gifts they might actually want

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

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In reporting this story, I FaceTimed with my grandmother to ask her what types of gifts she likes receiving. She replied that all she wants is to spend more time with me, which was charming and sweet but not exactly helpful (sorry, Grandma). Shopping for grandfathers is easy enough (a nice pair of argyle socks or books about past presidents or retired athletes tend to go over well), but finding the best gifts for grandmothers is a bit more challenging — especially if they’re anything like mine.

To find the best physical gifts to buy for someone who only wants to smother her grandchildren with love, affection, and food, I spoke to my grandma and others — between the ages of 52 and 89 years old — as well as a couple of granddaughters who’ve had success shopping for their own picky grandmothers. I consulted our recent senior survey for standout products among our readers ages 65 and up. There are even some gifts that would be particularly great for those who aren’t able to see their grandmothers in person.

Under $25

This journal is an excellent gift for new grandmothers, according to Donne Davis, founder of the GaGa Sisterhood, a community for grandmothers who go “gaga” for their grandchildren. She received one from her daughter and liked it so much that she gifted one to one of her GaGa Sisterhood members. Divided into two parts, the journal helps prepare for the initial stages of grandparenting and provides creative prompts to reflect on special first moments as a grandparent. Davis notes that it could be a sweet way to announce a pregnancy for a soon-to-be grandmother.

When we spoke to new grandparents about gifts they’d like, several mentioned how excited they were about cooking with their new grandchildren. This cookbook is made for just that, making it perfect for soon-to-be grandmas and grandmas with young grandchildren. In it, you’ll find kid-friendly recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts for Grandma and grandchildren to enjoy together.

Davis recommended this journal that’s meant to be shared between grandmothers and granddaughters. It has different writing prompts for recording special events, and provides spaces to make lists, draw pictures, and offer advice. Davis, who has two for each of her granddaughters, says it’s a great way to bond with them, and adds it could be mailed back and forth between long-distance grandmothers and granddaughters.

This journal is similar to the one above, but it’s for grandmothers and their grandsons. With space to write, doodle, and reflect, it’s an excellent way to record memories to look back on for years to come.

For the grandmother who likes keeping every doodle and finger painting from her grandbaby, consider this picture frame that can store up to 50 pieces. It comes recommended by 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.

‘Dutch Blitz’

Games were recommended as an excellent gift, because it’s something the whole family can enjoy together. Swap out a deck of cards with Dutch Blitz, a simple card game Strategist contributor Laura Guidry wrote about recently. “It took only a few hands for me to get sucked in,” she says. “I’ve since introduced the game to at least ten people. I’ve brought it to bars and on hikes.”

When former Strategist staffer Chloe Anello wrote an earlier version of this story, she interviewed her own nana, who said, “I don’t need anything like jewelry anymore, but I love when you get me books, because you pick out something you think I’d like, and I appreciate that you put a lot of thought into my interests.” Three other grandmothers we spoke to agreed that books are always a welcome gift, including Sayegh and her mother. Sayegh adds that “sharing experiences, whether you are near or far, means the world to a grandparent,” so she suggests taking this gift one step further and reading the book together. Then you’ll each “make time for conversation and discussion,” she explains, which your grandmother would love more than the book itself. While your book choice might depend on your grandmother’s interests, Brit Bennett’s critically acclaimed The Vanishing Half comes recommended to us by avid readers and is being turned into a miniseries on HBO.

Photo: Publisher

If you’re looking for other book choices, our senior survey found that mystery books were hugely popular, including Bonnie Garmus’s latest novel, Lessons in Chemistry. Sue, a grandmother herself, said she enjoyed the novel because it “didn’t have an alpha guy lead. The female protagonist was quirky, very smart, and not the prettiest girl. She wasn’t a Reese Witherspoon type, and I like that.”

For grandmothers with young grandkids, Davis suggests giving coloring books and colored pencils, so they can color together. Actress Angela Kinsey recommended this one, because “all of the pages have these really cool, sci-fi, magical-looking places.”

If your grandma happens to be a bird lover, Davis suggests gifting a book from the Audubon Society. “A lot of grandmas are really interested in being in nature, and it’s something that you could share with your grandchildren,” she says, adding that one of her own GaGa Sisterhood members sketches birds with her grandchildren. (If your grandma already has a bird book or you want to add on to your gift, we have a guide on gifts for bird lovers, too.)

An affordable gift that “would encourage more time spent together, connecting, and having fun,” according to grandmother-of-one Regina Crossley, is a set of cookie cutters. “They’d give me and my grandchild a reason to have a baking day together,” she says. There are as many different kinds of cookie cutters as there are grandmas, but this inexpensive set includes non-holiday-related shapes, making it one grandma can use all year-round. And if you can’t see her this year, consider sending a batch of homemade cookies — straight from your own kitchen — along with a set of these.

After my grandmother told me she just wants to spend more time together, I asked her what she’d like from my younger cousins. “I just want something as a keepsake,” she said, adding that handmade items are especially near and dear to her. She referenced a set of painted plates my sister and I gifted her well over a decade ago that she has had displayed on her kitchen walls ever since. While the plates we gave her were painted at a pottery shop, this set comes with everything a child needs to make their own personalized gift for their grandmother. And it could even double as a quality-time activity if they want to paint the set together.

If your grandma likes to bake — with or without you — pair the cookie cutters above with a custom apron and oven mitts, which Davis suggests, because it’s something she’ll use every day and appreciate. Williams Sonoma offers both with the option to personalize them with her name. Davis says if you want to really go the extra mile, get one to match with her.

Under $50

Here’s a nice-looking case for the grandmother who perpetually misplaces her phone. Grandma Marina, one-half of the popular Instagram account Drawings for My Grandchildren, was gifted this phone case that allows her to “always have my hands free, but keeps my phone close to my body — close at hand.” She adds, “The case has a small pocket where I can put my credit cards, cash, and my subway pass, so now I don’t have to carry a separate wallet. So practical.”

Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner

If Grandma wears jewelry or even glasses regularly, consider gifting her this Ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio purchased one last month and says it leaves her glasses “practically sparkling after a three-minute cycle.”

Kate McLeod’s body stones are essentially bars of lotion. Former Strategist writer Chloe Anello wrote back in 2021 that applying it is “similar to what I would imagine smearing a nice hunk of butter all over my body might feel like.” Her Nana also became a fan because of how moisturizing and “decidedly un-messy” the lotion is. We recommend gifting your grandmother a set of the minis, because they’re easier to grip and come with three of their best-selling scents — the Daily, Sleep, and Grounding.

According to 11 grandmothers we spoke to, the next best thing to being with a grandchild is having a picture of said grandchild. Even though every wall and surface (including her piano) at my grandma’s house has at least one framed family photo on it, she told me she’d welcome more. Vox Media programmatic sales director Kat Miller told me that her grandma is “a Chinese grandma to a T, and the toughest cookie you’ll ever meet. She literally wants nothing.” But a few years ago, Miller got it right by presenting her grandmother with an album of her wedding photos. “She loves seeing memories of the family. Her house is littered with photos of everyone, even dating back to old photos of my great-uncles and so forth.” Kathy Van-Etten, who has four grandchildren under the age of 4, agrees, telling us that framed photos of her grandkids would make her happy. When we tested online framing services, Framebridge came out on top for its wide variety of framing options, all of them high quality and user friendly.

Davis loves board games as gifts because it shows that — again — you want to spend time with her. And if you’re unable to see her in person, experts say you can easily play this one over Zoom or FaceTime, and it’s great for a wide variety of ages. (If you’re not sold on this particular game, we have 16 more expert-approved options you can play together over video chat.)

If your grandma has a green thumb, but you’re not sure what she wants to grow next, consider a gift certificate to Park Seed. The company is one of the country’s oldest and largest mail-order seed operations and was recommended to us by recently retired gardeners. Along with selling seeds for vegetables, herbs, plants, and flowers, the online shop carries plenty of gardening supplies. (If you’re looking for something else for your gardening grandma, we have even more gift recommendations for gardeners here.)

“The aroma from a candle can boost my mood and make me happy,” says Maura Young, a grandmother of eight kids under the age of 11. Last year, one of her grandsons gifted her a candle that smells like cookies, which reminded him of her. Young says this personal touch made the gift even more special. All our grandmothers seem to agree that any gift you put some thought into is a good one, so consider choosing a candle that conjures memorable aromas, or even a fragrance she tends to wear. Nest — a brand we’ve written about before — offers a nice variety of scents, including this ocean-mist-and-sea-salt one. I’ve considered gifting it to my own grandma as a reminder of our annual family beach trips.

Under $100

For the grandma who’s a frequent flier, we suggest gifting her this highly recommended, compact neck pillow. Carol, a Senior Survey respondent, says she packs it on every flight, including a nine-hour trip from Los Angeles to France. “It made my flight so easy,” she said.

Athleta Brooklyn Ankle Pant
From $70
From $70

If Grandma’s in need of a comfortable but chic pair of pants to wear in and out of the house, consider this senior-survey standout from Athleta. It’s made with a breathable, wrinkle-resistant fabric and features a subtle rib-knit waistband for a dressier look. “They’re an attractive senior pant,” JoAnn told us.

If comfy shoes are more her speed, these sandals have been purchased by no fewer than three Strategist editors for their unparalleled support. The bell-shaped sole “forces you to put pressure on different points of your foot than a flat slide,” which is easier on your joints, explains veteran journalist SuChin Pak. Plus, Oofos’s proprietary OOfoam is said to absorb 37 percent more impact than traditional footwear.

This handy device connects to Bluetooth and allows you to print photos from your phone instantly. With it, Grandma can frame or scrapbook all of her most recent pictures of the grandbabies.

Under $200

If you want to gift a photo frame that allows your grandma to see more than one family photo, Davis recommends this affordable digital one from NIX. The frame doesn’t have cloud capability, so you can’t upload photos for her without going to her house, but if that makes you nervous, Davis doesn’t think you should underestimate your grandmother’s tech skills. “So many grandparents now are real tech-savvy,” she says, so chances are your grandmother will be able to upload images you send herself. “My granddaughter is even teaching me how to use Instagram — we’re very capable and definitely need more credit,” she adds.

Mary Ellen Sayegh, a grandmother of one, recommends this digital photo frame, which she bought for her mother — who is a grandmother of five (and great-grandmother of one) — and now hopes to receive one herself. It is pricier than the NIX one, but Sayegh says it’s worth it for the cloud capabilities. The frame allows her to easily “send her pictures and videos,” especially of her great-granddaughter, Penelope, “through the cloud to her mom, and she enjoys them immensely.”

If Grandma’s an avid reader, consider gifting her a Kindle. Martha, a respondent from the senior survey who owns both an iPad and Kindle, prefers the latter for e-books because there’s no glare and she can “make the type as big as I need it to be, so I can continue reading as my sight diminishes.”

Gifting clothes can be hit or miss, but Eileen Fisher had such a passionate fan base in our senior survey that we think any grandma would appreciate a piece from the brand. Respondent Patti likes that the clothes “last forever,” come in solid colors, and “feel elegant” without being fussy. Some breezy pull-on pants like this would make a wonderful gift.

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has been a devoted gardener. But even with a blooming greenhouse and backyard garden, her tools could use a refresh. I’ve been eyeing this all-in-one set as a replacement because it comes with a gardening seat, narrow-face trowel, broad-face trowel, garden fork, rake, and weeder. Catherine Zeta-Jones, who uses it on her New York garden and claims it saved her back, originally recommended it to us — a fun factoid I think my grandma would enjoy, too.

Over $200

Apple Watch Series 8

Social-media strategist Hannah Gardner says her grandmother specifically asked for an Apple Watch. “My grandma is a social butterfly and super tech-savvy. She has an iPhone and an Alexa, and she’s 86,” Gardner says. She admits that not all grandmas are as tech-savvy, but thinks that any who are as technologically inclined as hers — or who are active — would enjoy the watch’s various functions. “My grandma wanted the metrics, like the heart rate, to keep track of her heath throughout the year — especially during Zumba and her personal-training sessions (yes, she has a trainer).” The watch is admittedly pricey, but Gardner suggests splitting the cost with brothers or sisters or cousins like she did.

Apple 10.9-Inch iPad Air

If Grandma’s interested in cookbooks, magazines, and other types of media — like YouTube videos and scrolling on social media — she’d probably like an iPad. Senior-survey respondent Martha says she likes having her iPad for the aforementioned uses because of its high picture quality.

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The Best Gifts for Grandmothers, According to Grandmothers