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. 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 the adult lifelong learners in your life. Most of them are digital, 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. One of my favorite – though very sobering – non-fiction reads in recent times is How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going by Vaclav Smil. It paints a pretty daunting picture of how difficult it will be to make the changes necessary to address global warming and other big issues, but I think we all need a realistic view of what we are dealing with as we strive to make progress.
As far as fiction goes, I recommend To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara. This is speculative fiction that spans multiple decades and, in many ways, the final depicts the world we could easily find ourselves in if we don’t address the issues highlighted in Vaclav Smil’s book. Not an easy – or short – read, but very enjoyable and rewarding in my opinion.
Of course, I am also partial to 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner. Personally, I prefer an actual physical book when it comes to gift giving, but giving a digital version is easy enough. Indeed, with the basic Kindle costing less than $100, you may want to consider giving not only a digital book but the e-reader as well.
Looking for other suggestions? Here’s The New York Times top 10 books for 2022:
- The Candy House, by Jennifer Egan
- Checkout 19, by Claire-Louise Bennett
- Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Furrows, by Namwali Serpell
- Trust, by Hernan Diaz
- An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us, by Ed Yong
- Stay True: A Memoir, by Hua Hsu
- Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us, by Rachel Aviv
- Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation, by Linda Villarosa
- We Don’t Know Ourselves, by Fintan O’Toole
2. 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.
3. 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 180,000 courses (yes, 180, 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!
Looking for other course options? Be sure to check out Mindvalley and Coursera.
4. 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 Ellipse. Your favorite lifelong learners will be able to take notes by hand and then easily transfer them into digital form.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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)
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Learn to Save the World $25 at a Time
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.
11. 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.
Got other ideas? Please share them in the comments.