Gifts with meaning for kids

Updated 1:53 PM ET, Mon December 16, 2013
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Looking for ways to make the holiday more meaningful than a toy or stuffed animal? Read on for unique gift-giving suggestions from parents around the country.

Amanda Rodriguez's 5-year-old son spent time at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington earlier this year. To thank the hospital, the Dude Mom blogger had him select gifts to help fill its toy closet for children who won't be home for the holidays.
Courtesy Amanda Rodriguez
Jen Bosse, a mom of two, says more parents are "gifting experiences" rather than giving material goods. Whether it's a museum visit or a family trip, there are many such activities that are "often much more valuable in the long run than a new set of Legos or a Barbie Dream House," said Bosse, who blogs at Defining My Happy. Courtesy Jen Bosse
Lori Garcia, founder of the site Mommyfriend, says one of the greatest gifts she's given her sons, ages 6 and 11, are lessons at their community's parks and recreation department in Southern California. Here, the boys learn how to bowl. It's a "great way to not only educate and inspire them but provide them with new experiences that last much longer than the short-lived joy of a new toy," Garcia said. Courtesy Lori Garcia
Since Rhona Maulano's son was 5, she's been giving him a book each Christmas, Hanukkah and birthday. She writes a note about its message inside the book's cover and why it matters. The tradition continues to this day between Maulano and her son, now 25. "It's so easy to get caught up in the materialism, but you need to make a special point of what holidays are really about," said Maulano of Plantation, Florida. Courtesy Rhona Maulano
Devra Gordon, a mom of two in Northern Virginia, makes playlists for her children on the digital music platform Spotify during Hanukkah, and they do the same for her. "Sharing our past and present in music is akin to creating life soundtracks," said Gordon, a clinical social worker and co-author of the book "Mommy Guilt." Courtesy Devra Gordon
Single mom Beth Engelman, co-founder of the site Mommy on a Shoestring, joined other families in her community and adopted a classroom in downtown Chicago. Her son Jackson was responsible for buying gifts for two second-graders like himself. "Buying gifts for these kids who asked for shoes, clothes and an Easy Bake Oven meant more to me and Jackson than anything we could buy for ourselves," Engelman said. Courtesy Beth Engelman
Carmen Jones-Weaks says her 10-year-old daughter Brooke's favorite possession is her laptop. To further the child's computer skills, she decided to give her daughter classes to Black Girls Code, an organization that exposes girls of color to technology and computer programming. "I believe that Black Girls Code is a gift that I can give her that is a boost to her self-esteem," Jones-Weaks said, "a gift that will last a lifetime, educational without being boring." Courtesy Carmen Jones-Weaks
Sarah Walton, a mom of two and founder of Better Way Moms, has a lot of unique gift ideas for children that don't involve material possessions. These include sponsoring a girl in Africa or an orphan in the Philippines to go to school as well as taking gifts to homeless shelters and hospitals to making a "special date" with parents. Courtesy Sarah Walton
Susan Shaffer Guess of Paducah, Kentucky, says she and her family leave notes in each other's stockings. Her two girls, 10 and 15, decided a few years ago to keep the old notes in the stockings and read them on Christmas. "It always makes me smile, brings a tear to my eyes, and reminds me how much we have to be grateful for," said Guess, co-founder of a foundation to fight bullying. Courtesy Susan Shaffer Guess
When Cathy Futrowsky's girls, now 11 and 13, were younger, she and her husband asked them to pick out eight or more of their possessions to give away during Hanukkah. "We were trying to teach them about sharing with others, charity, and ... learning what to do without versus keeping things with sentimental value," said the Silver Spring, Maryland, mom. Courtesy Cathy Futrowsky
Rebecca Levey got her twin daughters a subscription to Discovery Girls, a magazine for young tweens. "The magazine is great, very empowering and positive and I think it's fun to get something via snail mail," said Levey, a co-founder of a video-sharing platform called KidzVuz. Courtesy Rebecca Levey
Micky Marie Morrison, a physical therapist, author and creator of BabyWeightTV, bought her 11-year-old son two domain names this year to help him start a website. "He likes to write and wants to share his experiences, so I thought, what better gift?" said Morrison of Islamorada, Florida. Courtesy Micky Marie Morrison