25 ‘just because’ gifts to send to friends and family during the pandemic
Treat your family and friends to a little lockdown TLC.
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It’s no surprise that many of us are feeling a little bit lonely right now. I’m the only member of my family in my state, and even though many of my friends live in my neighborhood, it’s easy to start feeling isolated when we can’t actually go out and see one another.
The upshot of this is that there’s never been a better time to give or receive gifts. I’ve started understanding the value of getting mail—with the days blurring together, any small excitement is a gift. An even better gift? The reminder that someone out there is thinking of you, and that they can’t wait to see you again whenever it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, we’ve gathered 25 ideas for gifts to send your friends and family, because we could all use a pick-me-up these days.
1. A super soft robe to make staying at home feel luxurious
Lounging around at home is fun...until it isn’t. Sleeping late and wearing sweatpants all day is really best in moderation, and many of us have hit our limit for chill-out time. But that doesn’t have to be the case! Some sweet loungewear can help remind a loved one that it’s possible to relish staying home. Slipping into a robe isn’t just cozy—it’s also a nice way of signaling to your brain that the work day is done, and it’s time to relax. For those of us working at home, finding ways to maintain that boundary is invaluable.
This microfiber robe is a big hit with reviewers, who say it’s as warm and comforting as a big hug. They also confirm it holds up well in the washing machine, so don’t worry about being precious with it. One fan writes that is it “so cozy and comfortable! Do yourself a favor and get one! Plus it has pockets, what could be better than that?!”
2. A box from Lush for the ultimate home spa night
For a bit of home relaxation and self care, Lush cannot be beat. This box includes nourishing shower gel, soap, body lotion, and body butter—all of which are made of natural ingredients, and none of which have been tested on animals. The soap in this kit is one of my all-time favorites, scented with a ridiculously delicious-smelling combination of currants and apricots.
Reviewers love every aspect of this box. One writes that the body butter leaves her skin feeling “soft, smooth, and subtly scented afterwards. This is my favorite body scrub not just from Lush, but compared to any other scrub I've used.” Lush is famous for its bath bombs, but I love the fact that this box focuses on items anyone can use, regardless of whether they have a functional bathtub.
3. Plants from The Sill to brighten up their living space
We love The Sill, a plant retailer that’s helping indoor gardeners start their collection of houseplants. The Sill aims its services at all potential plant parents, regardless of whether you believe you have a green thumb or a black one. Offering careful instructions, workshops, and a great variety of plants (all of which are delivered!), The Sill makes it practically impossible to kill a houseplant. It’s the perfect way to bring a little life and greenery into an apartment that might be starting to feel stale.
There are plenty of great options on The Sill, but I’m in love with this beautiful Red Anthurium that needs very little watering and prefers to be out of the direct sun. If you’re looking for a plant for someone who lives with pets, be sure to check that it’s non-toxic and animal-friendly.
4. A cooking book that’s more than a cookbook
The first hobby I threw myself into at the beginning of lockdown was cooking. With time at home to spare, it makes sense that so many of us are investing in long, involved recipes that we wouldn’t usually try. It also makes sense that we’re eating differently—and that can take some adjusting to.
Eat Up, from Great British Bake Off alum Ruby Tandoh, is a celebration of food. Tandoh’s goal is to find delight in cooking and eating, encouraging a healthy relationship with the food that nourishes us. Tandoh has had a dedicated following since Bake Off, and her books have earned rave reviews. "Read this book because it is beautifully written,” one reviewer writes. “Read it because all of us need to heal from the ways the world has scarred our appetites. Give it to all the people in your life, especially (but not exclusively) the women. A comfort read of the very best kind.”
5. A cheese board for at-home tapas night
It’s no easy replacement for a night out at a favorite restaurant, but this cleverly-designed bamboo cheese board can make simple snacks at home feel decadent. With a snug drawer for utensils, whoever receives this board won’t have to worry about digging through the silverware drawer for a long lost cheese knife. Everything needed for at-home date night is right here—well, everything except a glass of wine and some nice hors d'oeuvres.
One reviewer loves that "the design of it is smart, and it is easy to clean and care for.” She notes that oiling it helps the bamboo look even better, and says, “This is great for get-togethers and holidays or even just for making snacks more fun. I would definitely recommend it and also think it makes a really nice gift."
6. Moisturizing socks to pamper tired feet through the workday
In lockdown, it can be hard to distinguish your days from your evenings. For me, the best way to do it is to inject some coziness into the atmosphere when I’m done with work. And when coziness is your goal, there’s often no better way to achieve it than by slipping on a pair of warm, luxuriously soft socks. These moisturizing socks from Earth Therapeutics are infused with natural aloe vera to soothe dry feet, and are made of super-soft fuzzy nylon that you’ll want to stroke all night. Amazon reviewers love how moisturizing and plush-feeling they are and that said comfort has lasted through numerous washings.
7. A tea subscription to make every day cozy
There’s a subscription service for practically everything these days—and we’re not mad about it. Just because we’re all stuck at home doesn’t mean we have to stop trying new things, and we certainly don’t have to get stuck with the same cup of English Breakfast every morning.
We’ve tried out Sips by, a subscription box that introduces you to a whole new world of tea, and we found that it lived up to the promise. Each box makes at least 15 cups of tea, and features four different flavors, curated to your taste—or to the taste of the person lucky enough to get a box as a gift. Whether you just send one box or make it a year-round thing, this is a sweet way of reaching out to someone who is now taking their morning tea alone. Hopefully you’ll be able to have a cuppa together before too long.
8. A spice kit to make their quarantine cooking shine
It might be time for the amateur chef in your life to finally get some nice spices. Spices are one of those things where quality really matters, but many of us avoid taking the plunge on the high-quality stuff because it feels too extravagant to buy ourselves, even if it’s something we’d enjoy. In other words, it’s the perfect gift.
This fantastic set from The Spice House has you covered with twenty-four different spices, to take you through just about any cuisine. Once these spices eventually run out, no problem—you can order flatpack refills, and continue to use the same glass jars forever. One reviewer writes, "These have added so much joy, not to mention, flavor to my cooking and I can't recommend any collection more highly than these. Before you even taste the results, you'll know these are far, far better than just your average spice set.”
9. A tool set to help them reinvest in their home
A loving family member gifted me a tool set when I moved into my first apartment, and I have treasured it ever since. It has taken me through years of hanging up art, installing locks, and drilling in hooks for my houseplants. It’s a simple gift, but a really thoughtful one, and especially useful for anyone who is taking lockdown as an opportunity to get handy around the house.
This 67-piece set is perfectly suited for most general tasks—and for under $30, it’s a steal. One reviewer raves, "This tool set is perfect for a new homeowner, apartment owner, college student in a dorm, or small office. For the price, it's worth buying even if you don't have an immediate use for it.”
10. The perfect pair of slippers for hanging out at home
This is another item under the category of “things to make staying at home feel like a luxury again,” but a little bit more universally practical than most loungewear. As someone with chronically frozen feet, I’m a big advocate for a nice pair of slippers. They’ll help you feel a bit more pulled together than padding around in your socks, but they also mean you won’t have to put on sneakers for yet another trip to the mailbox.
We’ve tested out the best women’s slippers on the market, and this Chesney pair were our runaway faves. They’re super comfortable, completely sturdy, and warm enough to keep even my poor-circulation toes warm. Reviewers agree with us, and mention that these hold up well for years.
11. An alarm clock that will make their sleeping habits a bit more natural
Do you know someone who has spent all of lockdown complaining about their sleep? I am absolutely this person—being home all the time makes it too easy to stay up late, and being less active throughout the day can also make it tough to fall asleep. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get a better night’s sleep, and one of our favorites is by switching up your alarm.
We’ve had great luck with this stylish wake-up light. It can replace a traditional alarm clock by gently emulating the sunrise, giving the body time to adjust to the change in light, waking up naturally. It also functions as a beautiful lamp—and helps out those of us with a tendency to sleep through our regular alarms.
12. A beloved guide to help them get to know their non-human neighbors
It’s a rare person these days who isn’t struggling with any degree of lockdown boredom. You can help your loved ones out by encouraging a new hobby like birdwatching, which can make them feel engaged with the world without leaving their kitchen window.
The Sibley Guide to Birds has been the industry standard for years, with beautiful illustrations that are perfect for both seasoned birders and absolute beginners. One reviewer says that after buying the guide, he could understand why it’s so highly esteemed. He writes that "the detail, side notes, and attempt to capture as many details as possible without being overwhelming makes this field guide both very user-friendly and very accurate for most typical birds."
13. An air fryer to satiate quarantine cravings
There are only so many times you can order takeout French fries before it starts feeling irresponsible on one level or another. When it comes to making crispy treats at home (without all the oil that comes with deep frying), we’re partial to air fryers—the perfect gift for anyone spending lockdown working on their snack food game.
Of all the admirable airfryers we’ve tested, the Philips Airfryer XXL takes the cake. It’s a well-built machine that consistently excels at creating perfectly crunchy treats that are sure to satisfy your salt-loving friends.
14. Our favorite Kindle, for some quality leisure reading
I have been in love with my Kindle Paperwhite for years. With a battery life that lasts for days, a screen that lights up gently without causing eye strain, and an enormous amount of storage space, it is basically the perfect e-reader. The 2018 version took our spot as the best Kindle of 2020 thanks to its new waterproof body and Bluetooth syncing. One buyer calls the Paperwhite the “perfect reader,” making it “easy to control the amount of backlight, easy to download books, and simply easy to read my books.”
15. Treats from Nuts.com for the distinguished snacker
If you’re struggling to settle on a thoughtful gift but still want to show someone you care, there is one gift that will never go amiss: snacks. Nuts.com is one of my favorite places to get everyday snacks, and even pantry staples like grains and baking supplies.
Nuts.com has an option for pretty much any snacker, but for a healthy and reliable treat, think about sending a shipment of this organic trail mix, made with nuts, cranberries, banana chips, and other goodies. One person writes that the mix is a “delicious blend of healthy snacks” with “just the right sweetness.”
16. An infusable water bottle, to make hydration more enjoyable
You’d think that being home all day would mean I’d be drinking more water, but for whatever reason, this isn’t the case. I’m much more prone to forgetting about it all together and going hours without rehydrating. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if I had this fruit-infusing water bottle, I’d be sipping on it all day long.
With an extra-large infuser basket, it’s perfectly designed to accommodate strawberries, cucumbers, mint leaves, and more. Send it along to your favorite chronically dehydrated friend or family member, and they’ll be equipped to pour out a glass of water they actually want to drink. One reviewer loves the design of the bottle, saying that it is “slim and fits in a car cup holder,” with a handy lock button to keep it from spilling. “The basket inside for fruits is a great size that can fit the fruits I wanted to infuse. This new bottle is way easier to screw in at the bottom, no leaks so far."
17. Noise-cancelling headphones for work and play
For people like me who work from home with multiple roommates or family members, noise-cancelling headphones are basically a necessity. Whether you’re shopping for someone in that position, or for someone who’s just enthusiastic about enjoying their Spotify Premium, the Sony WH-1000XM3 will more than satisfy.
They're our favorite noise-cancelling headphones of the year due to the long-lasting battery life, the quality of sound, and, of course, the impressive noise cancellation. Plus, you can customize the amount of said noise cancellation so you can choose how much of the outside world you can hear.
18. A gorgeous carafe for your favorite wine-lover
It might be a while before your loved one’s favorite wine bar opens back up again, but that doesn't mean they can’t enjoy a nice glass at home. An elegant carafe like this one is a game-changer—when red wine is poured into the carafe, it’s given a chance to aerate, opening up its full flavor profile.
Not only does this carafe offer a way to enjoy full-bodied wine even more, it’s also a beautiful decorative piece that’ll complement any style. One fan vouches for the carafe, writing, “this is absolutely the best carafe I have ever purchased. Perfect pour and easy to clean. I've already bought two more for friends as gifts and I bet I will buy even more."
19. A soda water maker to make their life a little more sparkling
Is anyone else finding that lockdown is making you crave happy hour? After a long day of chilling on the couch, I find myself looking for another way to kick back. That being said, I don’t really want to drink a pina colada literally every single day of lockdown (well, maybe I do, but I’m restraining myself). Thankfully, I’ve found that some sparkling water and a slice of lemon can pretty effectively trick my brain into that happy, post-work state, even if I’ve been sitting in the same position all day.
The first time I used a SodaStream was at a friend’s dinner party, and they can attest that within seconds I had fallen in love. With one button, you can turn still water into sparkling—and save money that usually goes to your La Croix addiction. One reviewer recommends this model in particular, saying, “This one is great because it doesn't need electricity and you can use it anywhere! I wasn't sure which one to get, but we LOVE this model!” If you know someone who’s always sucking down a bottle of seltzer, this would be an amazing gift.
20. A calming weighted blanket
Odds are you know someone who lives alone, and who is probably feeling pretty lonely right now. You might not be able to give them a hug, but you can give them the next best thing—a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets are designed to help reduce stress and anxiety with gentle pressure, but they’re also great for general warmth and coziness.
There are lots of great weighted blankets on the market right now, but our personal favorite is the 15-pound Gravity Blanket. The Gravity Blanket is soft, warm, and machine-washable, so your loved one doesn’t need to worry if they spill a little lo mein on it while snuggled up on the couch. We also found that the weight distribution is excellent, so there’s no struggle with the weighted beads all falling to one end of the blanket.
21. A home perfume to make their home smell like roses
I would have thought being in my house 24/7 would desensitize me to its quirky little odors, but I think it’s actually made my nasal palette more refined. There’s the ever-present note of cat litter in the bathroom, the kitchen trash can that smells decidedly ripe just before trash day, and that peculiar mustiness you start to notice at the beginning of spring after your windows have been shut for months. Homes can get a little smelly! That’s why this home perfume from Sephora is the perfect gift.
Reviewers love the bright floral scent of this diffuser, which one person says “smells exactly like a red rose bouquet.” They add that it works best if you flip the reeds weekly, but that with maintenance, it can last a whole six months. For someone who loves the smell of roses, this is absolutely worth it.
22. A tarot kit to get them in touch with their mystical side
I’ll admit it, I have a soft spot for tarot. Whether you see it as a slumber party game, or as a way of getting in touch with your deepest dreams and desires, there’s something nice about the mental and tactile experience of using a deck. If you have someone in your life who’s interested in this kind of thing, they’d probably appreciate this tarot deck and guidebook to get them started.
One reviewer says this is their very favorite tarot deck, and that it’s "beautiful to look at, and the guide should be very helpful for beginners!” They also mention that “the deck has ‘daughters, sons, mothers and fathers’ rather than your standard ‘pages, knights, queens and kings;”—if you’re shopping for someone who might prefer an even more traditional experience, you can’t go wrong with the classic Rider-Waite deck.
23. A book subscription box for the avid—or aspirational—reader
Just because many of us have the time to read right now doesn’t mean we always know what to read. The Book of the Month subscription service is here to solve this problem. Each month, BOTM picks five great novels, and subscribers get to select one off the list to be sent to their door. Best of all, you can skip a month any time, so you don’t have to worry about gifting a subscription to someone who might not be interested in a book off this month’s list.
BOTM is really great at picking books—or maybe I’m biased, since a lot of my personal favorites have made the list. It’s also a fantastic way of trying out genres you wouldn’t normally consider, and at under $15 a month, it’s a better deal than buying the books individually Our editor Kate Tully Ellsworth swears by the box, saying it's the only subscription box she's stuck with for longer than three months..
24. A subscription to a language learning service to keep their brain engaged
One of the best things I’ve done for myself during lockdown is starting to learn Spanish. It’s been a great way to keep my mind engaged, and to make sure that I’m doing something that’s really just for myself (something other than eating a lot of Veggie Straws and binge-watching The Simpsons). If you’re looking for a gift for someone who misses traveling—or for a nerd like me who misses school—the opportunity to invest in a new language might be just the thing.
I was a huge fan of the Pimsleur program, which makes language learning accessible for complete beginners. Buying an entire program on Pimsleur runs you about $550, but there’s a much more affordable option—a $14.95 monthly subscription. Compared to paying for a whole course, giving someone the gift of a few months of language-learning is a steal, and the returns are invaluable.
25. Their favorite film, but as a keepsake
Got a cinephile in your circle? There’s something better than endlessly scrolling through streaming services. It’s the perfect time to pick out one of their favorites from the Criterion Collection—or your favorite that they finally don’t have an excuse to put off watching. Criterion editions are gorgeous on every level. We could talk all day about the beauty of Criterion edition covers, but that’s nothing on the restoration of the film itself. This is the way to go if you love the original Godzilla but don’t love watching it through the grain. Shopping for a film lover who’d rather have a lot of options? They’d love a Criterion Channel subscription, which you can get for $10.99 a month.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.