20 Fantastic Financial Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids

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.

If you want to build good financial habits, you might try something a little bit different. You might consider providing the kids in your life with a financial gift.

There are many useful financial gifts that can keep on giving–while providing children with a solid financial foundation for the future.

Piggy Bank

Young 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.

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Piggy Bank Price: $14.99 Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Piggy Bank

Money Jars

While piggy banks are a great first savings tool for younger kids, older kids can get more out of more targeting savings strategies. Around seven is a great time start teaching your child how to save for his goals and using mason jars that represent each of his goals can encourage positive savings habits.

Purchase several mason jars and write a goal on each jar. You may want to start with three jars and label them “spend”, “save”, and “donate”.

If your child has a specific goal they're trying to achieve, label the jar accordingly. Then put $5-$10 in each jar to get them started. Seeing their money grow will motivate them to continue to save. This is a great gift for helping your child build strong financial habits.

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 a company like Stockpile where they can buy stock using a gift card you provide. Then they can pick a stock, and make the trade. You could even make the gift more educational by challenging them to track their stock's progress over a year. Check in with them quarterly to help them see how their stock is doing, and offer to match their earnings next Christmas to invest in another stock.

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

Previously voted the Educational Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry Association, the LeapFrog LeapPad 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.

LeapFrog LeapPad Ultimate Price: $79.00 LeapFrog LeapPad Ultimate

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.

Educational Money Apps

There are a number of apps that have been created to help teach your kids about money. As an added bonus, many of them are FREE! Here are several of the best educational money apps for kids:

Savings Spree ($5.99 on iTunes) is set up like a game show hosted by the Money Savvy Pig, where each round teaches your child about a financial concept such as investing or short-term and long-term savings. Players learn how saving, spending, donating, and investing money all affect their bottom line. Making wise choices means the player is awarded money, and the user with the largest nest egg at the end wins. This game is geared for children aged five and up (there is some reading in the game play), but it can easily be played with littler ones with Mom and Dad's help.

Star Banks Adventure (free on iTunes) is a game created by T. Rowe Price to teach children aged 8-14 six key lessons: setting a financial goal, saving and spending wisely, asset allocation, inflation, and diversification. Game play is similar to Candy Crush, and your kids will actively enjoy learning how to be good with money.

The Game of Life ($2.99 on Google Play and iTunes) is based on the board game you remember from your childhood. Just like the game you played in your cousin's basement, The Game of Life app is a colorful journey through the major decisions of life. You decide how to budget, save, and make big purchases like a college education or a house. Having an opportunity to practice making these choices in an app can give your kids an excellent framework for learning how to make great choices when they face them in real life. This game is geared to children seven and up.

Toy Cash Register

Another 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 looks perfect.

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Cash Register Price: $21.24 Learning Resources Pretend & Play Cash Register

Coins

My grandmother gave me a silver dollar as a gift once. That silver dollar, minted in the 1800's, 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 the Chinese Silver Panda coins from APMEX. I have no idea if they are priced correctly, but I would have treasured one of these as a kid.

Another great coin option is to give your child a state series coin collection map so they can start a collection of the statehood quarters. This will not only be a great geography lesson for your child, but it will also encourage her to really look at the coins that pass through her life, rather than just spending them–an excellent habit to get into in childhood.

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.

Monopoly Junior Board Game Price: $12.79 Monopoly Junior Board Game

The Old School Abacus

An 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 $14.99 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.

Are you looking to give more than just plastic toys to your kids for Christmas this year? Check out these 20 fantastic financial gifts for kids. #ptmoney #giftideas

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.

I would have loved this Learn About Money Placemat. This mat can help teach your children about the different coins and even provides a little math lesson by showing, for instance, how many pennies make up a nickel.

"Learning About Money" Placemat Price: $5.20

Toy Wallet

My 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.

Learning Resources Cash 'N' Carry Wallet Price: $9.49 Learning Resources Cash 'N' Carry Wallet

Savings Bonds

My grandmother gave me a savings bond one year for Christmas when I 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

One 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.

Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday Price: $5.95 Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday

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 kids, 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.

One last classic children's book on money is A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams. In this story, after Rosa's home is destroyed by a fire, she and her grandmother and mother start saving up money to buy a big, comfortable chair that the mother can rest in after a long day at work. This lovely story of perseverance, family love, and frugality will be a hit with everyone in your family.

A Chair for My Mother 25th Anniversary Edition (Reading Rainbow Books) Price: $6.98 A Chair for My Mother 25th Anniversary Edition (Reading Rainbow Books)

The Scholarship System Course

If you have an older child, you are probably already thinking about how you will pay for college. With the rising cost of higher education, you need resources and tools to aid with education expenses. It’s also important to have your child participate in the process.

The Scholarship System Course was designed to help your high-school student find grants and scholarships to pay for their college education.

This is a great gift to help your student become proactive with paying for their college education.

Donate in Your Child's Name

‘Tis the season for giving. Giving to charity teaches your children empathy. By giving to charity, they are lending a hand to those who are less fortunate than them. Giving essentially teaches them to be grateful for what they already have.

Give your child $25-$50 to donate to the charity of their choice. You can either write a check or deliver it directly to the organization.

Puzzle Pod Junior

Every child loves receiving money or gift cards. Why not try adding an interactive component to the mix to make it more exciting?

With the Puzzle Pod Junior, you must complete a personalized puzzle in order to receive a gift. This gift encourages your child to use their problem-solving skills in order to crack the code and receive their money.

Help Them Start a Business

If you have an entrepreneur in the family, give your child the tools they need to start a business. There are plenty of businesses your child could start at a young age. For example, you could give them money to start a blog or a professional camera to take photos of a product they want to sell.

Brainstorm ways you can help your child begin building their own business.

The Allowance Game

This board game, for children aged 5-11, lets players earn money by collecting their allowance every time they go “home”, or by doing chores, starting their own business, or earning interest on their savings. You can spend money in this game at the mall, at garage sales, or simply by losing cash out of your pockets. The first player to save up $20 wins.

Though the options in this game are a little dated (kids are more likely to spend their money online than at the mall these days), the game offers realistic problems (who hasn't misplaced cash from a pocket?), play money that helps reinforce money knowledge, and a great introduction to the various ways kids can earn money other than just asking at the bank of Mom and Dad.

You can get The Allowance Game for $16.99, and have a great time playing it as a family.

The Bottom Line

Don't default into thinking you HAVE to give children just 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?

Christmas Gift Ideas for Children

Comments

  1. Michele Cooper says:

    Thanks for the ideas Philip.

    I think saving bonds make excellent financial gifts and since they can be owned by kids they can learn about compound interest and the benefits of investing over the long term. Also getting financial advice from a planner can help children understand value of saving money and investing.

    Toy cash register and Toy wallet are some very good ideas for Christmas gifts.

  2. Donna Freedman says:

    My life partner puts money into his young granddaughter’s college fund for birthdays and Christmas. The rest of the family loads her down with toys and other gifts, so she doesn’t notice that he isn’t giving her anything tangible.

    When it’s time to pay for school, the monetary gifts will be worth so much more than those other, fleeting pleasures.

  3. I like to do a “practical” gift for each of my kids each Christmas. Helping them build a tool set with a new, quality tool each year, for example. They’re less than impressed right now, but at some point I believe they’ll come to be grateful for it.

    I also like to do an oz. of silver from a foreign country. A US Silver Eagle is cool, but something from a foreign country is memorizing to a kid.

    Good list PT

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

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  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. 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).

  9. moneymatters says:

    Some cool financial gifts for kids

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

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

  13. 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.