You may be seeing your parents in person for the first time in more than a year. Or not—Covid-19 is still a threat, and international travel is still limited around the world. However, you can let them know you're thinking of them by giving a gift that makes their days a little easier. Whether it's novel ways to stay in touch or new hobbies to ease anxiety, these are some of our favorite gift ideas for moms and dads.
Updated April 2021: We've adjusted prices and added a few new items.
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Gifts to Stay in Touch
- Facebook Portal for $179: Stay in touch with your folks by taking your Zoom video chats on the Portal's 10-inch screen with a built-in Alexa smart assistant. WIRED senior writer Adrienne So has been using it for Zoom these past few months, and it's her favorite way of joining WIRED meetings. The camera automatically tracks the subject and auto-focuses on them if they move around during a call.
- Google Pixel 4A for $350: WIRED editor Julian Chokkattu says the Pixel 4A (9/10, WIRED Recommends) is "nearly perfect." It punches way above its weight at this price. If your mom or dad needs a good smartphone but doesn't need a $1,000 model, get them an unlocked Pixel 4A so they can use it on any carrier network. (Here are a few other great options.)
- Lovebox Messenger for $100: It's a beechwood box with a simple screen underneath the lid. When the heart on the outside of the box starts spinning, they'll know a message is waiting for them, like "Happy holidays, Pop. Miss you and talk to you soon" or "I love you, Mom and Dad, but please stop." You can send any message you want, up to 168 characters, through a smartphone app. You can link up to 20 Loveboxes too.
- Aura Carver Smart Digital Picture Frame for $199: I know what you're thinking—digital picture frames are nothing new. But on a good one, photographs look better than on a smart display. WIRED reviewer Medea Giordano is a fan of Aura's frames. The clear, 1,920 x 1,200 pixel resolution on the 10-inch Carver means it's sharper than an Amazon Echo Show 10. It also has Alexa capabilities if you pair it with an Echo, so even if you're a thousand miles away, your mother and father can ask it to bring up pictures of past holidays and vacations. There's an included app so they can share photos from phone to frame easily, and it comes with unlimited cloud storage so you can keep them updated with photos of your life.
- Travelpro Crew Versapack for $180: If your parents are ready for a flight or a trip by car, it might be time for a luggage upgrade. The Crew Versapack is my favorite soft-shell suitcase of the ones I tested. It's the expandable carry-on size, which is small enough to avoid having to check your bag on US airlines, but not on most international airlines. It has enough space for a long weekend, or longer if they're efficient packers.
Gifts to Keep Them Entertained
- Nintendo Switch for $299: Your mom and dad probably played video games at some point in their lives. Just because they never joined you in Halo or Animal Crossing doesn't mean they didn't haunt the arcades or hook up NES consoles in their youth. The Switch is already a classic console, and it's packed with the kind of side-scrollers and arcade games they grew up on in the ‘80s and ’90s. You can also find the Switch at GameStop.
- Nintendo Switch Online for $20 a Year: Nintendo's monthly subscription service includes more than 60 NES and SNES classics, including Super Mario Kart, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and Super Mario Bros. If you've got a Switch and they've got a Switch, you can play online together, no matter how far away they may be during the pandemic.
- Roku Premiere for $34: The Premiere works with TVs that have up to 4K resolution and are HDR-compatible. Roku is our favorite streaming service because it's fast and you can get practically any app or channel on it. If they don't need 4K, or if you want to give them a swankier model, such as one they can plug headphones into, check out our guide to picking a Roku. The Premiere is also available from Walmart.
- Outward Hound Hide-a-Squirrel for $20: Lots of people became dog owners this past year. If your parents are among them, their new roommate is going to need mental stimulation. Stuff the six plush, squeaky squirrels inside the trunk for the dog to ferret out. It's fun to watch, and it can also give your parents a break from dog-watching when they need one.
- Orvis Hammock Seat Protector for $169: Whether your parents are going for a short ride around town or taking their first road trip in a year, their dog needs a safe place to ride in the car. It also doesn't hurt to keep the upholstery slobber-free. The Orvis hammock straps over the rear seats, preventing the pup from falling into the space between the seats and from sitting on belt buckles. There are different sizes for different cars, and a solid foam extension if the dog needs extra room.
Gifts to Keep Them Healthy
- Trade Coffee Subscription: Let's face it. If your folks are addicted to coffee, they can probably trace it back to their early days raising you. With more than 400 constantly rotating coffees from roasters all over the country, Trade will supply them with a customized pallet of the world's best brews, delivered to their doorstep every one to four weeks. The price varies depending on each week's bag of coffee but should sit around $15. Shipping is free, and the first bag is 30 percent off. If they don't like the first bag, Trade will send a new one free of charge. It's one of the best coffee subscription services we've tested.
- A High-Quality Face Mask From $4 to $50: Everyone's face masks are getting raggedy by now. Give your folks a new one that works well and feels comfortable. These are the very best masks we've tested here at WIRED.
- Lotuscrafts Zafu Meditation Cushion for $40: Kapok is a traditional filling for zafu meditation cushions. They're fluffier and softer than buckwheat-hull-filled zafus, and they don't carry the same risk of buckwheat dust-triggering allergies. Using a meditation cushion will keep your parent's backs in the proper position for meditating. Once they try a zafu, they'll never go back to meditating on the hard, cold floor.
- Bonsai Tree Starter Kit for $25: There's a meditative quality to caring for a bonsai tree. Careful watering and pruning of the tree can calm and clear the mind, and little rituals performed regularly can be an indispensable way to maintain mental health. This kit comes with pruning shears and enough seeds and pots to grow four bonsai trees.
- Lululemon Reversible Yoga Mat for $88: When I spoke to yoga instructor Jessamyn Stanley last summer, she emphasized how important a good yoga mat is, and how big a difference there is between a cheap mat and a good mat. Whether your parents are new to yoga or are already into it and need a mat upgrade, set them up with Stanley's recommended mat so they'll have enough grip to pull off all the yoga positions.
- Carex Day Lamp Classic for $115: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs when longer nights throw off peoples' circadian rhythms. It can lead to depression and tiredness, among other symptoms of listlessness. A SAD lamp, used at specific times of the day, is a safe and proven way to alleviate those symptoms. This one puts out 10,000 lux of diffused light from a large surface area, so it works better than cheaper, smaller lamps.
Gifts for Their Home
- Lechuza Self-Watering Garden Planter for $65: Do your parents keep killing indoor trees and plants with too much or too little watering, or are they less able to attend to frequent watering schedules? Buy them a self-watering planter and they can enjoy greenery with less hassle. Made in Germany, the Lechuza is available in several sizes, depending on the size of the plant.
- A Carved Candle for $16+: Candles are a staple of holiday gift giving, but ratchet it up a notch from the usual Yankee Candle and give them a hand-carved display of blossoming, colored wax. It can be burned—since, you know, it's a candle—but I bet your folks won't bring themselves to melt such a work of art (unless the power has been out for quite some time).
- Georgetown Pottery Butter Keeper for $45: Your parents have had decades to stock their kitchen, so you have to get creative to find kitchenware they don't already have. Ever since refrigerators became a thing, people have slowly forgotten the butter keeper, but it's making a comeback. They can have creamy, spreadable, fresh butter without needing to refrigerate it if they keep it in a butter keeper and top it off with fresh water every few days. Georgetown Pottery has a lot more than butter keepers too. Vases, shaving scuttles, tapas trays, and more. They're all made in Maine and are available online.
- AeroGarden Indoor Hydroponic Garden for $130: Your folks don't need a garden, or even an outdoor space, to grow herbs. The AeroGarden does it all on the kitchen counter. They just need to add the included soil, fill up the water tank, and add the included seed pods (parsley, Thai basil, Genovese basil, thyme, mint, and dill). The control panel will remind them when to add water to the unit, when to add plant food, and will automatically turn the growing lights on or off as needed.
- Art from Minted for $25+: Minted is one of my favorite sources of paintings, drawings, and photographs. The brand puts a particular focus on new, upcoming artists, as well as on women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ artists from around the world. The print quality is good, and the prices are affordable.
Other Helpful Guides
If you're still looking for gift ideas, check out some of WIRED's other gift and buying guides.