Teenager Needs Gift That Isn't Boring
October 27, 2010 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for cool gift ideas for a teenage boy. What can I get him that isn't lame?

My younger cousin recently recovered from an extremely serious illness, and my sister and I would like to get him an awesome gift. He's 16 years old and a typical teenager - he likes a wide variety of music, electronics, sports, and so forth. We have about $500 combined available to spend on his gift, and we'd like to get him something that doesn't suck. The gift should probably be geared towards the entertainment / fun end of the spectrum rather than being a more practical thing.

I've browsed some of the gift threads here on the green, and I don't think many of the commonly suggested gifts for adult men (watches, tools, high-end bags, etc.) would really hold his interest, even if they're super nice. In fact, he'd probably think that they were mind-numbingly boring, although he would never tell us that out of politeness. I'm not really sure what unique, fun present we could get him. He already has an Xbox 360 / PS3, so that avenue's out. We offered him cash, but he enjoys getting gifts and the element of surprise involved.

What should we take a look at? And is there anywhere we can look for inspiration? Thanks!
posted by Despondent_Monkey to Shopping (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If he doesn't already have one, a new ipod touch would be pretty snazzy and well within your price range. You could include a big gift card for him to use on apps.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:19 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

What does he like? What does he like to do?

Personally, I'd suggest a climbing harness, climbing shoes, a chalk bag, a belay device and a couple of carabiners and a pass to the local climbing gym.
posted by TheBones at 6:21 PM on October 27, 2010

I'd suggest yeah, ipod touch, cool case, iTunes gift card and a GameStop gift card [for the systems he already owns] which pretty much sums up what the only teenager in my life wanted, other than paintball gear and cash.
posted by jessamyn at 6:21 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Does he have his own laptop? That'd be fun and practical.
posted by drlith at 6:23 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Would he be interested in learning the guitar? My husband and one of my brothers both picked up the guitar (mostly self-taught) around that age, and they both still really enjoy playing. Mr. purlgurly suggests that a nice starter guitar can be had for ~$300-500.
posted by purlgurly at 6:23 PM on October 27, 2010

My 17 yo daughter says no iPod, yes iPad or iPhone.
posted by dzaz at 6:24 PM on October 27, 2010

If you have a good local music store, you might be able to work out a deal for the guitar with a few intro lessons?
posted by purlgurly at 6:24 PM on October 27, 2010

- More or less anything Apple... especially in a super-cool custom case that he'll appreciate as he gets older (I'm thinking of Crumpler or Timbuk2).

- Concert tickets. I've given these as gifts plenty of times and the recipients have always been delighted. You'd need to do some footwork to make sure you get him tix to something he'll enjoy.

- Assuming his health permits, a day of learning how to ski or snowboard (if he doesn't already), or some other boss adventure experience (learning how to skateboard/parasail/disarm high explosives or whatever it is kids do these days).
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:26 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Save the last $20 of it to go to the dollar store and buy the 20 weirdest (but still fun) things you can buy for a dollar. Like fake money for playing poker. :) Having a lot of little things to open along with the big awesome gift is really, really fun.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:29 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

As another data point, from an Apple-saturated household: ipads are a lot more expensive and less portable than ipod touches, but they're also much better laptop substitutes and have some really excellent multiplayer games. If he's a sociable type who you think would enjoy being able to use it along with his friends or family, or if he's a nerdy type who might really dig the ereader and wordprocessing aspect of it, the cheaper ipad model might be worth considering.

But if you think he'd just want something he can use for casual games and music and can stick into his pocket, the ipod touch may be more likely to actually get used.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:30 PM on October 27, 2010

Get him one of the new iPod Touches and an iTunes gift card; unlimited potential for fun and entertainment from all the apps, music, movies, etc. available on iTunes to be used on an iPod.
posted by Ryogen at 6:39 PM on October 27, 2010

Get him the first couple paperbacks of Neil Gaiman's the Sandman.
posted by wayland at 6:51 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

iPad + iTunes gift card
posted by k8t at 6:56 PM on October 27, 2010

Ohhhh... wayland's suggestion made me think of one which he may not think is cool immediately, but will LOVE you for eventually: look up the AskMe threads on "best graphic novels" and get him a nice library o' those.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:10 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it time for a phone upgrade? Is a phone with a data plan okay by the parents? If yes, upgrade to a nice smartphone (iPhone or nice android).

No? Then really I feel like every teenage boy wants games for their game systems, though he may have everything popular already.

I honestly don't know a single classmate that thinks iPads are particularly cool - I'd say they're more popular with adults who (willingly) spend more time at home rather than on the go. iPod touches/iPhones are much more popular, but people that want them often already have them.

Does he drive? Does he have his own car? If so, I know a few people with really nice sound systems (those giganto bass things that go in the trunk especially) and everybody likes to ride with them :P. Or other car-tricking-out things. I know some MeFites might disagree with that since, yeah, safety is pretty important for those who haven't been driving very long, but as far as cool things go, that's up there.

Other than that, laptop if that's something he would want (definitely not for everyone though, some people don't care as long as they have access to the family computer and many teens that want one already have one)
posted by R a c h e l at 7:12 PM on October 27, 2010

I'd browse thinkgeek. They have a lot of cool and fun stuff.
posted by Elachim at 7:36 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The latest Rock Band / Guitar Hero / DJ Hero for his platform of choice

Does he like amusement parks? Take him and a friend to Cedar Point.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:39 PM on October 27, 2010

I'd buy him the newest gear for the Xbox, which right now means pre-ordering the Kinect (comes out Nov. 4). I actually thought Kinect might be, well, kinda lame, but college-aged serious gamers set me straight on the technology and why they think the 360 motion detecting, etc. makes it worth the cost. Which looks like it will be about $149.

Other gaming ideas: If he doesn't have Halo Reach (which I can't imagine he won't, but still), he WILL want this game. If he has Fallout 3 for the PS3, Fallout New Vegas just came out, and he will like that. Those games are about $60 each.

Other ideas: iPhone 4, iPad (I think it is mostly younger teens who are impressed with the iPad, as well as people my age).
posted by misha at 8:09 PM on October 27, 2010

Seconding the idea of a nice library of books, if he's the reading kind. I would have loved something like that as a teen... then again I'm the kind of person who is never without a book (or three) so YMMV.

iPad... eh. I like the idea, but the iTouch is SO much more portable and not half bad to type on, unless you're, you know, writing a novel or something. I would say iTouch + case + giftcard, since that way he has access to all the cool stuff on the iTunes store. Maybe throw in an Amazon card as well, if he's the reading type- there's Kindle for iPhone now.

He likes gaming... would he be amenable to something like a DS + games? Not a gamer, so I don't know how much overlap there is between console/handheld fans.
posted by Tamanna at 8:41 PM on October 27, 2010

If he's going to be spending any time in the hospital, I enthusiastically Nth the ipad, especially with 3g access (if the hospital won't have wifi). Being in the hospital is incredibly socially isolating even if people visit you every day. The iPad isn't just a cool toy, it's a lifeline to the outside world.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:02 PM on October 27, 2010

does he have a PSP? find out what kind of games he likes and get him a psp3000 + logitech case and games such as gran turismo / ace combat / metal gear solid if he's into driving/ simulation/ shooters . This will complement his PS3 quite nicely. The psp does much more than just gaming (browser , movie playback, hackable , it's multimedia fun on the move and essential gear for teenage lads IMHO.
posted by panini at 9:03 PM on October 27, 2010

My vote is for concert tickets or sports tickets. Experiences are way cooler than things.
posted by incessant at 9:05 PM on October 27, 2010

Oh! Or skydiving.
posted by incessant at 9:08 PM on October 27, 2010

A gift card from a local movie theater.
posted by brujita at 10:41 PM on October 27, 2010

He already has an Xbox 360 / PS3

But what kind of screen is playing these on?

Because nothing says love like a nice big new TeeVee. (See newegg.)

Video games are great but on a great big screen video games are like a good religious experience. And $500 will do it.
posted by humannaire at 12:19 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would say a guitar and amp... Teach that kid how to rock! Better yet, maybe a gift certificate to a music store, so he can pick his own out? A guitar is a real personal thing, and it'd be nice for him to be able to try a few out and figure which one suits him best.

Another idea is to find out what his friends are into, and what they're doing... My little brothers both got into music cause that's what I was doing. They got into BMX bikes cause that's what their friends were doing...

I'd steer away from the iPod, cause he's 16, right? He'll have a job and a car soon, and probably the first thing he'll spend his money on is an iPod. And he'll lose it or break it in a few years and it will be forgotten. No one ever forgets their first guitar!
posted by Glendale at 4:20 AM on October 28, 2010

If you want to do something special that he'll remember, I'd steer away from the xbox accessories/video games/ipod/ipad/iphone etc. Those are gadgets that are very typical fallback fare (I always end up getting my younger brothers that stuff when I can't think of anything better). It'll be appreciated but not thought of as a wonderful, amazing, thoughtful gift; also, that stuff will be out of date by next year. Go for the experience gift, something that will stick with him for a while - skydiving, learning guitar, a trip to a cool city, concert, sailing lessons, flying lessons, etc. I always think the best gifts are things that people want but wouldn't really think to buy for themselves.
posted by coupdefoudre at 8:19 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Can you think of any surprising and fun way to give him cash? Can you swear one of his best friends to secrecy and ask the friend what your cousin would like/what would be super cool?

My first thought was iPad, but on reconsideration I'd say an awesome TV or his own laptop, if he needs either of those things.
posted by mrs. taters at 1:12 PM on October 28, 2010

Typical teenage boy? I'd say maybe tickets to pro sports game(s) or pop concert(s); a course in how to drive race cars; a room full of energy drinks; video camera; or funds for road trip with friends.
posted by hishtafel at 3:09 PM on October 28, 2010

Buckyballs! Oh, so kewl.
posted by schrodycat at 6:13 PM on October 28, 2010

Since he's been sick, how about a gift card to a super indulgent restaurant? (Example: The Melting Pot). You could coordinate that with the concert, i.e., wherever the concert is, maybe an awesome restaurant is nearby.
posted by world b free at 4:56 PM on October 30, 2010

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