Gifts Tweens & Teens Will (Probably) Love

[But might not be on their lists]


12/11/20234 min read

person standing beside christmas tree
person standing beside christmas tree

The holiday season offers so much in the way of deep and inspiring posts, but this isn’t one. I thought what many of us might need right now is that elusive, affordable gift that will make the tween/teen in our lives grin. It’s always nice to get them things they ask for, but it’s also nice to surprise them! Whether it’s that one more gift to “even things up” or it’s a niece or nephew you don’t see very often …

Here I am, fresh off months of observing sixth through twelfth graders in my school library, and I’ve got a few ideas. These aren’t ads. I’m not getting paid or secretly investing in any of this. I’ve just seen them light up over some stuff, and I might as well share a few of those items with you!

  1. The burrito blanket. $25 on Amazon, arrives before Christmas. I offered these in a drawing a couple of months ago, and you should see the lengths students went to just to get their name in the drawing. Every day, it seemed, half a dozen different kids would drop in to check again about what day I was drawing names for the burrito blankets. It’s a big, round blanket that looks like a tortilla, and you wrap yourself up in it. It’s so soft (yes, I have one now). They come as pizza, as well, but for some reason the burrito concept delights middle and high schoolers alike.

  2. The bungee chair. $80(ish) at Walmart. These are out of stock at so many places, so they’re more expensive than they were when I bought several for the library. Walmart is the only place I’m finding them right now for a reasonable price. Middle school students, especially, think these are basically an indoor jungle gym. It’s good when they’re tired of sitting still all day and just need a seated trampoline that embraces them. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “I wish I had one of these in my room!”

  3. Tattoo markers. $29.99 (varies depending on #) on Amazon, arrive before Christmas. Bic BodyMark temporary tattoo markers are safe for skin. They come with stencils, but I’m not sure how much teens would use stencils because they LOVE to freehand on themselves and on one another right now with anything they can find. I’m seeing full Sharpee tattoo sleeves on these kids, and I think these special markers would be healthier and offer them more variety in colors. This, too, seems to be a trend for both middle and high school. Maybe check with their parents? Your call :)

  4. Bracelets. Guys and girls are very into bracelets over the past couple of years, and that goes for just about every kind of bracelet. They like rubber ones with messages, leather ones, beads … they’re all a hit. These are good stocking stuffers, of course, too.

  5. LEGOS. Okay, don’t buy a LEGO set, necessarily, for a middle schooler who hasn’t asked for one. They might see themselves as too old and cool for them if they traditionally got them in elementary school every year. BUT the high schoolers are back to embracing their inner child. They beg for complex LEGO sets because they find assembling them relaxing. They say it helps them manage stress. They’re like that with puzzles, as well.

  6. Blank books. I’ve seen all ages and all different kids cherish blank notebooks/sketchbooks. The things they’re doing in them are impressive. I’ve seen song lyric writing, graphic novel designs/storyboarding, knitting patterns, bullet journaling, goal hierarchies, chapbook making, poetry, and, of course, general journaling and sketching. I just think you can’t go wrong with a blank book and a decent pen. You’ve given them limitless potential there, and they seem more likely to use the ones that aren’t super fancy/expensive.

  7. Okay, BOOKS. At our district, students have independent reading time in their ELA classes, so even students who don’t love to read are reading (and hopefully learning to love to read). If you’ve got a young book lover in your family, they might have asked for specific titles or authors. If they didn’t and getting them a book would just feel SO good (I get it), here are a few titles/authors that are proving to be universal picks in my library right now among everyone:

    1. For Middle School: They love the Wings of Fire books and graphic novels, as well as the I Survived graphic novels - they’ll check those out over and over just to reread, so they’d make great gifts. I can’t keep those on the shelves.

    2. For High School: They gravitate toward smart murder mysteries or puzzles. You can’t go wrong right now with YA authors Holly Jackson, Jennifer Barnes, or Natalie Richards for that kind of read. Sports enthusiasts in any grade like authors Kwame Alexander and Mike Lupica.

There’s my brain dump on a Monday night two weeks before Christmas. If any of that helps and works out, that makes me very happy, and I’d love to hear about it. If any of these items somehow make your tween/teen miserable, you can blame me, but please don’t tell me. They will.


Kim Garee is a 6-12 Library Innovation Teacher and mom of three who also writes books now. Her first book in a series set in 1940s Buckeye Lake, Ohio, debuts May 1, 2024.