal for creating that perfect picture to share on social media.
To buy: $65-$250, letterfolk.com.
Pom-Pom iPhone Case
Help your teen jazz up her already favorite accessory (and protect it from scratches at the same time) with this fun pom-pom case. The clear hard-shell case protects her iPhone 6/6S while the light pink pom-pom dangles from a gold chain in the back, creating an eye-catching look. It can also serve as a little entertainment when she’s accompanying you on any less-than-entertaining weekend errands. Its inexpensive price point and slender packaging make for the perfect stocking stuffer. The best news: the fluffy attachment makes it super easy to spot for those (many) times she misplaces it.
To buy: $10, forever21.com.
Compact Selfie Stick
Have a teen who can’t seem to take enough selfies? Why not offer a helping hand with this tricked out selfie stick. The sleek, steel stick retracts into a slender cylinder that easily fits in a tote or backpack and is protected from dents and dings. Available in six colors (black, blue, green, red, white, or yellow), it comes with a Bluetooth remote control, too, to help snap a pic at pretty much any angle. You might also find it handy on vacation when you want a family picture but there’s no one around to take it.
To buy: $30, acgears.com.
Help him to stand out from the crowd with a chic pack that’s roomy enough for all of his school essentials and personal supplies. Slouchy yet sturdy, this red-and-black lumberjack flannel bag is versatile enough to hold books, art supplies, a laptop, or even athletic clothes. Featuring faux-leather and denim-like details, the belted closure can be rolled up or down for space adjustments and the front snap button pouch and side pockets allow for easy access to necessities like his phone, pens, and wallet. Strong materials like cotton, polyurethane, and polyester mean it can take a beating or two—or at least last for a couple of semesters.
To buy: $60, abercrombie.com.
Build A Speaker
For the curious teen that is always into learning how things work, this buildable speaker will keep her occupied for hours. It comes with 49 parts and an app to download (it only works with apple products: iPhone, iPod, iPad, etc.) for step-by-step instructions. Plus, it was designed with kids in mind so the parts are durable and resilient. The fun part is that no two speakers will look the same thanks to the customizable covers (8 designs) and LED lighting. But every one has the Bose-quality sound so she can enjoy listening to her music even more knowing she built it!
To buy: $149, build.bose.com.
Turn the unsightly piles on your teen’s vanity into a more beautiful mess with this porcelain tray. The bright orange and gold tones with the “hello beautiful” message will lend a cheery vibe to any room. She can put it on her nightstand to hold her jewelry overnight or keep it by her door as a “catch-all” when she comes home from school. The statement-making tray can also be propped up on a bookshelf and used as more of a decorative piece. Whichever way she decides to go, her day will be a little brighter.
To buy: $22, luluandgeorgia.com.
Playstation 4 Cover
If your teen loves playing Playstation 4 but you can stand the unsightly black box on your TV stand, this sleek cover will make you both happy. This wood cover (available in 4 finishes) is made from real wood and comes in individual pieces that stick onto the Playstation 4 to cover the front, top, and sides. Don’t worry, it leaves the vents fully exposed so it won’t cause your machine to overheat. You can also engrave the wood (choose from 4 different fonts and 3 sizes) for an extra $5 for a more customized gift.
To buy: $64, toastmade.com.
Furry Sleeping Bag
Ensure your teen a cozy sleep at her next slumber party with this uber plush, faux-fur sleeping bag. The anorak-inspired hood not only makes it adorable but extra comforting to hide behind during those scary movie marathons that inevitably seem to happen—whether she wants it to or not. The inside is lined with a durable polyester velboa that’s super soft and warm with a zipper front to hold the heat in. The best part: it’s machine washable so you don’t have to worry about any midnight snacks that might make their way inside come morning.
To buy: $169, pbteen.com.
DIY Crochet Jewelry Kit
By now your teen has probably mastered the art of the simple braided friendship bracelet. Help her take her skills to the next level with these bracelet and necklace kits, which include multiple colors and types of string along with little metal ornaments. Each kit includes illustrated instructions, as well as links to step-by-step video tutorials to easily create the bracelet or necklace. The bracelet kits come with enough materials to make two bracelets while the necklace kits only make one. Choose between several color families for the one that most fits your recipient.
To buy: $35, andreabocchio.com.
Help her keep organized in the jewelry department with this simplistic stand. The brushed brass metal pyramid could almost be mistaken as a piece of art, thanks to the clean lines and minimalistic style. The top bars allow necklaces and longer pieces to be hung while the middle parallel bars can hold bigger earrings. The bottom is lined with fabric and cushioned to lay rings without having to worry about them scratching. She can store it in a discreet corner or display it on her vanity—either way it looks neat and pulled together.
To buy: $25, amazon.com.
Blush Color Wheel
Whether she uses them on herself to create multiple looks or uses them to play makeup artist for her friends, this palette of 10 blushes will help her to get creative. From poppy pink to nude in finishes from matte to shimmer, these diverse blush hues cover the gamut. She can wear them individually or mix them together to create custom colors. The ultra-pigmented formula contains Amazonian clay, which helps the blush stay put for up to 12 hours without fading. The purple and gold mod compact case makes it easy, mess-free, and fun to carry around.
To buy: $44, sephora.com.