gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts for Grandfathers, According to Grandfathers (and a Few Good Grandkids)

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Despite grandmothers being notoriously picky, shopping for granddads isn’t some park promenade. There’s only so many Argyle socks and fun ties you can gift before the sentiment wears. In reporting this story, I chatted with my own grandfather to see what he’d like to receive. He said he wanted a phone call or to spend more time together. While that was a sweet sentiment, it’s not the most useful intel for gift buying. So I spoke to grandparents and thoughtful grandkids for their suggestions and dug in our archives to find the best gifts.

$120

According to DeeDee Moore, the founder of the grandparenting blog More Than Grand, grandfathers love digital-picture frames. She called out Nixplay specifically because of its ease of use: “Parents can add new photos and video clips from their phone or computer, and they instantly appear in the frame on Grandpa’s desk,” she explains.

This recommendation comes from our archives. Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio gifted it to several family members including an elderly out-of-state uncle who had been confined to his retirement home all year. Like the Nixplay, the Aura is simple to set up and use. “It was easy to curate a collection of photos and get my siblings and other relatives in on the fun — all through the app — before the frames were even delivered,” Trolio says. On top of its simplicity, the frame doesn’t have a photo limit, and there’s a choice to display each photo for two minutes, five minutes, or ten minutes.

Minh Lê — author of Drawn Together, a book about a grandchild and grandfather — suggests commissioning an illustrated portrait for Granddad of him with his grandchildren. While there are plenty of options on Etsy, Lê recommends getting one from award-winning illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka.

We spoke to Kelly Walters and Judy Hall, founders of Grand Connections, an organization that encourages quality time between grandparents and grandchildren through DIY Experience Packs and workshops. They recommend this picture frame for holding artwork from grandkids (rather than photos). Hall, a grandmother herself, owns one and likes that it can store up to 50 pieces, comes with matting, and is a good size.

For long-distance grandfathers, one of Moore’s top picks is a subscription to the Kinoo App, which combines video chat with developmental-learning activities for children. Moore says the activities “make video chats truly fun for both grandchildren and grandparents,” adding that there are prompts to help grandparents connect with their grandkids. “As grandfathers enjoy playing and watching their grandchildren learn, they can create memories and deepen bonds with grandchildren who live far away,” she says.

If your grandfather is more of a traditionalist and enjoys board games, Welcome to … Your Perfect Home is an expert-approved game that’s fun in-person or over Zoom. The game has players take on the role of architects attempting to build the perfect town in 1950s America, which we think Grandpa might enjoy.

From $99

My own grandfather loves writing. Anytime I visit, he’s ready with a printed-out write-up of what’s on his mind recently – from reflections and recollections to inspirations — and I keep every document stored away for safekeeping. When I read contributor Sarah Z. Wexler’s ode to the subscription service StoryWorth, I immediately thought of my own grandpa. The way it works is every week for a year, StoryWorth emails the recipient a question, and all they have to do is respond to the email. At the end of the year, the company collects all of the stories — along with any images he submitted with them — in a book and sends it to the recipient (with the option to print more copies for an additional fee).

If you’re looking for a less expensive gift that compiles Grandpa’s writing, consider this book. It comes with 12 prompted “letters” for Grandpa to fill out, complete with envelopes and stickers for the full effect.

This pen-pal kit is similar to the book above, but it encourages back-and-forth correspondence. It comes with eight cards printed with games and prompts, which “help grandparents figure out how to talk to younger grandkids,” says Walters. Having activities and conversation are “really important, particularly for bridging the generational gap,” she explains.

Moore is a firm believer that books make the best presents. One of her favorites is Richard Eyre’s book that’s “full of creative and practical ideas” on engaging more with your grandchildren. “It’s an excellent gift for those grandfathers who want more ideas to help shape their role as grandpa or for those who need a little help to get outside their comfort zone,” Moore says.

According to Moore, this is the “perfect book for a grandchild to give a grandfather.” It’s sillier than the aforementioned book, but it’s full of playful illustrations that “will delight all generations.” This one’s more focused on activities grandfathers and grandchildren can enjoy together like what to eat for a snack and what to do on a walk.

When we spoke to Ted Page, the founder and publisher of storytelling blog Good Grandpa, about the best gifts for new grandparents, he recommended The Code Breaker. It tells the story of Jennifer Doudna, a pioneering biochemist known for her work in CRISPR gene editing. Page says the book is a way for grandparents to better understand the world their grandkids live in. “Being a grandpa is about the present and the future, not the past,” he explains. By the time I finished it, I knew that the biggest reason why I was able to get a COVID vaccine so fast was due to the work of Doudna.”

Our recent senior survey found that 80 percent of seniors work out daily or a couple times a week, and stationary bikes were popular splurges and wishlist items. If your grandpa is on a health kick, consider gifting him a nice stationary bike. It’s a splurge, but respondent Stuart told us he’s been riding his Schwinn five times a week for the past two years. He likes that it displays his ride history and has multiple adjustable settings and workout programs for a customized ride. “It checked all the boxes of what I wanted, a basic exercise bike,” he said.

For a more affordable fitness gift, consider a set of nice dumbbells. (They also came up a lot in our senior survey.) These are a step up from neoprene weights, since they’re cast iron and adjustable, but they’re still under $100. Strategist writer Jeremy Rellosa has used them for quick at-home workouts over the past five years and says they’ve “shown no signs of wear.”

Joowon Oh, the author of Our Favorite Day, suggested arts and crafts that granddads and grandchildren “can create together to make sweet memories.” She thinks this birdhouse-making kit, makes an especially good gift if Grandpa happens to be an avid birder. This one comes with all the pieces needed to assemble a “bird bungalow.” And if grandkids are too young to build, it comes with a paintbrush and four paints they can safely enjoy.

Ted Page encourages getting Grandpa something from the Parks Project. “They have all kinds of cool outdoorsy gifts, and part of every sale goes toward supporting our precious National Parks,” he says.

Page reminds us that meaningful gifts “don’t have to be things at all but gifts that support people in real need. As grandfathers, we want to nurture the next generation in our immediate families but also in our global families.” This year, he would rather see his own children and grandchildren donate to a charity to help Ukraine than receive a tie. “This teaches our grandchildren a lot,” he says. “That they are linked with children all over the world and that what we do for others matters.” Humanity & Inclusion is a charity that supports individuals and refugees from conflict-stricken areas — especially those with physical injuries and disabilities and the elderly. Its Ukraine appeal fund will help deliver emergency aid to people displaced by the war. You can see the full list of ways to help refugees from Ukraine here.

While respondents from our senior survey mostly said DNA kits were not useful, we think they’d still make a good gift if you know Grandpa is interested in genealogy. Page makes a case for them as well. DNA kits “inform us as grandparents about our own heritage, while also teaching the grandkids about science,” says Page, who likes that 23andMe’s kit lets you trace your lineage and the history of your family. You can also dive into family traits, like how your DNA might affect your sense of taste or smell.

Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser 660
From $80
From $80

Another suggestion from our guide on gifts for new grandparents comes from Grandpa Chan, one half of the popular Instagram account Drawings for My Grandchildren. He says you should consider the fact that the recipient — though they may not like to admit it — is getting older. “Everything weakens with age, including teeth,” he says, something he learned after a recent trip to the dentist, “who told me that the severe pain I was experiencing could be improved by using an electric toothbrush and this water flosser to clean between my teeth.” In the first week of using them, he says, “my toothache passed,” which is why he now recommends them as gifts to grandparents.

Manny Oliverez, author of the book 100 Things I Love About Grandpa and grandfather of seven, says his all-time-favorite gift was a pair of Buzz Lightyear pajama pants his grandkids made for him. “They are way too big, the seams are a bit crooked, and one leg was attached upside down,” he says, but they’re “precious and warm my heart that my grandchildren made them especially for me.” Second to the pants is the gas grill he received. “Why? Because what is better than being together grilling and eating with friends, family, and the grandkids?” says Oliverez. (And if Grandpa already has a grill and is an aspiring pitmaster, here’s a guide to the best gifts for grill enthusiasts.)

If Grandpa is an outdoorsman, he might appreciate this packable and inflatable pad for camping. Utah-based hiker Rob Urry, a father of four and grandfather of 11, recommended it to us because it’s “the best pad ever: It blows up with just a few breaths and is lightweight and supercomfortable.” It even “works great on the ground or in a hammock,” he says.

And if Grandpa isn’t the camping type but still enjoys being in nature, this lightweight foldable rocker might be a better choice. It’s an essential in Strategist contributor Steven John’s camping kit because it weighs 12 pounds but its “impressive engineering” can support up to 250 pounds, he explains. Plus it has a handy cup holder attached.

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The Best Gifts for Grandfathers, According to Grandfathers