But rather than add to the toy box litter, why not try some other options that can help build better life skills, closer relationships and lifelong memories?
1. Mom and Dad coupons
Print a stack of coupons your child will be sure to use, such as "Daddy helps with the dishes" or "Mom helps put away toys." This is a great way to get some extra one-on-one time with a child while he or she does a chore. You can also make coupons for a one-on-one night out with the child. Every child looks forward to an evening out with Mom or Dad.
2. Sleepover with grandparents
Kids love a sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa. And the grandparents will love the chance to spend time with their grandchildren. The parents get a nice break. Say it with me — best gift ever!
3. Empty envelopes
Give your child three fancy envelopes, each with one of these words on it: "Spending," "Saving," "Giving." Anytime the child earns money, divide it into the three envelopes. Popular personal finance guru Dave Ramsey recommends 40 percent for spending, 40 percent for saving and 20 percent for giving. Pick what sounds best for your family. This is a great way to teach kids about the importance of budgeting. A child needs to realize that you are better off in the long run if you tell your money what to do in advance. Some might whine about having only 40 percent of their money to spend on whatever they want. Tell your child you would love to have 40 percent, but because you have bills and other needs, you actually spend much less than this on your wants. And helping your child set up an early habit of looking for ways to give is a great lesson to start early.
4. Empty boxes
It's a common parental observation that kids under a certain age are more likely to play with the box the present came in, instead of the gift itself. How about going gung-ho and just giving a bunch of big, empty boxes that can be used to build a castle, fort, palace, pirate ship or anything your child can dream up?
This is a great gift to a child approaching adolescence. Put a fancy announcement in a box proclaiming the child has received a trip with parents to an amusement park, national park or some other major destination. It could be a few hours away and involve an overnight stay. Take the time to talk to and bond with your child, and learn more about their everyday lives.