Ten Holiday Gift Ideas for Teens, College Students, and their Parents

Happy Holidays! Oprah has her list of favorite things. Here are some of Debbie Merion’s favorite gift ideas for teens, college kids, and parental units.

Ear buds or a headphones headband

I love these Apple airpods, on sale now at Staples, but there are many types of  wireless earbuds.  My friend Hetty likes this headphones headband for listening to music before sleeping. I’ve simply labeled one airpods pair “purse” and another airpod lives next to my bed, so they are always there when I need them.


Phone tripod

I put my phone on a tripod like this when Facetiming, Zooming, and working out to Peloton exercise videos.  No more juggling the phone and jiggling videos.


Mixtiles are light, foamcore 8″ photos to decorate the walls. They are inexpensive, easy to put up and to take down, because they come with removable two-sided tape on the back of them. I learned about these from my videographer son-in-law Adam. Here are some my husband Bob has up in his office.

Spinning top

Buy the $39 stainless steel one (or something fancier) from Foreverspin.com. I bought one for Bob last year. A good dexterity challenge and distraction from your phone.  Not recommended for playing dreidel, though.


Strong little flashlight

I like carry this $10 Energizer tactical flashlight in my backpack everywhere.  It’s six times brighter than the flashlight on your iphone.


I have a Hohner Marine Band harmonica that I learned to play last year by taking some classes and lessons from the best harmonica teacher ever, Ben Hewlett.


Painting supplies

Buy some good paper, brushes, and paints from Michaels, Walmart or Blick.  Then play.

Beanie with a light

The Headlight is perfect for late night strolls or indoor tasks like cleaning out the bottom of your backpack. These LED flashlight hats were on Oprah’s list this year and to be honest, I’m kind of obsessed with them. Charge them by plugging them into your phone’s USB power block.



Dip a toe into the virtual reality world with Oculus and you’ll feel like your world is much larger. It’s a safe way to be entertained in our COVID world.  I love playing Billie Eilish music on Beat Saber–an easy, physical game.


The Emotion Thesaurus will improve your writing. It’s also fun to read.The Synonym Finder should also be on your bookshelf. This thick red book has synonyms you’ll never find using digital methods.

A quick, fun novel is All My Friends are Superheroes.

My book, Solving the College Admissions Puzzle, has helped thousands of students and parents.

Thinking about writing your own memoir, or sending off your kids to college with a cookbook with family stories? Check out my new memoir,  From the Period to the Colon: Memoir of a Child Writer  “for the prompts and inspiration to get the treasured details of your own best anecdotes down on paper.” – Eileen Pollack, Paradise, New York. 

Wait, here’s one more flashlight

For reading paperbacks in bed, I enjoy wearing this nerdish but stylish chunky plastic necklace that is also a USB-charged 3-brightness booklight that you wear around your neck.


Disclosure: There are no affiliate links above, so I’m not profiting from your purchases. But hopefully, some good people are. Happy Holidays!