gifts they might actually want

26 Graduation Gifts for Every Type of Grad

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Graduation is upon us, and while it’s easy enough to stick a $50 bill in a greeting card, we’re here to help you step it up this year with some graduation gifts you know they’ll love. Whether they’re moving on up from kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college, we’ve selected the 26 best graduation gifts, many of which have been recommended by various experts and students themselves.

Kindergarten graduation

For the grad who might be the next Rodin

Beach sand can’t compare to the kinetic type that moves, oozes, and melts depending on how you handle it. Jennifer Lynch, a content developer at the Toy Association, calls it “very satisfying and really hands-on.” The set includes more than ten tools and molds plus two pounds of colored sand. Kids can mix new colors and use the molds to reveal exciting (and sliceable) designs.

For the grad who’s an aspiring Monet

This smart easel folds up for easy storage, adjusts to four different angles, and doubles as a lap desk.

For the grad who wants to be a secret agent


Going on backyard missions and spying on siblings will feel like the real deal with these walkie-talkies. This cool-looking set has a two-mile range, three different channels, and a built-in flashlight to support all sorts of excursions. An important lesson that Zibby Owens, author and host of the podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, says her kids have learned from walkie-talkies: “Communication doesn’t have to be through screens. There are other ways to chat instead of Snapchat.” Roger that.

For the grad who’d rather play outside

If your kid doesn’t have a scooter, now’s the time. The Micro Kickboard series is a favorite of Jennifer Cattaui, owner of New York City kids shop Babesta, and of thousands of Amazon reviewers.

For the grad who loves to explore

This expert-designed, kid-tested subscription box from KiwiCo — a toy brand highly recommended by Karen Blumberg, a math teacher at the Brearley School — teaches STEAM concepts and encourages curiosity.

For the grad whose favorite movie is Finding Nemo

This Squishmallow plush clownfish is big and ultra-soft enough to double as a pillow.

Eighth-grade graduation

For the grad who suddenly decided to become a vegetarian

Chef Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy loves this classic cookbook. “The approachable recipes were a great way to ease me into the kitchen,” she says.

For the grad with a wrist full of friendship bracelets

Accessory designer Susan Alexandra, who’s known for her whimsical beaded pieces and first started her career at age 12, says, “Everyone loves custom word jewelry.” (Find Alexandra’s other DIY jewelry essentials here.)

For the grad who’s never not playing video games

Although you can’t go wrong with any new gaming system, one teen we spoke to said that “the Nintendo Switch has become the hottest console this season,” and described it as the “*fire emoji*” item of the moment. It’s also ideal for both casual and seasoned gamers. Emily Heller, recommendations editor at Vulture and gamer said that since purchasing the Lite, she rarely picks up her regular Switch.

For the grad who has a newfound interest in photography

The whole VSCO-girl movement may be a thing of the past, but teens’ enthusiasm for photography will never waver. “Every girl needs one to capture memories, fun moments with friends, and even darker days,” one recent high-school grad told us. She owns — and loves — the classic Polaroid.

[Editor’s note: The Now is the updated version of the OneStep originally featured in this article.]

For the grad who’s more interested in the memories than the photography

If they have tons of photos and nowhere to put them, consider gifting a few scrapbooking essentials. Strategist writer — and scrapbooking camp alum — Chloe Anello recommends starting with this simple vinyl album and a couple of pads of colorful paper.

For the grad who, like everyone on Instagram, wants a tie-dye sweat suit

Let them make their own tie-dye sweats — and anything else they’d like to add a splash of color to — with a DIY kit (plus supplies).

For the grad who, like everyone on TikTok, wants LED lights

Graduation is the perfect excuse to upgrade their bedroom, and these color-changing LED strip lights from Govee make it easy. Strategist contributor Kyle Schurman says they’re easy to customize — they can be cut and pasted to any dry indoor surface, glow in any color on the RGB spectrum (according to the brand that’s 16 million different hues) and will even flash to the beat of your music. The light’s color and brightness can be controlled via an app on their phone or with Alexa or Google Voice.

High-school graduation

For the grad who’s already missing home

A weighted blanket feels sort of like an entire-body hug. This one, from Strat-favorite Bearaby, might be just the thing for the the soon-to-be (homesick) college freshman. Bonus: It’s stylish so it’ll look good flung over that XL twin bed.

For the grad who’s searching for the perfect gold chain

According to our teen poll, discerning young shoppers love Ana Luisa’s gold-plated necklaces. Teens appreciate the quality and sustainability, which they know not to expect from fast-fashion brands. The ability to mix and match chains is another reason teens keep choosing Ana Luisa necklaces, with one specifically saying they’re “easy to layer.” For those interested in a simpler, non-layered look, consider the equally elegant pearl option.

For the grad who just got a car

Strategist contributor Chris Black loves this car mount, which “adjusts a full 360 degrees and attaches with a clean adhesive” and will keep a phone right where the driver can see it (and, crucially, keep it out of the driver’s hand).

For the grad who prefers to get around on eight wheels

Moxi Rainbow Riders

We spoke to a handful of experts about the best roller skates, and several agreed that these are the best for beginners. If your grad is looking for an upgrade, try the highly recommended Moxi Skates Lolly.

For the grad who’d like to spend the summer in the pool

Since it may be awhile before people are comfy returning to public pools, consider giving the gift of a handy — but stylish — inflatable pool.

For the grad who’d like to spend the summer indoors

Perfect for curling up with a good book — for now, at home, and come fall, in the dorm.

For the grad who’s already dreaming about decorating her dorm room

You don’t have to spend a lot to give the gift of an on-campus status item. “I’m hard-pressed to think of a single cool girl on campus who doesn’t have one in her room,” one college student told us of salt lamps.

College graduation

For the grad who wants to keep learning

Just because college is over doesn’t mean the education has to stop. Consider a subscription to MasterClass, where you can learn everything from scientific thinking taught by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to beat-making from Timbaland.

For the grad who (finally) wants to learn to cook

Or if they’d rather learn a practical skill — namely, how to feed themselves — this guide to cooking from the editors of Munchies is a good place to start.

And needs a good pan to do it

This oft-recommended pan is a favorite of Strategist staffers and celebs alike thanks to its ability to cook just about anything.

For the grad who has knitted more scarves than they know what to do with

If they’ve been knitting away their anxiety with the help of needles and yarn, this kit is both stylish and far more seasonably appropriate than yet another muffler.

For the grad about to experience their first East Coast winter

Whether they’re California born-and-bred or a southern grad moving up north for their first job, graduating college often means transitioning to a new climate. If harsh winters weren’t part of their first 21 years, this Hi-Pile Fleece will keep them warm and cozy. Former Strategist senior writer Karen Adelson loves the kangaroo-style front pocket of this pullover and the convenience of being able to “snap or unsnap the neck depending on the temperature.”

For the grad with an unsustainable Starbucks habit

An espresso machine for when real life hits.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

26 Graduation Gifts for Every Type of Grad