Kids have too much stuff, says any parent who has waited for a child to scurry off to school so she could ninja-sneak all the lonely, untouched toys into the local donation bin. Instead of buying Malibu Stacy with a new hat or Superman with a new cape, consider buying your kid stocks instead.
Some parents have declared war on toys, and I stand with them. Friends online gave me some great non-toy gift options for birthdays and holidays -- museum memberships, baseball game outings, donations to cool nonprofits in the child's name -- but one idea that really fascinated me was stocks.
Stocks are something I would have never, ever considered -- when I read the suggestion, I actually thought someone had misspelled "socks." But the process of giving stocks is way more fun than it sounds - it also turns the gift into an ongoing learning activity. The hope is that kids will gain a sense of ownership over their financial future.
The beauty of this is that the two of you still get to "play" with the present - but unlike most toys, the playtime will actually teach them something valuable. (If you've never invested before, you'll be learning right alongside them.) They can go online any time to see how the stock is performing, which will encourage them to learn why its value may be going up or down. (If you hear screams of "No! No! NO!" and a little head banging against the keyboard, it's possible that the market has crashed.)
If they're old enough to own a smartphone, another option is Acorn. This is a finance app that turns loose change into financial investments.
If a kid is really into it, parents might want to use an app called BusyKid for $US12 ($16) a year. When the child completes tasks on the chore list, he can opt to use his allowance to invest in stock.
It's an opportunity for the whole family to learn about investment and money management, essential life skills. Just be aware of your tax obligations when gifting stocks to kids - the ATO has a great guide here.