Gifts to Grow On
A great present doesn’t always come from a toy store. Here are some ideas for unusual or creative gifts that could make lasting impressions, build character – and get big smiles.

Save the World. Kids are passionate about the natural world. Programs like the Defenders of Wildlife let you “adopt” a wild animal in a child’s name. For $25, choose among animals such as wolves, dolphins, elephants, tigers and more. Kids receive an adoption certificate and a plush replica of the animal. But, it can take 3-4 weeks to receive the adoption package unless you use express shipping., 800-385-1972.

An art class, horseback riding lessons, ballet classes – these are all memorable experiences that last long beyond the after-holiday slump. Make it fun by putting something corresponding under the tree – a beautiful set of paints, a velvety hardhat or new ballet slippers.

Becoming a member and a regular visitor to a museum lets kids feel a real connection with some of the finest museums in the world.

Magazine Subscriptions.
Magazines mean that something comes in the mail every month, just for your child. Consider the magazines for toddlers and kids by the National Wildlife Federation: Wild Animal Baby, Your Big Backyard and Ranger Rick.

Invest in the nation – and, perhaps, in your child’s after-graduation trip to Europe. (It’ll be happening before you know it!) If grandparents make this a yearly tradition, even a small contribution can add up over the years. Hey, somebody’s got to pay for that Eurail pass.

Gift Certificates.
Sure, you can give them a certificate to a department or toy store. But why not relive your childhood and make a gift certificate for your kids? Redeemable for ice cream, breakfast in bed or even a “Go to the Zoo with Dad” pass? Or give kids a real gift certificate to a real restaurant; they get to take mom and dad (or grandma and grandpa) out on the town, and take care of the bill at the end.

Larissa Phillips