One “World’s Best Grandpa” mug or T-shirt is great, but you probably don’t need to expand their collection beyond that. That is to say: Grandparents are people, too. With interests! And hobbies! And tastes! So what are the best gifts for grandparents on their birthday? Something that’s specifically suited for them. Easy, huh?
You want to get them something they’ll use, not a trinket that will become clutter. This can understandably feel like a hurdle, since many grandparents have already acquired most all they need, but it actually presents an opportunity to creatively come up with sentimental gift ideas. What can you provide to make that thing they like just a little bit better? What new spin on something might they not have heard about or tried out yet?
Buying gifts for grandparents can be challenging. Fear not: We have gift ideas for every type of grandparent.
Whether it’s sentimental gifts or useful gifts for grandparents or something in between that you seek, we have options.
Best gift for grandparents who have everything: Printique Custom Fabric Cover Photo Book
For the grandparents who have everything, the best gift doesn’t take up too much space and does offer a lot of joy. The surest route there? A custom-made clothbound photo book. Customizable from 10 to 100 pages with a whole host of layouts (full bleed, collages, and more), Adorama’s Printique provides quick and high-quality photo book-making. It’s simple to get professional-looking results with their system—including on the exterior, where you can add a die-cut with a photo (we love this option) or foil printing, too.
Best quarantine gift for grandparents: Apple iPad (10.2-inch 8th Generation)
We’ve all been stuck inside, and it’s a safe bet that there are few groups on whom it’s taken a greater toll than grandparents. So what’s the best quarantine gift to make their time inside a little bit brighter? Your smiling face (duh)—but more specifically, your smiling face on a 10.2-inch Retina display and stereo speakers. It’s prime tablet time these days: less cumbersome than a laptop but significantly bigger and better for on-screen action than a smartphone, tablets hit the quarantine purchase sweet spot. Add an Apple Pencil for easier use and increased options, and get ready to get on-screen with your grandparents.
Best personalized gift for grandparents: ArtPix 3D Custom Laser-Engraved Crystal
New baby in the family? Old photo that just resurfaced? Get it laser-engraved (framing is so last year). The images look super lifelike—they’re converted from 2D to 3D—and the crystal slabs come in a host of sizes, from small to “titan,” either in portrait or landscape orientation. Included in the price—besides the 3D-ification—is background removal, so the portrait subject shines clearly on the finished product, making it a great sentimental gift for grandma or grandpa.
Best birthday gift for grandmas who love cooking: Caravel Gourmet Sea Salt Gift Set
If your grandma is a stellar cook, you might feel a little sheepish giving her kitchen supplies, whether you inherited the skill or not. But no cook worth their salt (literally, here!) has ever snubbed new, quality seasonings to try out, and Caravel Gourmet is not messing around when it comes to flavor. If it’s a birthday gift, we say go big with the 12-vial sampler that includes Hawaiian black lava, smoked bacon chipotle, ghost pepper, spicy garlic pepper, habanero, and jalapeño, plus six more.
Best birthday gift for grandpas who love the outdoors: Solo Stove Ranger Fire Pit
Few things rival a good wood fire, especially for those who love the outdoors. But the work it takes to build, stamp out, and clean up makes it more of an endeavor than many are willing or able to expend on an average weeknight. It’s why we’re very excited about the Solo Stove, which does basically for the fire pit what BioLite did for the camp stove: make it clean-burning, efficient, and easy with a very high-performing flame. Weighing in at 15 pounds, remaining smokeless due to smart design, and leaving only ash behind, this gift will literally warm your grandparents’ hearts… and hands.
Best birthday gift for the active grandparent: Nikon Aculon A211 8 x 42 Binoculars
Give active grandparents some new insight and entertainment when they’re out exploring with a pair of good binoculars. And whether they’re in a city (just look up NYC birdwatching, it’s big time), the country, or the suburbs in between, wildlife abounds for them to watch—ditto if they’re out on a boat or hiking in the woods. Different binoculars suit different uses, but the 8×42 pair we recommend comes with quality Nikon lenses and is a great full-size option in the ideal size for birding, whale watching, and wildlife viewing. It’s up to the grandparents to decide whether that wildlife is in the animal kingdom or the neighbor’s backyard.
Best photo gift for grandparents: Polaroid Originals 600 Express Instant Camera
The first self-developing Polaroid camera was made in 1948, and they rose to prominence in the mid-’60s, where they stayed for decades before having a trendy resurgence in recent years. Have some non-smartphone family photo fun with a gift your grandparents will almost certainly have experience with and memories tied to. Best of all, they can keep these mementos for years to come.
Best useful gift for grandparents: OXO Brew 9-Cup Coffee Maker
The best useful gift for grandparents will bring them energy every single morning. If you want to get them something they didn’t even know they needed, upgrade their coffee maker to the OXO Brew, a top tested and reviewed (and used/loved by some of us, too) coffee maker that’s worth every penny. An exacting temperature control, brew-time system, and a “rainmaker” water release mean the resulting coffee is much more like a pourover than a standard drip, and a superbly insulated carafe keeps it at that quality for some time—without a heat plate altering the flavor. It’s easy to schedule a timer so coffee can be ready upon waking, and the machine brews just as perfectly for a single cup as for a full pot.
Best gift for grandparents over $500: Halsted Five-Piece Wicker Patio Seating Set
One of the best gifts for grandparents (or, really, anyone) is a nice table and chairs set to eat, drink, and be merry outdoors. This patio seating set does one better, too: it’s beautiful, comfortable, and space-efficient, but also comes with two ottomans that tuck away beneath the armchairs. (We imagine they work great as seating for grandkids, as well as a way to put their feet up.) Sturdy backs, arms, and seat cushions ensure a supportive sitting posture, and the all-weather wicker and steel frames will keep the seating in great shape for many seasons.
Best gift for grandparents under $15: Magic Custom Photo Color Changing Coffee Mug Cup
Yeah, we know we said enough with the mugs, but this one is worth the exception. It’s an affordable, personalized gift for grandparents, and yes, it would pair nicely with our pick for best useful gift, now that you mention it. Pick a handle shape and inner mug color, pick a photo, pick your text, and add a little bit of fun to your grandparents’ morning cuppa.
The final word on finding the best gifts for grandparents
The best gifts for grandparents follow the same rules as the best gifts for anyone else: Something useful that is also lovely. It’s something that can improve their day-to-day even a little bit—a better view on Zoom, a warmer or more comfortable patio seat, better coffee, a new way to see an old photo (see a theme in our selections?)—because those little bits add up.
PopSci is here to help you find the most useful and expert shopping recommendations for the best gift ideas. Searching for more unique gifts? Check out more gift guides here: Grad Gifts for Travelers, Best Birthday Gifts for Teen Boys, or the Best Gifts for Women.