gifts they might actually want

A Gift for Every Type of Mother-in-Law

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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Like shopping for your actual mom, choosing a gift for your mother-in-law can be a tricky balancing act: You want to get her something she hasn’t already bought for herself (though it might be on her wish list), and you want something that’s tasteful — you’re going for an impressed “ah!” But if the word impressed makes you panic, don’t.

Below, we’ve rounded up dozens of gifts for mother-in-laws that’ll do just that, whether she’s the type to scroll through TikTok before bed, does yoga every morning, or is never late to anything (even in retirement). To curate this list, we dug deep into our archives — these “won’t-returnables,” as we call them in Stratspeak, include celebrity favorites (like a steamer used by Uma Thurman’s stylist), expert-recommended devices (like the most statusy blender), and just delightful things we’ve heard about over the years (there’s a book light here that was a big hit during the Strategist’s annual Secret Santa exchange). So you can rest easy knowing that every potential present has been vetted in some way, meeting our very strict standards. And every item is sorted by price point, to make your shopping as easy and budget-friendly as possible. (If you’re in a rush, you can also check out our guide to the best e-gift cards, which will blissfully transcend the whims of the post office.)

Under $25

For the mother-in-law who’s a card shark

Strategist contributor Steven John raves about this probability-based game, which he says is one of the best to play with kids while traveling. Though it’s meant for kids, John and his wife play it at night with a glass of wine by themselves (especially since the kids tend to slow them down). It’ll be perfect for the competitive-minded mother-in-law.

For the mother-in-law who will pull an all-nighter for a page-turner

From $13

Or a bodice ripper. Writer (and late-night reader) Molly McGhee turned us onto this small-but-mighty light, which has an ambient amber glow that “keeps the blue-light blues at bay.” And Strategist senior editor (and book-club member) Simone Kitchens gifted it to me during a Secret Santa exchange — the gadget’s sunset glow gives an especially eerie effect when reading horror novels.

For the mother-in-law who’s a magazine hoarder

Your mother-in-law can finally organize her back issues of Vogue between these Deco-inspired bookends — they even fixed Strategist writer Erin Schwartz’s “zine problem.”

For the mother-in-law who’s working her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking

A sleek, minimalist cookbook stand to keep her place while she makes coq au vin.

For the mother-in-law who values precision

So she can double-check her flour pour, the Escali Primo topped our list of best food scales. “Escali is tried and true from my culinary school days, and I have yet to find a reason to replace it,” says Food52 food editor Emily Ziemski. It comes in a rainbowlike selection of colors, but Strategist writer Erin Schwartz is partial to pink. It’s “a perfectly calibrated level of pinkness — kind of Necco wafer–y, like an Italian throat lozenge invented in the 1800s, not Barbie pink,” Schwartz says.

For the mother-in-law who’s a little bit salty

Maldon’s salts have a fan base that includes chef Jonathan Waxman and actress Cameron Diaz, and can top everything from yolky eggs to chocolate-chip cookies.

For the mother-in-law who lives for spontaneous adventures

New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff thinks this gingham blanket looks much more expensive than its $20 price tag. It’ll be easy enough to carry whenever your MIL decides everyone should eat outside instead.

For the mother-in-law who doesn’t have Peloton regret

If she’s usually in a world of pain after a long ride, get her this Peloton-obsessive-approved gel-padded, cushioned seat cover, which is specifically designed to fit on the bike.

For the mother-in-law who wants the best for her hair

If you know, you know: Silk pillowcases are especially well suited for taming frizz. So she’ll probably appreciate this one — which has been a best seller with Strategist readers (it was our most-sold item on Black Friday, for example), and which beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton says makes her feel as if she’s “sleeping in a luxurious hotel every night.”

For the mother-in-law who winters in Florida

“On full blast, it stops a stream of face sweat in its tracks before it even has a chance to get into my eyes,” says Strategist writer Dominique Pariso of this powerful portable fan.

For the mother-in-law with an impeccable sweater game

$14 for 12

Instead of a set of mothballs, get her these sweet-smelling lavender sachets that are an affordable alternative to the ones we heard about from textile experts.

For the mother-in-law who hates going to the dry cleaner

Soak Laundry Soap

Pariso used to dread her annual dry-cleaning bill until she discovered this no-rinse laundry soap: It removed dirt from her sweaters and “got out the lingering smell of cigarette smoke” from others. And she did the math and said “a single bottle of Soak should last me through the next five winters.” A very good deal indeed.

For the mother-in-law who’s into old-school skin care


If she’s a cold-cream evangelist, upgrade her medicine cabinet with this cleanser that will remove makeup and keep her skin fresh. Dermatologist Heidi A. Waldorf describes it as “if Vaseline petroleum jelly and Pond’s cold cream had a baby.”

For the mother-in-law who needs a reminder to take her vitamins

To bring order to her supply of supplements, take a cue from former Strategist audience-engagement associate Hannah Starke, who uses this pill organizer. It features an easy slide-out function that lets her “put a week’s worth of pills in and forget about them.”

For the mother-in-law who’s always losing her readers

“As a certified four-eyes since the age of 4, I’ve gone through many different styles of glasses,” says Strategist contributor Alyse Whitney, who has been collecting frames ever since she ditched contacts for good. This fold-up organizer keeps them safe during her travels. It holds six pairs but only takes up about the same amount of space as a toiletry kit.

For the mother-in-law who won’t leave the house without lipstick on

If she has a cosmetics counter’s worth of makeup filling up a drawer, get her organized with this low-profile box. Your mother-in-law can move the dividers inside however she likes — the organizer is easy to clean, too, which is crucial for “product spills or if pencil shavings accumulate inside,” explains former makeup artist Trae Bodge.

Under $50

For the mother-in-law who’s always double-booked

The right planner might be what she needs. The Hobonichi Techo has a storied history at the Strategist with three staffers relying on it for their planning needs. Swerdloff in particular likes the weight of it, which she describes as “substantial (unlike a Moleskine) while still being incredibly compact.”

For the mother-in-law who’s knotty

This swirly massage tool is a favorite of Daniel Kwan, co-director of Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Strategist junior writer Kitty Guo. Kwan has had back pain since high school, but this gadget has helped him manage it much more comfortably. “You can hear the muscles breaking down. I literally cannot live without it,” he says. Guo, for her part, explains that after months of using the Body Back Buddy, she feels less tense and more flexible.

For the mother-in-law who’s building muscle

This protein powder is a favorite of trainer Taj Felix, who points out that it mixes smoothly and doesn’t have a chalky flavor.

For the mother-in-law whose shoe collection rivals Carrie Bradshaw’s

Two current and former Strategist writers have sung the praises of this shoe rack. The first was Lauren Levy, who says, “When similarly tilted racks sit on the floor, shoes without heels will often slide off, but here, your door will prop up anything (like ballet flats) that can’t grip onto the coated metal bars.” The second is Pariso, who points out how easy the rack is to put together.

For the mother-in-law with a vendetta against whiskey stones

A glass will probably get more use than the trendy bar accessory anyway. And though “the world of whiskey is littered with glassware,” says Jason Julier, one of the editors behind whiskey website Malt Review, these Glencairn are as classic as they come. Julier likes their elegant tulip shape.

For the mother-in-law who wants to master the DIY blowout

A blow-dryer and hairbrush in one, this expert-recommended tool will make it easier for her to get that voluminous salon look without leaving the house.

For the mother-in-law who prefers to air-dry

Even when her hair is sopping wet from the shower, this hair towel promises to absorb ten times its weight in water.

For the mother-in-law with cold feet

These were a big hit with New York senior editor Jessica Silvester’s aunts.

For the mother-in-law who has perfected her olive-oil-cake recipe

Cakewalk Melamine Cake Stand

This milk-glass cake stand is a work of art in itself.

For the mother-in-law with a much-requested chocolate-chip-cookie recipe

Kristen Tomlan, the founder and CEO of DŌ cookie-dough confections, recommends this sheet pan, as it “helps make sure sweets are evenly baked.”

For the mother-in-law who isn’t a fan of musk notes

Our resident candle connoisseur Tembe Denton-Hurst has been burning this candle in her kitchen — it offers an “energizing and mood-lifting effect,” she says. It’s the same one used in SoulCycle studios.

For the mother-in-law who uses the guest room for visiting grandkids

Strategist writer Lauren Ro chose this primary-color-hued bookshelf for her son’s Montessori-inspired playroom and likes that it holds a surprising number of different-size titles. (It also comes in four other colors if kindercore doesn’t match her décor.)

For the mother-in-law who’s never ever late

Your mother-in-law who doesn’t see as well as she used to will appreciate this watch recommended by Dimepiece’s Brynn Wallner, who likes its 1960s feel and the fact that it glows in the dark. Strategist editor Maxine Builder also owns a version of the watch, saying that the “Timex Easy Reader tricks people into thinking it costs more than it does because it’s simply designed yet still has all the features of a pricier timepiece.”

Under $100

For the mother-in-law who’s dealing with dry ends

A mask will do wonders for her hair. This one from luxury beauty label Christophe Robin is especially hydrating, explains Dianna Cohen, the founder of Crown Affair, with ingredients like vitamin-E-rich prickly-pear-seed oil. 

For the mother-in-law who still owns a copy of Jane Fonda’s workout video

When former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson investigated the rise of Bala Bangles, she described them as “a far cry from their bulky Jazzercise-era counterparts.” These fit right into our athleisure moment.

For the mother-in-law who could use a breather

Celebrity stylist Ty Hunter introduced us to the Breather, a device that helps calm him and train his lungs so that “when you do long walks upstairs, you’ll notice a change. Or when you have to work out, it helps you to go longer because you don’t get as short-winded.” He loves his so much, he says he’d do a commercial for it.

For the mother-in-law who goes gaga for garnish

AeroGarden Sprout

The Sprout can grow three plants at a time — and it’s much more low-maintenance than a garden.

For the mother-in-law with near-permanent tan lines

Get her the sun protection she needs with this sunscreen that has a texture so smooth it disappears into the skin, according to cookbook author Claire Saffitz. “I can’t imagine any formula being better than this one,” she says.

For the mother-in-law who even presses her sheets

It’s the same steamer that Uma Thurman’s stylist uses. In my experience, it’s a breeze to use and leaves clothing and upholstery looking like it’s just come back from the cleaners.

For the mother-in-law who ran her Vera Bradley bag into the ground

When we asked frequent travelers about their favorite duffels, photographer Lucy Rose Laucht called this Paravel bag “the Mary Poppins of duffels.” And your mother-in-law can easily stuff the “ultrapackable,” foldable number into her suitcase as well.

For the mother-in-law who just learned the standing-split pose

From $108

Yogis gush about this Manduka mat, which scores points for durability and ease of use, especially thanks to its grippy texture.

For the mother-in-law who insists you take leftovers after every get-together

You can’t go wrong with Pyrex in the food-storage-container space. “The glass containers don’t absorb the smell or color of the food stored inside of them,” says recipe developer Jessie Sheehan.

For the mother-in-law who’s an international jetsetter

Food stylist Judy Kim’s DMs blew up after she posted a photo of this handy doodad that makes in-flight movie-watching infinitely more enjoyable. Once plugged into the plane’s headphone jack, Kim can hear the entertainment system wirelessly through her AirPods.

For the mother-in-law who runs 10 degrees colder than everyone else

The Vornado Velocity will (quietly) turn up the heat. Bethany Lyons, the founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga, praises the space heater for being durable and aesthetically pleasing.

For the mother-in-law who really should bundle up

Or for all her outdoor excursions, get this heater. Builder loves her Mr. Heater, saying it “puts out serious heat.” The machine is very easy to use: “All you have to do is screw on the propane canister, click the pilot light on, and once it catches, set it to either high or low,”

Under $200

For the mother-in-law who’s a little glamorous (even in her sleep)

There’s a cult around Eberjey’s piped Gisele pajamas — content creator Yuneida Gutierrez describes them as “insanely soft,” while Cup of Jo’s Joanna Goddard appreciates how they don’t wrinkle.

For the mother-in-law who runs her own book club

You’ll see this bookcase in Bookstagram influencer Adeline Hocine’s space. “Its overall simplicity allows for the books to act as the primary focal point of my space without feeling too busy,” Hocine says.

For the mother-in-law who’s still talking about that one time in Barcelona

Give her another taste of Spain with this paella pan so she can get those crispy edges just right. “If you want to have an impromptu dinner party and you only have rice, vegetables, and some meat, you can easily impress a crowd,” says chef Mike Lata.

For the mother-in-law who wants a garden (but doesn’t have the space)

This compact raised bed will give any would-be gardener a chance to get growing in a small footprint. It’s self-watering, too.

For the mother-in-law with a “fresh is best” philosophy

It’s the status pepper mill right now, as seen on chef Molly Baz’s Instagram. 

For the mother-in-law who buys groceries in bulk

Kimberly Plafke, production manager at the Meat Hook in Brooklyn, says this vacuum sealer is vital to organizing her fridge and freezer. “I’m a crazy coupon lady and if I see a good deal on something at the grocery store, I can divide, then vacuum-seal and save it for ages,” she adds.

For the mother-in-law who always finds a photo op

Take a cue from Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio, who has bought this digital picture frame for multiple family members, even gifting it to her own mother-in-law. “We can all add photos to one another’s frames, too — it’s almost like having a private mini social network that is blissfully Zuckerberg-free,” she says.

For the mother-in-law who scrolls TikTok in bed

These blue-light-blocking glasses are meant for bedtime. Builder says their effect makes everything look a little less bright, “like someone dialed down the lights.”

For the mother-in-law who never sits down

Art curator Larry Ossei-Mensah, co-founder of ARTNOIR, says that this Theragun keeps him from feeling “lethargic and creaky” when he wakes up. It should definitely help take care of her tired calves.

For the mother-in-law who who can’t seem to relax

Baloo’s weighted blanket will help combat restlessness — and it’s made from cooling cotton to avoid trapping heat. When former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson tested it out, she reported feeling “cooler sleeping under the Baloo than most of the other blankets” she tried.