15 Fantastic Financial Christmas Gift Ideas for Children

Christmas Gift Ideas for Children

Let’s be honest. Your child doesn’t need yet another toy. Sure, they’re fun, but after a couple of weeks, toys are forgotten or broken (or both). Plus, what long-term benefit does a toy offer? None. In these economic times, you might try something a little bit different. If there are kids in your life, you might consider providing them with a financial gift. There are any number of useful financial gifts that can keep on giving — while providing children with a solid financial foundation for the future.

Piggy Bank

Laugh and Learn Piggy BankYoung children get a thrill out of opening presents, and you can provide this thrill while giving something practical. There are any number of piggy banks out there designed to help children begin learning money management. These banks often have divisions so that children can see that some money is for saving, some is for spending, and some is for other purposes. Include a roll of coins with the gift, and the child can immediately begin learning valuable financial planning lessons. Check out the Laugh and Learn Piggy Bank, just $14.79 on Amazon.

Stock in a Company of Their Choice

If your child is a bit older, maybe it’s time to go beyond the saving and spending lessons and teach them about investing. Give them $25-$50 as a gift with the caveat that they must use it to purchase stock in a company. Show them how to sign up with an online broker. They may need to use a custodial account like Sharebuilder.com offers (check out their Give the Gift of Stock $25 bonus). Then they can pick a stock, and make the trade. No one is suggesting your kid go on to be a single stock day trader, but this lesson will help your child understand stock so they can grasp the more important lessons of continual, passive, diversified investing.

Math and Counting Games

LeapFrog Leapster ExplorerVoted the 2011 Educational Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry Association, the LeapFrog Leapster Explorer Learning Game System has several games that can help your child learn math, the foundation for a good financial education. This toy is made by one of my favorite companies, LeapFrog. I tend to like the traditional LeapFrog games and movies with little Tad, so I’d go for Math Circus. The system itself is currently selling for $59.97 on Amazon.

College Savings Accounts

Consider opening a 529 plan for a child on your list. In many cases, you can do this with as little as $25. Then, for every gift-giving occasion, you can add a little more money to the 529 plan. It will encourage the child to make his or her own contributions — and maybe even spur the child’s parents into action. This is a gift that offers tax advantages to the recipient, teaches the power of compound interest, and encourages sound financial habits. Plus, in some states, you can receive a state tax advantage for your contribution. Make sure that you check the restrictions of the plan before you invest. CollegeAdvantage.com is offering a $50 bonus to get started with a 529 College Savings for your child.

Money Counting iPhone App

For only $1.99 in the app store you can have Coin Math loaded on your iPhone. Coin Math teaches your kids to recognize and count money. It comes with voice instruction as well, so your smaller one can play. Now let’s just hope they don’t get rid of the penny anytime soon rendering that skill useless.

Toy Cash Register

Cash Register ToyAnother great money lesson comes from watching what happens at the cash register. Will you use cash or plastic? Debit or credit? Bring the cash register home from the store and let your child pretend to shop. Or let your child run the register while you shop. This Teaching Cash Register from Learning Resources runs $34.99 on Amazon.

Coins

2010 Silver Chinese Pandas 1ozMy grandmother gave me a silver dollar as a gift once. That silver dollar, minted in the 1800s, is worth about $22 today if melted down, according to coinflation.com. Coins can be fun gifts for children to receive. Consider giving gold coins or silver coins. These are small, shiny gifts that light up the eyes, and are likely to appreciate in value over time. At the very least, they are unlikely to decline in value. Make sure you get these coins from a reputable source.

Editor’s Note: Find several coin options at the U.S. Mint. I really like these Chinese Silver Panda coins from APMEX. I have no idea if they are priced correctly at $35, but I would have treasured one of these as a kid.

Monopoly

My sister and I used to play Monopoly for hours. If your children are old enough (8+) then will certainly enjoy this classic game and you can relive your childhood and join them for a game. There are now many varieties of Monopoly to choose from: Monopoly Classic, Monopoly Electronic Banking, Monopoly Millionaires, Monopoly Nintendo, and Monopoly Junior Party (5+), to name a few. Find it at Amazon.com for $16.87.

The Old School Abacus

AbacusAn Abacus is a great way for kids to visualize counting and perform simple math. The abacus, as you know, is the oldest form of calculator. Ancient societies used these to facilitate commerce. You can use one to help your kids learn to count. This Classic Wooden Abacus by Melissa and Doug will run you only $12.73 on Amazon. While it’s not a traditional Chinese or Japanese abacus, it will help you count to 10 billion if you use each row as a x10. For instance, the first row of beads counts as 1 each, and the second row count as 10 each.

Roth IRA

This one is a little trickier. The child in question will need to have earned income. If you are thinking of a gift for a teenager with an after school job, a Roth IRA might be the way to go. You can contribute the amount of the child’s earned income — up to the Roth IRA contribution limits — to a retirement account that can benefit the child for years. Plus, withdrawals are tax-free for the recipient once he or she reaches a certain age. On top of that, there are certain conditions (such as education) that allow for penalty-free withdrawals for the recipient. This is another gift that teaches the value of compound interest while it keeps on giving.

Learn About Money Placemat

If your kids eat like mine, they certainly need a placemat to catch all the crumbs. I love placemats with something on them to enrich your child’s eating experience. Kids can get pretty bored at the kitchen table, so having something for them to check out can save your sanity when trying to talk to your spouse. I loved the United States map placemat I had as a kid and I would have loved this Learn About Money Placemat. It teaches your children about the different coins and even provides a little math lesson by showing, for instance, how many pennies make up a nickel. Find it at Amazon.com for $4.98.

Toy Wallet

Toy Wallet and MoneyMy daughter loves playing with my wallet. She pulls all the cards out, looks at them, and then places them back in the wallet perfectly. It’s quite impressive actually. She needs her own wallet. I found this Cash N’ Carry Wallet, also from Learning Resources for $7.04 on Amazon.

Savings Bonds

Savings Bond Series EE 100My husband’s grandmother gave him a savings bond one year for Christmas when he was younger. It actually came in quite handy just after we were married, both in school, out of work, and in need of groceries. Savings bonds may not offer huge returns, but they do provide a gift that appreciates over time, and it provides a powerful example. You can even print out a gift certificate from the Treasury’s web site so that the recipient can have something tangible. Bonus: In most cases, the earnings from savings bonds are exempt from federal taxes if the child uses the money to pay for college.

Fun Book About Money Management

Book About MoneyOne of the more notable, yet simple money management books for kids is the short story, Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, by Judith Viorst. You can find it on Amazon for $9.99.

Another Children’s Book About Money

One of my favorite book series’ for children is the Berenstain Bears. I loved all of these books as a child and I enjoy reading them to my girls, although some of them can be quite involved (and my daughter does not let me skip pages or paraphrase). Anyway, the bears have a book about money, called The Trouble with Money. The moral of the story is delayed gratification and savings some money for a rainy day. You can buy it on Amazon.com for $4.99.

There is no reason to give children useless toys for Christmas. You can offer something much more valuable: A good financial start and solid financial advice.

What are some of the best money-related gifts you have given or received over the years?



Last Edited: December 19, 2013 @ 12:09 pm
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. I gave my niece $100 in a 529 a few years ago and now I contribute more money to that every year. My uncle bought me savings bonds when I was young, and I used them to pay bills in college. Now I’m giving back, and it feels great!

    • Philip Taylor says:

      That’s awesome, and inspiring. I have some nieces and nephews who could use something like that. Great idea to extend this beyond your own kids.

  2. Kathryn C says:

    Thanks for these! I have 2 nieces I need to buy for.

  3. RyanYates says:

    My sister and I were given savings bonds by our grandparents when we were very young. Then my parents decided to spend the money on dirt bikes when we were 15. The dirt bikes were fun, but now that I’m 30, I know it wasn’t the best decision they could have made. I definitely want to make better financial decisions than my parents. Our son already has a wallet, so this year I’m thinking Abacus.

  4. I know a couple in their 40′s with a 14 year old son. The parents are definitely not great financial role models. I have been giving the kid cash for the last few years for Christmas, but I called the Dad and asked him if it would be OK if I also open a bank account with the kid and start a business with him. He strikes me as the type to have an entrepreneurial spirit, and what kid doesn’t like making money? Dad was all for it.

    Dad is also getting a piggy bank for Christmas. I’m going to suggest that at the end of each month we count our change in our piggys. Whoever saved the least has to make dinner AND all of the change saved goes into the kid’s college fund.

    • Philip Taylor says:

      @nvannello That’s pretty honorable of you to be investing in someone else’s kid. Good on you.

      • @Philip Taylor Thanks, but I don’t think it’s out of the question to help a kid with his education. More than anything, I’m teaching him the tools to make money and giving him the knowledge how to handle his money. That’s the real gift.

        I have no kids of my own. I’m amassing money for retirement and decided that when I die I want to leave it to a foundation that helps kids go on field trips. When I was a kid, field trips expanded my world, brought out my curious nature and gave me an appreciation for different cultures. Sadly, because most schools don’t go on field trips, kids are living in more of a bubble than ever.

        Thanks for making me think outloud — Now I’m going to research how to start my own foundation!

  5. moneymatters says:

    Some cool financial gifts for kids

  6. There’s also an option that fills the gap between the piggy bank and the real bank – the virtual family bank. Mom/Dad are the “bankers” and the kids are the “customers”. The concept is described in the book The First National Bank of Dad and has gone online at a number of sites (like ours).

  7. DenverEric says:

    Great ideas PT. My intro to accounting teacher told us about when he bought his daughter a single share of Disney stock when she was little, and that he used to help her vote her share annually while teaching her about investing.
     
    I also love the coin idea. I have a coin collection that began when I was 10 years old. It has grown quite a bit in the nearly two decades I have had it.

  8. Great list!  But it is important to note that on the savings bonds, to qualify for the education exemption from tax on earnings, the bonds must be registered in the PARENT’s name, not the child’s.  See treasurydirect.gov for more.

  9. Great list Philip, had to print it out for future gifts for my 3 year old.  I actually bought the placemats this year, although it may be a little early for a 3 year old, but I just couldn’t wait to start teaching her about money!  Thanks

  10. I just gave my daughter a piggy bank and cash register. And she really loves collecting coins.