Considering a gift for teenagers or those just entering tweenhood (roughly the 9-to-12 crowd) can be daunting. Because whatever you liked at that age probably isn’t in any way relevant now. Still, design-loving teens know good style when they see it, so we rounded up some of the best finds of the season: a glossy “marshmallow” foam stool in plum and mustard; tie-dyed pajamas handmade by fellow teens, with profits going to community organizations; and even some throwback heroes like a make-your-own lava lamp and classic longboard that give you street cred for remembering the first iterations.
For the Analog Enthusiast
Sure, there’s CoStar and IGTV, but lo-fi is indisputably cool (and might actually get them to put down their phone). Is there a more teenage activity than piecing together a giant Andy Warhol selfie puzzle (the original Instagram) to the light of a groovy lava lamp (which they can design themselves in 23 colorways), followed by a tarot reading with a modern affirmations deck? We didn’t think so.
For the Self-Care Pro
In a year when stress levels have been high, support their self-care routine with a fragrant exfoliating serum that uses plant-based ingredients. (Bonus: $1 from every sale goes toward the Trevor Project, which supports LGBTQ+ youth in crisis—so they’ll look and feel all glow-y from the inside out.) A stripy towel set in happy-making colors will brighten early mornings and never get mistaken for Mom’s boring white Turkish towels.
For the Freestyler
They’ve had enough curfews and deadlines in 2020—offer an outlet to let loose and channel some much-needed open-ended creative energy with a spin art machine that doubles as a lesson in centrifugal force (far-out!), and a classic pintail longboard inspired by beach cruising in Maui and designed for smaller riders that’s the definition of finding their kinetic flow.
For the Collector in Training
Investment pieces that can graduate to a dorm room, first apartment, and beyond will be in their lives forever. This trippy stool serves as both a major school desk upgrade and cool sculpture on which to pile on their clothes, while a radiant screen print inspired by artist James Turrell (and part of the should-be-a-band-name series Celestial Summer) could be a striking focal point on their gallery wall for years to come.
For the Audiophile
Make their expertly curated vinyl collection extra-special with an emoji-engraved wood record divider, for an organization method that’s all their own (A to Z is so predictable). Match their bedroom palette with a wireless speaker in limited-edition shades like terracotta and sunny yellow. And for a true geek-out gift, offer DJ fans this all-in-one palm-size synthesizer, looper, and MIDI controller, which allows them to play notes and beats on the touch-sensitive surface and add effects with the swipe of a finger (from singing bowl to maracas).
For the Socially Engaged Citizen
A fluffy cloud duvet set not only looks dreamy; the sustainable material is made from 140 recycled plastic water bottles, leaving a lighter footprint in every sense. And this tie-dyed pajama set is created by New York–based teens who make every piece (hoodies, socks, T-shirts) to order in their bathroom sink and send the profits to a pediatric cancer organization. Supporting style with substance is exactly what Gen Z wants most out of a gift.