Ready to take on anything, teenagers are growing into their identities as young adults. They’re attuned to what’s happening around them and ripe for new experiences and challenges. And they value their friendships more than ever. Teenagers are also exploring and wrestling with more serious adult themes. “They’re starting to read more grown-up books, watch more grown-up movies, and play more grown-up games,” says Brian Mayer, a gaming, learning, and library specialist in New York City. But on the inside? Even as they start to engage more with the world around them (think: first jobs, community service, social activism), they’re still kids at heart, and they find joy in the silly and the absurd.
Many teens also feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. According to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center, 70% of teens consider anxiety and depression to be a significant problem among their peers. “We can find ways to help manage that at home,” says Catherine Pearlman, an associate professor in the social work program at UMass Global, a parenting adviser, and the mother of two teens. Comforting and relaxing gifts like a weighted blanket or a subscription to a mindfulness app may help.
We relied on Pearlman, Mayer, and other toy and child-development experts—as well as on the collective experience of parents and other caregivers on our staff—for gift ideas that will help teenagers relax, laugh, and grow. If your teen has a specific focus, some of our other guides may help you locate an ideal gift. For gaming enthusiasts, check out our gaming guides for the best Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite accessories and the best gaming headsets. Athletes may appreciate something from our health and fitness guides, including yoga mats and fitness trackers.
We also have guides to the best gifts for 9-year-olds, 10-year-olds, and tweens. If you’re looking for ideas for younger kids, check out our guides to the best gifts for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, and 8-year-olds, as well as fun stocking stuffers for kids. (Naturally, kids vary widely in their personalities, interests, and development, so we advise that you take these age recommendations with a grain of salt.) And please share your own best ideas in the comments below.