Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick is a freelance writer and editor who contributes regularly to SheKnows, MintLife, AOL, iVillage and other sites. In her articles, Elizabeth covers a variety of subjects including relationships, pregnancy, paren...
Sometimes stockings are the most fun when they're stuffed and overflowing, but you don't need dozens of gifts to make your kid's Christmas. Sometimes it's one or two simple and meaningful gifts that can make a child's holiday memorable. Take a look at this list of age-appropriate suggestions (that won't break your budget) for kindergarteners through teens.
Creativity rules: Chances are, your five-year-old is a fan of anything that allows her to express herself. You can't go wrong with an art-themed stocking filled with construction paper, markers, crayons, coloring books, glitter paste, stickers and even Play-Doh. It'll keep them busy for hours and this is one gift that Mom and Dad won't be spending half the day trying to put together!
Story teller: When you have a busy kindergartener who's proudly getting the hang of reading, there's no better gift than books. Keep them thinking and learning even further by filling that stocking with educational activity books that feel more like fun than like homework. Top it off with a colorful journal and pencils so they can start penning and illustrating their own stories.
Stuff it: The Webkinz World is populated by plush little pets that will teach your child responsibility while letting them have fun at the same time. Each comes with a secret code to be entered online, opening up a place for kids to care for their virtual pet and more. And, for the kid who just loves hugs and doesn't need anything computer-related to put a smile on their face, don't underestimate the power of a cuddly, lovable, old-fashioned teddy bear. That's the kind of stocking stuffer they'll really remember for years to come.
Well read: Every kid loves receiving mail, and they'll feel especially important when they have a magazine subscription finding their way to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to pre-teen staples (make sure they arrive in your child's name!) like Highlights or Nick Magazine. Or think about your kid's favorite hobbies and purchase accordingly whether they're a science fanatic (Discovery Kids) or sports junkie (Sports Illustrated Kids). Grab the latest issue and tie with a bow for a stocking stuffer that'll please all year long.
Snap to it: Whether you have a budding photographer or a camera hog on your hands, your observant child will feel extra-special to be gifted with their very own digital camera so they can document life as it's seen through their eyes. The kid-friendly camera designs available from companies like Fisher Price, Polaroid and VTech are half the fun, and you can find a price that's right for your budget. See how imaginative your child can get, starting with Christmas Day.
Retro fun: Introduce your kid to toys that have stood the test of time. Puzzle-lovers will revel in the challenge of a Rubik's Cube. The artistically inclined will find a myriad of ways to make use of some Silly Putty. From yo-yos to pick-up-sticks to card games, the idea is to get your child away from the computer and the TV and into their own imagination. You too can have fun with tiddlywinks, jacks, marbles, giant chalk or even a pocket-sized Etch-a-Sketch.
Tweens and Teens
Handheld technology: Is your tween or teen at that age where he's embarrassed to even have a stocking? A piece of handheld technology popular with the teen crowd might be just the ticket to putting a smile on his face and reminding him that no one is ever too old to reach into that glorified sock and pull out some fun. Determine what's in your budget – from cell phone accessories to an iPod Shuffle (colorful, cool and under $50) – then buy, wrap and stuff.
Online freedom: The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that the 87% of those between the ages of 12 and 17 are online – but you already know how computer savvy your teen is. Snag some web space from affordable options like 1and1.com and GoDaddy.com so your kids can create their own website or blog. Print up a handful of homemade business cards with their vitals and new web address and fill up that stocking. Your kid will consider you a hip parent – just let them know you'll be monitoring their action online.
Event tickets: You may not understand the appeal of the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, David Cook or Chris Brown, but you know that your tween or teen has got it bad for the latest musical sensations. Want to make them feel especially cool? Score a few tickets to one of their favorite artist's upcoming concerts. Find the dates and places closest to your home at TicketMaster.com where you can easily purchase seats online and print out e-tickets, perfect for a stocking stuffer.
The power of plastic: If you really find yourself at wits end not knowing how to please your teen, wrap up a few gift cards to their favorite stores. Select a one-stop-shop like Amazon, or opt for a gift card to iTunes (the perfect complement to that iPod Shuffle). The denominations don't have to be huge, but giving your teen the ability to buy whatever they like will make them feel like you trust their choices. And that can go a long way toward establishing a very merry holiday.
Stockings are important – and filling them with more than just plastic toys or candy can make that morning race to the mantel (or wherever you hang your stockings) something the kids look forward to year after year.