My mother missed my kindergarten graduation because she had given birth to my youngest brother the day before. I still maintain that he came early on purpose in the first of many attempts to usurp my position as the most beloved child. But in the end I won out because my dad took us to McDonald's to celebrate afterwards and I got to spend an afternoon at the hospital with my mom where she let me eat her chocolate pudding cup.
But enough about me, let's talk about your grads! Regardless of how old they are, it can be tricky to know what the appropriate gift may be, especially when they are a more distant relative or family friend. I'm gonna be really real with you right now and let you know straight out the gate that what your grad wants is money. Cold, hard cash. Or a check with several zeroes. It doesn't matter if it's a Kindergartener or a someone getting their Master's Degree. Throw some cash their way. It's what they want.
In the event that you are opposed to the giving of cash, lest it seem impersonal, or you are a baller and are giving them cash as well as a physical gift, here are some ideas for grads of all ages of gifts that won't end up in the donation bin a week later!
This is the easiest age to give a gift because you can ask the parents what the kid is interested in and they will actually know. If they like stories, a big anthology type book of fairy tales might pique their interest. If they love music, try a tambourine! If they have a music player of some kind, some headphones will make them feel grown up and cool. And if they are around 6 years old, get them the first Harry Potter book to begin their lifelong obsession. If they are into collections, see if you can add anything to it for them. I had an eraser collection in kindergarten as well as a rock collection. Little kids love collecting stuff, you guys. I actually still have some stones and crystals, is that weird?
This is the age where it starts to get tricky because kid's don't want babyish gifts, and their parents may not be "hip to the times" enough to know what their kid actually wants that won't elicit an eye-roll. If they're allowed to experiment with makeup, a gift certificate to Sephora would be much appreciated. I still love when my aunts get me gift certificates to Sephora. Like, why would anyone want anything else? In general, don't be afraid of gift certificates. If we are all being honest, I know we would all appreciate a gift card to a store we really loved, over a "heart-felt" gift that could possibly end up in the trash, right? If they are into music, a great way to nurture their passions would be to get them a record player. You would look totally badass and awesome, and it would help them cultivate a hobby. If they love to read, get them some Austen or Tolkien. If they love movies, find what genre or filmmaker they love and get them a DVD box set, or a book about Classic Hollywood. The most thoughtful thing you can do for someone in their horrible early teens is to acknowledge and respect their interests and treat them like adults.
Graduating from college is equal parts thrilling and absolutely terrifying. Your identity as a student is completely finished, and you have yet to discover what being an adult truly means. Graduates need money because most are saving up for their own apartments for the first time, and along with that the need for basic apartment furnishings. I find it enraging that you have to wait to get married to register for home goods. I've been living on my own for a decade and have had to cobble together a semblance of an adult home for years just because I haven't gotten married? Fuck that. Get your graduate some nice pots and pans, or a blender, or vacuum. I spent all of college driving to my parents house, borrowing my mom's vacuum, then bringing it back a week later. Buy them a cute mug like this or this if they like vodka (spoiler alert: they like vodka) and stuff it full of cash. I used all of the home goods I got for my college graduation for years until I moved to New York and gave all my belongings to my sister. So she uses them now! Don't be afraid to ask them what they may need! It can be incredibly frustrating to receive things you don't like or need and know your that your loved ones have spent a lot of money on them. Just ask them what they need! They will tell you and be very grateful. The only other gift from graduation that I still treasure was a personalized monogram embosser from my beloved Uncle Pepe. It felt like an acknowledgement of my adulthood and I really appreciated it.
I'd love to hear any suggestions you may have, or if you received any particular gifts that you truly treasured!