This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.
2020 has been a hard year for teenagers. Relegated to their homes with school online, our masked children are flaunting their style on social media instead of IRL. But we have an opportunity to lift some teenage spirits this holiday season! Choose one of these spot-on presents and bring a little cheer to a terrible year. Your favorite teen will forget all about the pandemic when she opens up a cool craft, fun game or something sparkly and special. We’ve got plenty of stay-at-home delights on our list, from a video game console to a good old fashioned book. And you know she’ll love a cool pair of Vans or an influencer-approved phone case. Read on and grab some of these hot gifts… before they sell out like toilet paper in March.
If you’ve gone on any social media platform during the pandemic you’ve probably seen evidence of this year’s tie-dye trend. (There was even a tie-dye shortage.) Gift this Tulip kit and your teen can add a splash of color to her wardrobe.
Teen makeup mecca Ulta has a new line of Harry Potter-inspired makeup. That’s right, there’s a Hogwarts body lotion, Hedwig lip gloss, Hufflepuff nail polish strips and a Slytherin eyeshadow palette, among other magical offerings.
Delicate and cool, these 14-karat gold earrings are made in Los Angeles and ready to impress. It’s a special gift for the teen who likes to sparkle.
It seems that nearly every teenager wants a Nintendo Switch, and the portable Lite handheld consoles are flying off the shelves. If you can get your hands on one, you’ll be a holiday hero, and your kid can join her friends playing Animal Crossing and Mario Kart. Step up to the $300 version of the Switch if she wants the flexibility of playing on the TV, too. Read our Switch Lite review.
Fans of singer Harry Styles, aka “Stylers” (of which there are many), will go gaga over this coloring book. Add a pack of colored pencils and you’ve got a perfect present.
Nail salons are out, so give her the gift of DIY nails with this gel manicure kit. It looks like a macaron! But more importantly, this Le Mini Macaron set includes everything she needs for gorgeous digits, including Black Cherry and Honey Ginger polishes.
Could this board game be any cooler? Teenagers inexplicably love the ’90s sitcom Friends. They’re also stuck at home right now, so it makes sense that this Friends-themed Monopoly game is such a hot holiday gift (and an Amazon exclusive). The cutest part is that each character has their own token — Chandler’s is a sweater vest, naturally.
Girls who like to craft will enjoy this unique project: Tiny gems come together to form a shimmery image, like this arctic scene. If wolves aren’t her thing, there are plenty of other images, with more arriving this fall. When she’s done crafting, the picture makes a cool wall hanging.
Influencer collabs? Check. Ironic ’90s designs? Check. It’s easy to see why Wildflower phone cases are popular with teens. Plus, their durable rubber bumpers will actually protect your kid’s phone. You can pretty much pick any case and make her day. And phone cases make great stocking stuffers.
Super trendy cosmetics line Glossier offers a trio of its beloved lip balm, Balm Dotcom. Choose your own trio of scents from eight fun options. Some have a sheer tint (like cherry), while others are clear (like mint).
Add a twist to last year’s checkered Vans with this new rose and animal print. You can’t go wrong with classic, comfy kicks.
What’s a VSCO girl, you ask? It’s a style popular with the teens, named after a photo-editing app. It involves a lot of ’90s trends (scrunchies, Birkenstocks, bucket hats, tie-dye), plus some modern ones (reusable straws, Crocs)… and these bracelets.
All those hours online doing schoolwork can wreak havoc on the eyes! Hence the blue light glasses trend. This pair from Target’s youthful Wild Fable line are both cute and practical. And the price is right.
Gift your girl one of the hottest YA releases of the year and watch her dive into a great book. An unexpected prom queen competition might be the only way for Liz Lighty to escape her small, Midwestern hometown.
It’s a big buy, but you can be assured that the teen on your shopping list would love an Apple Watch (who wouldn’t?). This smartwatch is the ultimate tech gift, and there are a variety of cool bands and cases, like the neon pink sport loop.
Read our Apple Watch Series 6 review.
Fifty hours of the scent of “fresh-fallen rainwater layered with honey, fig and cypress” — that’s a pretty good gift. United by Form’s hand-poured coconut wax candles are a teenage luxury, and parent bonus: Her room will smell delightful.
The streamlined Kanken backpack from Fjallraven is pricey, but oh-so-nice. The classic Scandinavian design has been around since the ’70s, and the modern Kanken features the added bonus of water-resistant Vinylon fabric. Any teenager will appreciate this on-trend bag, even if school is online and they have nowhere to go.
Help her organize her online classes with a fresh planner for 2021 (and maybe we can pretend 2020 never happened). Erin Condren’s planners are considered the gold standard, and her collab with the iconic Hello Kitty is just adorable. The 234-page planner includes sections for class schedules, projects and to-do lists.
Yes, even in this digital age, nothing beats a hard copy. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 7s camera is this generation’s answer to the classic Polaroid, an instant camera with the ability to print photos on demand. Yes, you’ll need to buy new batches of film cartridges until the end of time, but that’s the price of creating miniature wall art out of your photos. This year’s seafoam color is particularly cute.
Two trends converge into one adorable, prescient gift with this tarot card deck. Telling fortunes is in, and this 78-card tarot deck is done in the super cute (and popular) Japanese Kawaii style. We predict Kawaii Tarot will be a hit.
The ultimate ’90s throwback game has a modern new look. Tamagotchi is an interactive virtual pet, and the new ON versions have a ton of cool features, like an app, cute characters and new games. This year’s Wonder Garden theme features two exclusive characters and a special theme park. Wonder Garden comes in turquoise and lavender.
If your teen loves experimenting with trendy makeup but doesn’t have the cash to splash out on the latest glosses, treat her to this fun makeup subscription box. Ipsy includes five beauty samples in the $12 Glam Bag — including brands such as Glossier, Essie and ColourPop — per month. You can upgrade to five full-size products with the Glam Bag Plus for $25 a month, or go for broke with the $50 Glam Bag Ultimate, which includes 12 products.
Hydro Flask water bottles are beloved by teens — and what a wholesome trend. We can get on board with hydration. These durable, stainless steel bottles are BPA-free and keep beverages cold (or hot). Plus they come in a variety of fun colors like pacific blue and watermelon pink.
This story has been completely updated for the 2020 holiday season.