Most of us can relate to the frustrations of a teenager who receives a gift that doesn’t fit their style. When I was 14, my aunt bought me a dictionary for Christmas. I am sure I did my best to look happy and act thankful, but it was not the gift I was hoping for. In fact, the next day, the dictionary was shoved in the bottom drawer of my desk where it remained untouched for a long time.
With the holidays approaching, it is time to think about what to get the tweens and teens in our life. Don’t be fooled into believing that every teenager appreciates the same thing. Like us, they all have their own taste. Although it is hard to compete with the electronics on their wish lists, you can find something within your budget to make them happy.
1. Entertainment. It is not a surprise that tweens and teens like to do things with their friends. Encourage interaction with friends beyond social networking and video games and buy them the gift of entertainment. Teens love going to the movies, bowling or to a local pizza restaurant. More active teens may enjoy gifts to go rock climbing or play laser tag.
2. Memory keeper. A teen’s life is measured in events: choir practices, football games, dances at school or youth group outings. Why not let them preserve the memories of those events by giving them journals, photo albums or frames? A digital frame allows your teen to run a slideshow of their photos and relive those good times every day. A simple scrapbook may be welcomed by a craftier teen to store ticket stubs and concert programs.
3. Cash. You will always get a positive response - and maybe even a smile - when you give the gift of cash. Many teens want to save for a big purchase and money is at the top of their lists. Instead of handing over a card with a cheque inside, be more creative. Make a money tree from a branch, place it in a pot and decorate with money as if it is growing. Tape cash together end to end and roll up inside an empty tissue box. Stick the end of the money roll out the top so money can continuously pull out.
4. Magazines. There are magazines for every interest, hobby and age group. Whether your teen is an avid reader or just appreciates the pullout posters, magazines are the perfect gift. For the tech-savvy teen, consider giving them a digital subscription that they can view on an e-Reader. Wrap the current issue of the magazine as your gift and place a little card inside letting them know about their subscription. Your gift will be enjoyed all year long.
5. A gift for two. As much as teens like to be with their friends, they value spending time with family members, too. Give them the gift of your time and do something together. Buy two tickets to a play, concert or sporting event and take your teen with you. Try a spa day or a museum tour. Why not make a day of it by tailgating or eating a nice dinner out? Print out the brochure from the play, a team logo or museum map to place in a box with an itinerary of your day together.
6. $5 gift cards. If you are still not sure what to get your tween or teen, it’s time to fall back on the gift cards. Why not purchase several $5 gift cards so your teen can enjoy your gift on a few occasions? $5 is enough for a latte, a mall pretzel, an ice cream, a sub sandwich or a few items at the dollar store. Use your imagination when packaging your gift card. A coffee gift card can go inside an empty cup with a lid. Attach an ice cream gift card to a small snowman stuffed animal.
This holiday season, deliver the cool gift your tween or teen will use and appreciate. With a little creativity and a little information about your teen, you are guaranteed to pick something that won’t sit in a drawer with the tags still on it. Adults may say it is the thought that counts, but when you are a teen, it is the gift.
Pam is a freelance journalist. She is the mother of a teenager and two tweens – each with their own tastes.
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