13 Best Gifts for Teens, According to Experts – Buy Side from WSJ – The Wall Street Journal
Teenagers are a notoriously tough crowd to please when it comes to gift-giving; their tastes change with the wind and their moods can be just as flighty. That’s why many givers just cut to the chase and go with cold, hard cash.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But remember back in the day when they jumped for joy after receiving sparkly barrettes or the latest action figure? To help you recapture some of that glee, we asked style, tech and parenting experts for teen gifts that are guaranteed to go over well.
$120 at Best Buy
$180 Save $60
$120 at Walmart
$180 Save $60
This plug-in, arcade-style game is a smart choice for teens who may want a break from the intensity of today’s RPG’s and Battle Royales, according to Scott Steinberg, a New York City-based strategic consultant and expert on tech trends. With a click of the joystick, they can choose between the original Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Dig-Dug and Rally-X, all with their familiar songs and sound effects. And it’s sized just right for parents wary of clutter—compact enough to fit on a shelf or end table.
$140 at Amazon
$150 Save $10
A top choice “if you love classic gaming and want to modify a unit to your heart’s content,” says Steinberg, this portable device emulates dozens of old-school systems, such as Super Nintendo and Genesis, allowing users to play thousands of throwback games. The lightweight Pocket 2 Plus also fits in a pocket or backpack and charges with a standard cable. And while they’ll need to find and add their own game ROMs, which requires a little Internet searching, most are app-based, says Steinberg, so tech-savvy teens will find it user-friendly.
$40 at Amazon
Here’s a think-fast, no-screens-required game that high-schoolers find entertaining, says Michelle Icard, Charlotte,N.C.-based parenting expert and author of “Fourteen Talks by Age 14.” Players receive a card with an off-beat prompt, like “Summarize the Star Wars movies” or “Tell someone their fly is open,” and are challenged to come up with responses using only a handful of randomly selected word tiles. The silly spontaneity is what makes it a hit, she says, because deep down, “kids this age still want to be playful.”
$40 at Quay
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$75 at Nordstrom
Teens with a finger on the fashion world’s pulse will recognize these sunglasses as a favorite of Lizzo and other celebrities. “They add effortless fierceness to any outfit,” says Tsays Niqui Bishop, one half of the Dallas-based mother and daughter duo behind the Fash-N-Curious style blog. The shield-style shades get bonus points from the Bishops because they’re unisex, fit the face comfortably and come in a “trendy blush color.”
$150 at JBL
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$150 at Amazon
$180 Save $30
There’s a reason people often think of their teenage years as a soundtrack. “Music is life for teens,” says Los Angeles-based lifestyle expert Veena Goel Crownholm, “and a good portable speaker is everything.” This one is her go-to, not only for its 20-hour playing time but also because it allows two people to control the playlist from their devices. It also has a built-in power bank for charging a phone or other gadgets, and because it’s water resistant, they can bring it to the beach.
$59 at Wayfair
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$63 at Umbra
Design-minded types will appreciate this classic, brass-finish game—another favorite of the Bishops—that doubles as room decor. With frosted black and white playing pieces, it’s a fit for any bookshelf or dresser and a graphic accent in a Zoom background. They’ll pull it down often when the competitive urge kicks in.
$15+ at Universal Yums
Broaden their palate beyond the usual convenience-store staples with this subscription present. Each month they’ll receive a box of bounty representing a new country, which means they’ll sample anything from Thai salted pineapple candy to Colombian bacon-and-lime chips—and they can read about the local culture in the included trivia booklet. “Our kids got a huge kick out of challenging each other to taste the ones that made them nervous,” Icard says. “I loved seeing them expand their sense of adventure.”
$128 at Catbird
Made of recycled, solid 14-Karat gold in a Brooklyn studio, this delicate-looking bracelet is surprisingly sturdy, says Los Angeles-based style expert Tennille Murphy, who gifted them to her daughters and bought one for herself as “an upscale take on a friendship bracelet.” They’re versatile enough to layer with chunkier bracelets, she adds—and if you’re able to visit one of the two New York City stores or one of the company’s traveling pop-ups, your teen can get theirs “zapped” onto their wrist, which means “it’s literally welded on for perfect sizing, no clasp needed.”
$10 at Olive & June
If you’re looking to spoil a manicure lover but aren’t keen on hard-to-book spas or steep salon prices, consider Olive & June’s stylish substitute. Made of recycled materials, the press-ons are easy to apply and take off, reusable and gentle on your real nails, says Fernández-Kim. Each set of 42 nails includes non-damaging glue and application tools and comes in various options from extra-short and floral to classic French. If you’re not sure which your teen will love, choose the Press-on System, which comes with four shapes and colors.
$138 at Stoney Clover Lane
When it comes to shopping for teen accessories, Crownholm has two key criteria: cute and customizable. That’s why this millennial-run brand offering pouches, bags and wallets in bright, candy-coated colors is one of her all-time favorites. You or your teen can customize many of these items using a drag-and-drop feature on the website: think initials in rhinestone-studded letters, a jersey number with glittery numerals or fun icon patches.
$30 at Amazon
$36 Save $6
Shake things up a bit with this riff on a game everyone knows well. Instead of one person silently acting out a word or phrase for a group, a group acts out the clue for one guesser. “It takes the pressure off the performer,” Icard says, which makes it a good choice for teens who don’t love being in the spotlight solo. “There’s an element of controlled chaos as everyone tries to work together.”
$9 at Inkbox
Some faux tattoos seem young-ish, but the artist-created ones from Inkbox are sophisticated, realistic-looking and longer-lasting—typically from 10 days to two weeks—making them more appealing to older kids, says Fernández-Kim. There’s a design to suit pretty much any aesthetic, or they can create a custom one inspired by a pet or favorite book character, for example. And for teens wanting to do a trial run before getting the real deal, “it’s more fun with fewer regrets.”
$89 at Fancii
$79 at Amazon
Any makeup lover who’s ever tried to get their blending
just right can tell you an ordinary bathroom wall mirror just won’t do. For teens who make primping a priority, this pick from Murphy is the ideal gift. The detachable main mirror spins 360 degrees and has three LED light settings that you can recharge with the included USB cord. But it’s the smaller 10x magnifying attachment that her college-age daughter adores most. “It’s perfect for applying her winged eyeliner,” Murphy says, and because the mirror‘s magnetic pole unscrews from the base, she can easily pack it up and tote it home for weekend visits.
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