It has been a wretched year for all, but young people have been hit particularly hard. Many have felt anxious, alone and fearful during the pandemic, and half of British teenagers could not stop worrying at times, according to research.
Gen Z has been robbed of opportunities — imagine not getting the chance to take your GCSE or A-level exams — like never before, and more than half fear coronavirus will make the future worse for people of their age.
A Christmas full of cheer and excellent presents will not change that teenagers have had to adapt to living through some monumentally challenging events, not only Covid but also Brexit, but it may help to raise a smile on the big day.
That said, young people are famously tricky to buy for.
But worry not because we have enlisted the help of some willing teenagers to guide us on what they and their peers would like to find under the tree to help you buy the perfect pressie for your loved ones.
So, let’s try to round off 2020 with a gift to remember for all the right reasons.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
MadLug classic backpack
The minimalist design and high-quality of these backpacks make them a stylish and comfortable choice of school or college bag. The bags come in 15 different colours, from mint to pink and black to yellow, so something for every taste. Yet the best thing about the brand is that your teenaged loved ones can wear their bag with confidence, knowing they have helped a child in care because of a “buy one give one” approach. Dave Linton, the founder of MadLug, was a youth worker who was heartbroken when he learnt that most children in care transport their worldly belongings in a bin bag, so he set out to help vulnerable children on their way with dignity. Buying a MadLug for a Christmas present makes perfect sense because it is a time of giving after all.
Buy now £29.99
Instax SQ1 instant camera
Teenagers, as much as anybody of any age, are guilty of snapping away and never printing out the photos, but this retro-styled camera will help them discover the joy of tangible images in seconds. The point-and-shoot camera is super simple to operate with automatic exposure, and it even takes great selfies thanks to a special mode and mirror on the front to ensure flawless photos. We also loved that the square prints are just like the old-school Polaroids.
Buy now £99.00, Currys PC World
S’well x Jason Woodside Shimmy reusable water bottle
Teenagers have mobilised in the fight to save the environment and would not dream of being seen with passé single-use plastics, so an eco-friendly, beautifully designed reusable bottle makes a brilliant gift. This 500ml vessel is as attractive as it is functional — it keeps drinks cold for 36 hours and hot for 18, and it is BPA/BPS-free.
Pair the bottle with the gorgeous S’well Geode Rose Eats, which keeps food cold for 11 hours and hot for seven, for the perfect school or college lunch package.
Buy now £24.50, S’well
Nightmare Horror Adventures Game – Welcome to Crafton Mansion
Board games became a hit in most households trying to overcome Covid boredom while staying inside, but this one is not for the faint-hearted. With that said, it promises hours of spooky fun as players search for clues and interact with the online game content to find the mysterious murderer of their parents. If you are looking for a game for younger teenagers, we recommend Trapped Escape Room Game: The Art Heist, which includes everything you need to transform any room into an escape room that players need to flee after stealing a painting.
Buy now £25.00, Argos
Joby GorillaPod mobile vlogging kit
Whether your teenager loves learning the latest dance routines on TikTok, posting selfies on Instagram or vlogging on YouTube, this present will help them bring their A-game to the feed. Amateur influencers can become serious content creators by pairing their phone with the kit’s rig, LED light and microphone to produce flawless imagery and crisp audio. Our young testers loved playing with this, and it gave them the freedom to get creative and film some shareable footage.
Buy now £179.95, Joby
Ralph Lauren Polo fragrance gift set
Smelling good is a must for teenagers and a fragrance collection of four fresh scents will give the person you are buying for the freedom to discover their favourite. This gift set comes with a 30ml bottle each of Polo Red, Polo Blue, Polo Green and Polo Black. Our teenage tester loved that they can choose a different one depending on the occasion.
Meanwhile, the Ariana Grande deluxe mini fragrance trio is the ultimate perfume set and includes the singer’s most-loved eau de parfums: Ari, Sweet Like Candy and Thank U, Next.
Buy now £45.00, Beauty Base
‘Yesss!: The Sumo Secrets to Being a Positive, Confident Teenager’
There could not be a more appropriate present for teenagers struggling to get through the year than this. Reading is always a gift and this Sumo (stop, understand, move on) book is fun and beautifully illustrated while being practical. It offers guidance on how to build confidence, resilience and emotional awareness and proceeds from the book support Young Minds, which is a lovely touch.
If you are buying for someone else, A Girl's Guide to Being Fearless: How to Find Your Brave is the ultimate self-care book, offering tailored advice on how to live your best life.
Buy now £9.39, Amazon
Few things are as exciting as opening up a box of surprise treats, and this parcel is all the more brilliant because it is designed to encourage positivity and self-care. Described as “a hug in a box”, it is filled with handpicked goodies, including a relaxing candle, tea bags filled with an uplifting blend, homemade chocolate, The Happy News and more. We also love the Teen Calm Mystery Box, which is great for both boys and girls, and comes packed with sweets, pampering products, a book and the most delicious hot chocolate on a stick. Both these boxes make especially great gifts if you are not with your teenager on Christmas morning because they are easily sent by post.
Buy now £17.99, PositiveParcel
Young Driver 30-minute junior driving lesson
Most people would not believe it possible for a teenager to drive a real car until they had a driving licence, but this present gives children up to the age of 17 years old the chance to get behind the wheel of a brand-new Vauxhall Corsa SE Premium. With a qualified instructor by their side, young drivers can experience what it feels like to drive on the road and learn how to change gears, steer and even park.
Buy now £39.99, Young Driver
Senstroke drum kit essential pack
“I want to buy a drum kit for my teenager,” said no parent ever. That was until they heard about the Senstroke drum kit. It is a game-changer: it takes up no space, turns inanimate objects in the home such as cushions into a tom-tom or snare, and can be played through headphones to maintain familial harmony. The portable kit comes with smart, wearable Bluetooth sensors and a drumming pad that when paired with an app responds to contact like a real acoustic drum kit.
If you are buying for a musical teen and drums are not their thing, consider the Casio CT-S200RD keyboard, stand and headphone bundle, which has all they need to play at home or on the road. The keyboard can connect to the free Chordana Play tutorial app, and they can access free online lessons up to grade five to perfect their talent.
Buy now £135.00, Argos
Nauseni wool felt slippers
Christmas is always made all the more the cosy with a pair of snuggly slippers to warm cold feet. These beautifully designed slippers are handcrafted from 100 per cent natural wool felt and Himalayan buffalo leather, making them super toasty and sustainable. As well as warm feet, wearers can also feel warmth in their heart knowing that the brand was founded in response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake to empower local women by providing skill development and income generation.
Buy now £55.00, Nauseni
SB Skate kicker ramp
Bring the skate park home for your teenager this Christmas with a portable ramp. This durable kicker ramp made from external grade timber means hours of ride time and endless shredding can be had all year round to boost confidence and skills on the board or scooter. This ramp arrives flat packed and is easy to build and store. It could also be the first element of a bigger at-home skate setup, with the addition of grind rails and launch ramps. If you are looking for boards, we recommend the FAR Skateboard Community Charity Shop.
Buy now £109.00, SB skate ramps
Lindt Lindor assorted selection box
No matter the age, everyone wants a selection box at Christmas and this one from Lindt offers a sophisticated take on a classic stocking filler. Inside the gold box, your teenager will find indulgent Lindor truffles and bars in salted caramel, orange and classic milk — and all have that delectable melting centre.
For vegan teens, the TheVeganKind – Christmas selection box is stuffed with an amazing array of goodies, including chocolate orange fondant creams, chocolate-covered salted caramel marshmallows, salted caramel chocolate cups and loads more, even a candy cane.
Buy now £6.00, Lindt
The verdict: Gifts for teenagers
MadLug’s Classic Backpack is our top pick because it is a useful and stylish present that extends the hand of kindness to children who need it most. For the fun factor, the Joby GorillaPod mobile vlogging kit and Young Driver junior driving lesson deserve a special mention, as does the Yesss!: The Sumo Secrets to Being a Positive, Confident Teenager book for its practical and helpful guidance on navigating adolescence.