9 gifts for the friend who’s always ready to learn something new

Support your friend as they learn a new language or tackle a new career.

Once we leave our school days behind, few of us look back. But not everyone wants to let their brains languish—especially when we don’t have to limit our classes to academic topics. What if your friends or relatives still want to learn a new language? Beef up their cooking or home-repair skills? Or pick up fun new abilities like rock climbing or sleight-of-hand?

Help out by giving them lessons this holiday season. Online and in-person resources can teach recipients everything from makeup application to parkour to chess. Here are the lessons that might appeal to any friend or loved one—and tempt you to accompany them to class.

Cooking

Sharpen those knife skills.

Does your friend complain that he doesn’t know how to boil an egg? To remedy that, stores like Sur La Table, schools like the Institute of Culinary Education and the Culinary Institute of America, and a number of other organizations, all offer cooking lessons all over the country. These classes range from one-evening events to multi-day courses in topics that cover basic skills like chopping and baking as well as more specialized subjects like mastering international cuisines, crafting cheese, and brewing beer.

Online courses

Learn from the comfort of home.

Not everyone wants to venture out for classes. But your favorite couch-potato can still continue learning. Several prominent universities offer verified online courses through the edX platform, or you can venture outside of the traditional academic system to organizations like Great Courses Plus. Some of these options can get pricey, but you can also sign your friend up for free classes—check out this list of free online courses or point your friend to open-source educational videos from places like TED-Ed.

Physical activity

Buy some rock climbing lessons, perhaps.

It’s easy to buy your friend a package of classes at your local gym. Or you could think outside the box. Find a nearby circus school that offers airborne lessons in trapeze or aerial silks. See if the local dance studio has classes in your gift-recipient’s favorite musical genre. Or look for the nearest gym that specializes in rock climbing or parkour or boxing.

Languages

Before you head overseas, pick up the local language.

There are plenty of reasons to study a foreign language—hoping to expand your job prospects, planning to travel abroad, or wanting to refresh your high-school Spanish are just a few. Wherever you live, you can probably find a school for amateurs to polish their language skills—when in doubt, look for programs at local bookstores and libraries. If you’re striking out on physical locations, buy your friend a subscription to a digital platform like Rosetta, Babbel, Busuu, or Rocket Languages, or point them toward free options like Duolingo and BBC Languages.

DIY projects

Learn how to re-tile your own bathroom.

If your pal has an independent streak, they probably want to do their own home repairs. To boost their confidence, buy them a few lessons in topics like plumbing, wiring, or carpentry. You might find night classes at a local college, workshops at a nearby hardware store, or expert advice at a neighborhood makerspace.

Outdoor adventure

On the trail.

If your friend likes spending time in the great outdoors, she might appreciate the opportunity to pick up some survival skills. You might look up classes at the nearest dedicated outdoor survival school. Or turn to sporting-goods stores like REI, which offer classes in topics like navigation and wilderness medicine.

Art

Learn how to paint.

You don’t need to be a Michaelangelo to enjoy making art. So check out local museums or fine-art schools to see if they offer amateurs lessons in drawing or painting. Ceramics and glass-blowing studios often have classes where they teach interested adults how to practice more three-dimensional crafts. You might even find “paint and sip” classes, which hold evening events where your friend can drink while she daubs.

Water games

Lessons for your friend’s next vacation.

Some lessons can wait until summer rolls back around. If you live near an ocean or lake, or your friend plans to visit one of these oases, look into classes for water-based activities. Many outdoor-goods stores like Orvis offer fishing lessons. Resort towns inevitably have schools that teach people how to paddleboard, sail, or surf. Even if you’re landlocked, don’t overlook adult swim lessons at your local pool.

Musical instruments

Strum away. Deposit Photos

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Maybe your pal is the guy who likes to strum guitar chords at parties. Or maybe he wants to pick up the banjo. Either way, you should help your buddy improve his playing. To find in-person lessons, start by checking out the options at your local music store. If you’re hoping to research specific instructors near you, sift through the database of the Music Teachers National Association. And if your buddy already has some level of competence on his instrument of choice, consider a digital helper like Fender Play Guitar Lessons.