Whether for a holiday or a birthday, most of us have to come up with gifts to give at multiple times throughout the year. As you might guess, my bias is to give gifts with some educational value to them and/or that support learning habits. While there are plenty of options out there for kids, you may find that coming up with educational gifts for the adults is a bit tougher.
So, here are some gifts you may want to consider for adults in your life who love learning. Most of them are digital (or at least offer digital options), so you don’t have to worry about fighting traffic or getting them shipped some place on time.
1. The Classic: A Book
Yes, that’s right. The good ‘ol book is still one of the greatest gifts there is. A non-fiction work I am currently enjoying very much is Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act. In case you aren’t familiar with Rubin, he’s one of the more influential record producers and record company executives of recent times – one of the people who helped to popularize hip hop. His book reads a bit like a work of Zen or Stoic philosophy and is chock full of observations that will practically force you to pause and reflect.
As far as fiction goes, I recommend Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver. I love Kingsolver’s work, in general, and this one is a very sobering yet highly engaging view into the impact the opioid crisis has had in Appalachia. The structure and storyline were inspired by Charles Dickens’ classic David Copperfield, but that doesn’t do anything to diminish the originality of Kingsolver’s writing – indeed, it seems to provide a framework in which she can really shine.
Of course, I am also partial to 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner.
Looking for other suggestions? Here’s The New York Times top 10 books for 2023:
- The Bee Sting, by Paul Murray
- Chain-Gang All-Stars, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
- Eastbound, by Maylis de Kerangal
- The Fraud, by Zadie Smith
- North Woods, by Daniel Mason
- The Best Minds, by Jonathan Rosen
- Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs, by Kerry Howley
- Fire Weather, by John Vaillant
- Master Slave Husband Wife, by Ilyon Woo
- Some People Need Killing, by Patricia Evangelista
2. An E-Reader
I’m still a big fan of physical books, but the vast majority of my library now comes to me through the Kindle reading app from Amazon. I don’t know of many dedicated lifelong learners who don’t do a lot of digital reading, and most of them would welcome being able to do it on the Kindle Paperwhite. Unlike an iPad or other tablets, it’s built just for reading, so it’s light, easy on the eyes, and it’s even designed to be water-resistant, for those lifelong learners who like to relax in the bathtub with a book. (A highly recommended activity!)
3. A Creative Boost
I’ve got a theory that most lifelong learners have unrealized creative ambitions. Help them realize those ambitions with a class at CreativeLive. Better yet, consider giving them a Creator Pass for access to more than 2000 classes covering every type of creativity. (You could pair this with Rick Rubin’s book above!)
4. Courses, Of Course
I singled our Creative Live because of its focus on creativity, but it’s hardly the only game in town for courses. We’re really living in a booming time for online courses. You can find one on just about anything, and a great place to do this is Udemy. The site offers more than 210,000 courses (yes, 210, 000!) and you can select “Gift This Course” during checkout for any one of them. Business? Programming? Photography? Music? Personal Development? Health and Fitness? Udemy has your lifelong learner covered!
5. Powerful Note-taking
Readers here know I am an advocate of taking and reviewing notes. I use and recommend Evernote – a great gift that will get used daily – but I also know that there is at least some (limited) research suggesting that hand written note-taking tends to be more effective than typing on a computer or other digital device. If you want to cover all the bases, go for a smart digital note-taker like the Moleskine Smart Writing Set. Your favorite lifelong learners will be able to take notes by hand and then easily transfer them into digital form.
6. A Chance to Experiment
The array of gadgets, gizmos, and kits that the amateur scientist now has access to is really quite astounding. Check out the wide selection at Edmunds Scientific.
7. The Gift of Belonging
Sign a learner in your life up for a meaningful membership. This might mean an annual museum or zoo membership. (I’m lucky to live not too far from the North Carolina Zoo and we also have fantastic museums in our area.) Or, maybe it means a membership in an association or society of some sort. Don’t just think in terms of vocation: also consider avocation. In North Carolina, for example, there is a great poetry society. Or, nationally, there are groups like the National Gardening Association.
Let your imagination – and Google – run wild, and you will come up with some great options.
8. APPlied Learning Experiences
My iPhone and my iPad have become two of my key learning devices. While a lot of the available apps for these devices are free, some come with a small price tag – and 99 cents many times over adds up! Help the lifelong learner in your life stay on budget by giving an Apple gift certificate. This will cover not only apps, but also anything else available from the iTunes store. (Note: you can also get Google Play gift cards at Amazon.com)
9. Training for the Brain
Lifelong learners are always looking for ways to beef up the ‘ol gray matter. Give the learner in your life a boost with Lumosity Brain Games. Also, point them to Mindvalley, particularly to this free “Super Brain” masterclass with Jim Kwik.
10. Breaking the Language Barrier
Ah, a mainstay of many a New Year’s resolution: “This year I am going to learn to speak ___________.” Help the learner in your life keep that resolution. Rosetta Stone. is a well-known option. Or, check out our review of other language learning apps here.
11. Learning to Save the World
Kiva is a nonprofit that facilitates micro-lending to entrepreneurs across the world. By lending as little as US $25, you can help a shop owner in Ghana increase her inventory or a small farmer in Costa Rica build a greenhouse. (Examples of projects I have helped fund through my Kiva account.) Naturally, you can’t help but learn something along the way. US $25 gets you a downloadable Kiva gift card to fund a friend or family member’s account.
12. Musical Mastery
Got a musician in your life? Melodics is a great app for building skills on digital keyboards, drums, and percussion pads. It offers a huge number of lessons and tons of different ways to practice.
13. A Little Learning Light
Whether for reading in bed, working on projects, camping or any of the many activities where your lifelong learner may need a bit more light, the Glocusent LED Neck Light is the perfect solution. It’s bendable, rechargeable, has multiple levels of brightness, and comes in a variety of colors.
14. Liquid Learning Support
In my experience, many lifelong learners enjoy having a cup of coffee or tea as they read, watch, listen, or engage in whatever their learning activity of choice is. (Coffee shops, after all, are full of students!) So, chances are good that the learners in your life will appreciate the ESPRO – P7 French Press. And, to go along with it – or as a standalone gift – consider a COSORI Electric Kettle.
15. Gamified Learning
There are plenty of games out there that can help keep the brain agile and support learning new things. Bananagrams is an all-around favorite for testing and building vocabulary knowledge. Or maybe a game that let’s you explore places and cultures around the globe, like Trekking the World. Just search educational games on Amazon and you’ll find tons of options.
16. Getting a Closer Look at Learning
Whether out in the wild or at a big event, lifelong learners are usually the type of people who like to be able to get a better look at things. A set of Celestron binoculars might be just the thing for the nature lovers in your life. Or, for theater and concert goers, consider this compact set from POLDR.
Got other ideas? Please share them in the comments.