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One-of-a-kind gifts


Tickling an alligator? Eating a cactus? Winning a lottery ticket? As everybody knows there are many things easier than finding a truly appreciated gift for a teenager. And you know what else? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not men, it’s not women but teens that are the real tough cookies to buy for.

In fact, from tweens right up to young adults, in my experience, either they consume digital vouchers or plastic crap (technical term), and while you’re desperate to find something meaningful/interesting that won’t end up in landfill, they essentially want drinking game cards and booze. The two might not often sit well together but — news flash — I honestly believe you can do both. 

For his 17th birthday, my sister Carrie bought my son Harry (who happens to adore noodles), a cookbook, bowl and t-shirt around this theme, and he was thrilled to bits. So channelling her as my inspiration, here are some ideas that walk that fine line, and offer something for tricky-to-buy-for teens that you’ll both be happy with…

Punch Needle Kit by The Modern Crafter

Beginner alphabet punch needle kit, by The Modern Crafter

Ok so you choose the letter and two colours and this kit will not only keep their creative side excited, but also help quieten the “Mummmmmmm, I’m borrrrrrrrrred” conversations. This kit comes with everything they need to learn a new skill and have something cool to customise their personal space with afterwards. Just don’t ever move it or you’ll never hear the end of it…

Personalised biodegradable phone case, by Not-Another-Bill

Personalised phone case, by Not-Another-Bill

Not only are these phone cases a loving enhancement for their MCI (Most Cherished Item), they come in every combination of colours, font choice and strap, and have an express delivery option too — so if you happen to be looking late in the day, there’s still time to be thoughtful.

A5 personalised notebook, by And So They Made

A5 personalised notebook, by & So They Made

I always think it’s worth spending a moment to really show someone you know them; that you’ve noticed their real interests and what means the most to them. These notepads are a really great way of doing that without spending a fortune. Plus they’re beautifully finished by & So They Made, who are now mixing up their trademark personalised spines with a touch of illustration too. Worth getting in touch to see which little icons they do.

Cash cards, by Text From a Friend

Cash cards, by Text From a Friend

I think this is such a clever approach to meeting teens halfway. Yes, you’re giving them money — but in a more thoughtful way that’s bound to make them smile. It sort of becomes more of a thing somehow. In fact, that’s why award-winning founder Sharon Caddie set up her company; as a kind of ‘anti-social media’ — inspired by texts, written by hand and then carefully foiled using sustainable materials to last longer than a WhatsApp.

TikTok birthday biscuit gift, by Baked By Zoe

TikTok birthday biscuit gift, by Baked By Zoe

It’s not always easy to find common ground when you’ve got a teenager and your worlds can sometimes feel so far apart. But one of my most cherished times in lockdown was when Harry would save all his favourite animal videos and share them with me at the end of the day. As we sat together on the bed howling with laughter at the incredible/ridiculous things they did, it always reminded me that we’re really so similar at heart. I think he’d love these vanilla biscuits that nod to his favourite social channel (and judging by the pages of five star reviews on Etsy, it looks like plenty of others do, too). I can’t imagine there being a teenager who wouldn’t appreciate them.

Magic stitch kit, By Petra Boase

Magic stitch kit, by Petra Boase

Well, I could tell you some stories about the many creative ways I ruined upcycled my belongings when I was a try-everything-once teenager. This starter kit is a great way to guide them in the right direction, while letting their young imaginations run free. It comes with designs printed on soluble adhesive embroidery paper so they can just stitch over the top of it and end up with shoes, tees or quite possibly an item of yours that they haven’t asked to borrow looking ace.

Rainbow bagel bread kit, by Honeywell Bakes

Rainbow bagel bread kit, by Honeywell Bakes

I mean, if ever there was a gift bringing colour to grey, surely this is it. As we know, teengers have often seen it all and done it all, yet in my experience, this one always brings a refreshing, “Oh”. 

It comes with all the dry ingredients needed to make six rainbow bagels, and the only thing to add is water. Plus, it comes in eco-friendly packaging and a percentage of every sale is donated to Farm Africa — the charity partner of the brilliant B Corp business that makes these kits, Honeywell Bakes. Smiles all round.

Frank & Mils

Personalised bracelets, by Frank + Mils

Aren’t these fun? I’ve bought different versions of these bracelets for so many people and they make me happy every time I see them. You can choose the charms and sizes, and find the combination that will suit the wearer to a tee. Plus I love supporting female founded businesses and this one was set up by auntie and niece team, Gem and Kate, who named the shop after their two girls.

Basketball sneaker handmade trainer plant pot vase, by GLA Goods

Basketball sneaker handmade trainer plant pot vase, by GLA Goods

It comes in seven colours, will house everything from their keys to their ear pods (or dare I say it, even a plant!), and happens to be shaped in (even I know this one) something that happens to be of their favourite item of all time — the trainer. So trust me when I say you’re about to become a pretty popular parent/auntie/’old person they know’ if you opt for this.

Scratch map exclusive artist edition, by Luckies

Scratch map exclusive artist edition, by Luckies, in collaboration with Dave Buonaguidi

Luckies teamed up with a range of renowned artists to create a series of scratch maps and I can’t think of a better gift for those excited-to-get-out-into-the-world teens. This one’s an exclusive design from my lovely friend Dave Buonaguidi (known for overprinting artwork — and in particular, vintage maps — with bold, thought-provoking slogans using bright, in-your-face kind of type). And if you want to teach them something while you’re at it, in 2003 Dave created his iconic ‘Make Tea Not War’ poster for the anti-war march, which is now proudly on display at the V&A.

If it’s not teens you’re buying gifts for but the men in your life or your friends, take a look at my carefully curated collections for some fresh ideas from brilliant small businesses. I hope it helps!

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