If you have high school kids to buy gifts for, shopping can be tricky since it’s almost impossible to keep up with which brands are in or out. College kids are no easier, especially since they are no longer under roof (sniff.)
We are here to help! We’ve been asking our kids (and their roommates, friends, and significant others) and gathered their responses for this list. We love their suggestions and hope that you and your kids will too.
We put all of our top picks in one place – check out our grad gift, books, and dorm shopping ideas here.
Please note that we receive small amounts of compensation from purchases made through some of the links it this post. This allows us to pay our writers. Thanks!
Gifts for College Kids and Teens
Portable charger – teens and college kids often leave home in the morning and don’t return until late in the evening and the last thing they need is a dead phone battery. The Anker Candy-Bar Portable Charger is a top-selling charger that is super small and light weight.
NEW! Echo (2nd Generation) – with a new speaker and new design, this amazing digital assistant is the go-to device to play music, check sports scores or the weather, order an Uber or a pizza, listen to books or a favorite podcast. Plus, you can call or message hands-free.
LuMee Illuminated Cell Phone Case – a phone case that lights up around the perimeter, creating better visuals for selfies even at night, is a perfect gift for your selfie-loving kid. Take a look at the range of colors offered, too.
Echo Spot Amazon also has redesigned its innovative Echo Spot. We love the idea of being able to see our kids when we speak with them through this incredible digital assistant. Better plan on buying two so they can see you (and the family dog) too!
It kinda makes sense. The amazing brush that can take off your make up, leaving your skin clear and clean can also perfectly apply that foundation, as well. (Yes, this is one I would want for myself!)
Teens and college kids should all have their own water bottles and, when it is one like this one, they will be much less likely to leave it behind or mistake it with a roommate’s or teammate’s. Comes in an array of great colors.
The best features of a home system are now also portable, with this use-at-home or go-anywhere device.
Meet 100 People: A How-to Guide to the Career and Life Edge Everyone’s Missing Is your kid starting a summer or full-time job search? Here’s the best way for them to learn to create a fantastic network that they will use to find a starting point for their careers. Written by Pat Hedley, a business executive who draws from three decades of career success, Meet 100 People will help them both as they are just starting their careers and also for years to come. Order the paperback here or read a kindle version here.
Allbird Shoes – you have to trust us on this but these shoes may be the single most comfortable footwear we have ever worn. Made in New Zealand from the wool of the softest sheep on the planet, these are lightweight, washable, and very durable. We have given them to our sons, daughters, moms and best girlfriends and we covet the ones we wear every day. Put these shoes on your list, too.
Spikeball– while you might not have heard of it, college kids across the country have discovered this lively game. Four players compete, two on two, and spike a small ball on what looks like a mini trampoline. Described as a cross between four-square and volleyball, this is great for cross training or a super-energized work out.
Cool Mist Travel Humidifier Stick– if your kid attends college in a very dry climate, especially during the winter, having an easy way to add a little moisture into the air will help them through the cold months. We thought this was ingenious and, at $20, very well priced .
HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer– we’ve sacrificed real, hold in your hand, photographs for the convenience of the digital ones we store by the thousands in our phones. With the HP Sprocket Printer, your kids can print out pics, wirelessly, to have and to hold.
The ABCs of Adulthood: An Alphabet of Life Lessons– New York Times bestselling author Deborah Copaken began writing this guide to life for her eldest son as he was going to college filling it with all she wanted to say on the subject of adulting. Noted sculptor Randy Polumbo is Copaken’s co-author and helped her photograph all the beautiful ABC illustrations.
Umbra Reflexion Jewelry Box – this Toronto based company makes beautiful and inventive jewelry/storage boxes that we love for both our sons and daughters. This one, the Reflexion, caught our eye for girls – it does double-duty as a makeup mirror which pops up when the lid is opened.
Jewelry – for a surprise inside a jewelry box surprise, take a look at the choker necklaces by Dogeared. This one, “Pearls of Love” Sterling Silver and Pearl Necklace is sooo pretty, but there are loads of designs and price points to choose from for this very “in” style of necklace right now.
YETI stainless-steel mugs made by this Austin-based company keep coffee hot for 12 hours. The heat-storing capability is a big part of the magic in the brand, NOW with great new colors and styles.
Blue tooth speakers – the choice of wireless speakers is seemingly endless so we looked to see which models get solid reviews, are waterproof and come in under $100. We chose the JBL Flip 3 Splashproof for these reasons but also because it comes in a rainbow of colors.
Cards Against Humanity is one of THE most popular games our college kids and young adults play. This is definitely a game for the 18+ crowd.
Dominion is another super-popular board game that makes a welcome gift for teens and college kids, especially those with an interest in strategy and kingdom-building!
Monogrammed spa robe – we have a soft spot in our hearts for monogrammed gifts. Mark & Graham, a sister company to Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, has adorable cotton robes that are lightweight and washable.
Pillow – this luxury will be much appreciated if college kid’s pillow has gone flat, lumpy, or has become, shall we say, gross in other ways. Look at the pillow from Casper, the sleep company that makes and sells incredible mattresses and bedding.
Bike Accessories – Don’t forget a sturdy lock like the UShake Bike Lock Cable that will help your kid keep their new bike stored safely around campus.
Another inventive accessory for your bike-rider? A bracket for a phone like the Vibrelli Universal Bike Phone Mount Holder so they can keep both hands on the handlebars instead of holding their phone.
Polaroid POP 3×4″ Instant Print Digital Camera
Laptop – if your high school, college kid or young adult has an outdated computer, there is no other gift that they will appreciate more than a new laptop. Although expensive, look for student discounts offered by Apple, Microsoft or at stores like Best Buy. Here’s the fine print:
- Apple offers a discount to college students, seniors who have their admission letters, or college parents.
- Microsoft offers discounts to K-12 and college students or their parents.
Collegiate Gifts – our kids love gifts with their school logo, colors or mascot as part of the design. The college bookstore is the first place to look but Amazons has loads of things to choose from including collegiate duct tape (who knew!) Here’s a list of other sources that also sell collegiate gear.
Dorm Gifts for College-Bound Kids
Looking for a gift for a college-bound kid that they can use in the dorm? Here are our top choices for true dorm essentials:
Read 10 Things All Freshmen Need to Bring to College and consider some of these suggestions, all good, all different price points.
3. Mattress Encasement…AllerEase brand for mattress and pillow encasements.
7. Shower Caddy…Hanging Mesh Shower Caddy
9. Surge Protector…Surge Protector with 4 USB Ports
Gift cards to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and The Container Store are always great ideas for high school graduation gifts. They can shop for essentials and storage crates (once they know more about their dorms) and have them shipped to the stores closest to their schools if they are going far away.
Photo credit: Laura LaRose