Not a single adult has ever looked back at their handling of money and thought, “Yep, I did it just right – there is no room for improvement.” Instead, there is likely a strong desire to magically return to your teenage self and drop the wisdom to start saving more, spending less, staying debt-free, and building up investments. Though we cannot travel back to a younger version of ourselves, we can help the next generation by passing on the knowledge found in The Complete Guide to Personal Finance: For Teenagers ($16), as it’s one of those subjects that teens cannot learn about soon enough.
Kids in the tween/teen years are exploring their independence, and being mindful of what it’s going to take to survive. Money management is a key factor here. Twelve year olds are thinking of how can they buy their own iPads or video games, mid-teens are thinking about getting the car they hope to drive, and older teens are thinking about how to pay for college. Do I need to get a job? A savings account? A loan? It’s crucial that teens learn about personal finance before they get approached with credit card offers the moment they step onto a college campus, and this book a great introduction to personal finance for teens.
In addition to the warnings about falling into debt as soon as they are legally able to, this book also touches on personal banking, budgeting, taxes, and just all around being fiscally responsible. The author (Tamsen Butler) has a very approachable and informative voice. Learning about personal finance for teens can be a tricky thing to approach by a parent, as the parent may – as much as they might not want to admit it – have a habit of talking down their kids, or feel a tendency to dangle the fact that the kid has been financially supported by the parent for their entire life. Whether or not that’s the case, Butler’s book encourages kids to bring the topic up to parents, so allowing the kids to learn from another source, such as this book, may be a nice way to introduce the topic into discussions at home. When it comes for a good gift for teens, fiscal responsibility tops the charts.
If you are looking for a good quality gift for a five- to seven-year-old, the Quadrilla Vertigo Marble Railway ($124) wooden marble run is dizzying fun. The Vertigo set, like the other Quadrilla sets, provides a collection of interchangeable pieces for creating marble runs in many configurations. Kids will enjoy assembling marble paths from the curved wood tracks, funnels, and an assortment of blocks made from high quality natural wood, with each configuration changing the marble’s path. With add-ons available from other Quadrilla wooden marble run sets, this set will be a repeat favorite for multiple kids in the same household, and even multiple generations.
Marble run construction sets allow kids to exercise logic, math, and physics on a basic level. They realize “to make the marble run this way, I need to add another block to this tower”. Especially when wanting to build their own marble run maze, they will strategize and reason when planning out the run. This type of toy rewards being constructive, as they will want to build the biggest track, using the most pieces, as they can. While friends will want to play with it, too, a wooden marble run constructive toy is also good for independent play, as kids can guide their creations and control their own pace. This type of play is quite important for kids’ development.
The Quadrilla marble run sets are a well-crafted series of toys, easily approachable by kids as young as five, and provide an outlet for creating and problem solving. It’s a simple toy that makes kids want to challenge their own limitations. They will be proud to show off their ingenuity in assembling their own marble railway.
For both boys and girls in the two-year-old, three-year-old, and four-year-old age range, a neat gift would be theMelissa & Doug Lace and Trace Shapes ($13) lacing set. It consists of a set of different types of painted shapes in the package – all made from sturdy and durable card material – that have punched holes in them, and a variety of colorful shoe string-like laces that can be run through the holes in whatever fashion the child desires. Kids in this range are learning about patterns, as well as practicing the motor dexterity of maneuvering these laces in and out of the holes. It’s a good opportunity to reinforce recognizable shapes and colors, to talk about sewing, introduce the idea of tying shoes, and encourage the concept of making a pattern.. Melissa and Doug products are known to be quality products with a trusted playability with children.
An indoor riding toy with lots of sounds, colors, things for little hands to tinker with – the Chicco Sit ‘N Ride Train ($54) can be hard to resist. When my son had a similar riding toy, he would push it and pull it everywhere, and press all the various buttons to make sounds, and really loved getting things in and out of the storage compartment under the seat. This is especially lots of fun for the 12-18 month range – great for kids to practice their walking, and older ones in the 18-month range can practice getting on and off the seat. At different stages they may have more fun doing different things (pushing it vs riding it), but even for ones just learning to pull themselves up, they will find the buttons on the steering wheel a rewarding activity. My kids even played with theirs up until they were over three years old (although not ideal new gift for that particular age range). It’s smaller than most outdoor riding toys, so it’s relatively gentle for indoor play. The batteries really last a while as well.
Even if there isn’t much to hide, there is certainly a novel (ahem) coolness with owning a Book Safe ($14) from Southwest Specialty Products. Made from a real hardback book (title would vary), it’s a pretty inconspicuous spot for the built-in hidden compartment. Likely kids wouldn’t hide anything at all, as it would be hard to resist showing it off to friends. And perhaps instill a desire for them to take a second look at their parent’s bookshelves!
Kids going through middle childhood are starting to grow a bit independent from their parents, and since parents are likely to be the ones encouraging kids to read, in many cases to a nagging degree (at least from the child’s point of view), there is a certain paradoxical humor that one can share by giving a book that isn’t really a book at all, but instead playfully encourages diversion.
A book safe is the kind of thing that entices the owner to want to know how it was put together, and perhaps see if they could do it themselves. If the child wants to take on such a craft, this should be encouraged! It can open the door to even more types of crafts. There are some great tutorials online for creating a book safe from scratch. In the meantime, this particular gift is a good starting point to see if it catches their attention.
Kids love making music, and when you are ready to let them unleash their inner rocker, try the durable Winfun Sing N Play Magic Keyboard ($50). Younger kids will like the microphone and playing with the tempo of built-in sounds, while older ones will like using the recording feature to play back their own riffs. All kids will like the scratchpad and exploring the beats and styles. It also comes with 4 AA batteries, so it’s ready to play right out of the package.
Introducing music to kids as early as babies is a fun way to play. While most toys and activities skew on the side of being visual/tactile, an audio-tactile toy is helpful for development and learn music and songs. Kids may be graduating from a musical xylophone of their early toddler years, so a keyboard introduces much more: more octave range, sharp/flat notes (the black keys!), as well as all the bells and whistles that the electronic side can provide (prerecorded beats, alternate instrument sounds, etc.).
Starting a kid on a keyboard like the Winfun isn’t relegated to just child’s play. It’s good to show that real music can be made with toys as simple as this one. Songs like “Happy Birthday” and “Joy to the World” would be easy ones to pick up and teach. This music keyboard for kids can be used to enhance the songs that families sing together. Singing songs together is a very effective teaching tool, and adding a keyboard to the mix can show how teams help make music together.
But additionally, the keyboard is a draw even for singular playtime. Kids enjoy exploring what all the options are, and how they can work together. Prerecorded beats are chosen to represent, or even influence, their mood. From dancing fast, to stomping around slow, a music keyboard for kids can get them moving, learning, singing, and playing.
Whether you are familiar or a fan of the popular Jake and the Neverland Pirates show on the Disney Channel, being able to play along with Jake’s Musical Pirate Ship Bucky ($45) is be fun for any kid. Little ones can fire water-ball projectiles from the spring-loaded cannon, or engage with the Tick Tock Croc which springs out from behind a door. Lots of audible action phrases, and a pirate adventure song. Note – it’s not a bath toy(!), but even on dry land, this is a fun one for kids to enjoy.
As a parent, you may have been waiting for this book your child’s entire life. Capture the interest of your young chef with Teens Cook: How to Cook What You Want to Eat ($14), written by teens for teens. This well-written book features easy-to-follow recipes with great illustrations. Enjoy wide range of tasty meals for all taste buds. Teens can learn how to cook alternatives to what they normally eat when dining out, and enjoy building confidence in the kitchen in the process. If you’re ever going to get served breakfast in bed, you might as well give your teen the right tools to make it happen! A solid kitchen instruction book for teens like Teens Cook is the manual they need.