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Values-based holiday shopping

Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee is a refrain parents hear from (at least) November 'til the end of the holidays. It's hard to blame children for their insatiable requests for more and bigger gifts as marketers bombard them with "must have" options and their friends have parents who are dealing out the goods. It's difficult for a kid not to be motivated by other boys and girls shouting, "I'm getting a Furby!" or "My parents bought me a Game Boy Micro!"

One of the toughest tasks for a parent in this materialistic mayhem is to teach values. But the moms and dads who come out on top are the ones who stick to the program of educating their children about moderation, the needs of the less fortunate, and what's more important than the things we own. Here are some ideas for instilling principle in young consumers.

Gifts for kids to give to others

1. Let's list again
I've frequently recommended that a parent not even step foot in a retail outlet without first having made a list of things his or her child may want. Preparing in advance allows you to set a number of gifts and a budget in advance, thereby managing a child's expectations and teaching them the limits of money. The same thing applies when shopping for other family members and friends.

Have your kids make a list of things they want to give to each person, working with them on the budget and the appropriateness of each gift. While you do this, discuss with them why they are choosing the specific present and what they think the result of the giving the gift will be. Often, children are disappointed by the reactions their friends or family give when receiving an item. Before this happens, teach your child that it is indeed the thought that counts and that giving is its own reward. You can tell them that not everyone has the ability to understand this, so it's important to derive self-satisfaction from the act of giving.

2. Give unto others what you would give your kid
For friends, give what your kids would want for themselves. Have them tell you what to get or have them shop for it themselves. Of course, a young girl may not want a "Bonecrusher 2005" for Christmas, so you should do a little guiding about the recipient. But buying something your child values puts the friend on an equal footing.

A couple of other tips: While shopping, buy two for the holidays or birthdays. Or keep the list of what you buy and return to the stores for sales on those same items.

3. Be personal
For relatives, give something personal. Create-your-own pottery, handmade cards, photo albums with photos of special times spent together. What counts is how the gift connects with a friend or loved one.

Beyond disposable -- Fun and worthwhile gifts for kids

1. The Gift of Time
A museum pass or amusement park pass provides your kids with an opportunity to spend more time with you. Also consider "gift certificates" with dates for times you will take one child out with mom or dad for special dinners or other outings.

2. Year 'round gifts
In addition to the museum or park passes, try joining a book club in their name or make your own book club good for 5 to 10 books throughout the year and stamp a homemade card each time you buy one with your child.

3. Philanthropy
Teach your children about those who don't have the same privileges. Have them choose a toy to send to a charitable organization. Take them to the donation place so they can see the people who are getting these gifts. Making it personal will have a more lasting effect on a child who needs to understand that others don't have it as good as him.

4. Board games
Board games, a deck of cards, puzzles for family times. Ages two on up will like this option, which increases family time.

These ideas are some of many others that creative, values-minded parents can use. At the core of the suggestions are understanding the needs of others and realizing that the time we spend with each other trump any video game or fashionable clothing that money can buy.

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