5 Gift Ideas to Teach Kids About Money

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While children get more holiday presents than most of us, sometimes they lose interest before the batteries die. Why not give a gift that earns interest, or lasts a lifetime?

How much money will you spend on presents for the kids this holiday season? According to the National Retail Federation, the average shopper will spend about $400 on family members.

And how much of that is cheap plastic or fabric that will be forgotten in a few short weeks? If you’re sticking to the “hottest toys” shopping lists, probably most of it.

In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson takes a look at some alternative gift ideas – ones that might keep on giving, because they’re designed to teach kids about money. Check it out, and then read on for more ideas.

There are a lot of money-themed gift ideas for kids out there – from chocolate coins to board games. There’s no guarantee any particular present will have a lasting impact, but you might as well try for something fun and educational, right? Here are several ideas, including those mentioned in the video…

1. Books

If your son or daughter’s a little bookworm, this is a rich place to start. (And if not, they can learn reading and math at the same time.) There’s Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock, a story about twins – one who saves and one who spends. Try Arthur’s Funny Money, about a brother and sister starting a bike-washing business to buy clothes and candy. Or maybe Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, which is about a boy whose allowance burns a hole in his pocket.

There are plenty more good educational books out there. Credit counseling group Take Charge America has a list of money books for grades 1 through 5, all of which could work as gifts.

2. Coin keepers

For kids that need more hands-on learning, a fun place to keep money might teach good saving habits more quickly. There’s the traditional ceramic piggy bank (which can be an arts project too, if you pick a plain one) but also ATMs for kids, money mazes, and cash registers.

Digital coin counters that display a balance may be less fun but offer more encouragement since the growth in savings is always visible. There are also a variety of “three-jar” coin savers like the Moonjar, which encourage kids to split their money into different categories: save, spend, and share.

3. Games

Playful gifts can be just as effective as practical ones. A game as simple as poker can teach about math and money, especially if you use poker chips. There are also plenty of money-oriented board games, from the obvious – Monopoly – to the obscure, like I’m Debt Free or Charge Large. If you want something the kids are less familiar with but that isn’t overtly focused on money concepts, try Payday or The Game of Life.

4. Charity

Teach kids about giving back with CharityGiftCertificates.org – you make the donation, and they can pick the charity. A list of options, broken down by category, makes it easy.

There are also sites like the one Stacy mentioned – Kiva.org. These teach about charity and entrepreneurship, since they involve making micro-loans (as little as $25) to poor foreign businesses. Since you get paid back, this is one of the cheapest gift options, and it will help someone besides your kids.

5. Investment

What about presents for teens? If you have older kids earning (reported) income of their own, you might start funding an IRA for them. You can only contribute as much as they earn, but Roth IRAs for kids can be easily set up. Add $1,500 a year and, as Stacy mentioned, in 50 years this could be a gift worth a million dollars.

Even for younger kids, investing is an option. Buy them a share of stock in something they like – their favorite video game company, restaurant, or retailer – through a site like OneShare or ShareBuilder, and teach them how to monitor their investment.

Another idea? Start saving for college with a 529 plan, a gift that can eventually offer a broader education. Most plans have much higher contribution limits than an IRA – many over $200,000, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission – and are cheaper to get started too. Check out Savingforcollege.com, which has tons of information and options.

These probably aren’t gifts that will have your kids jumping for joy on Christmas, but hopefully they lead to greater happiness later in life — and you can always mix in the educational gifts with the exciting ones. Looking for other tips on being a money mentor? Check out 7 Creative Ways to Teach Kids About Money.

Stacy Johnson

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