When the holidays roll around, it can be difficult to imagine what to get for a child who has nearly everything. If your child’s closet is bulging with toys, it might be time to come up with surprises he or she will appreciate without needing to find an empty corner of the bedroom in which to store it.
A young child might not appreciate an alternative gift that doesn’t have at least a something in it just for them. So a good compromise might be adopting an animal from Lincoln Park Zoo, www.lpzoo.com, or Brookfield Zoo, www.brookfieldzoo.org. Lincoln Park Zoo typically has a featured adoption package that includes a plush toy. Brookfield Zoo’s “Share the Care” program allows you to choose a particular zoo animal and provides a magnet, sticker and certificate plus four tickets to the zoo so you can visit your animal.
For school-age kids, there are more possibilities. Consider buying a family membership to a museum. Ranging in price from $85-$150, family memberships provide unlimited free admission, discounts, tickets to special events and other perks. If you have a little more to spend, consider pairing a family membership with a class at the museum for each child.
Or, consider making a donation to a worthy cause on your child’s behalf. Heifer International, www.heifer.org, promotes self-reliance by giving animals to Third World villages. For a $20 donation, your child can give a duck, goose or chicken. Larger animals cost more, ranging from $120 for a sheep to $250 for a buffalo, but you can purchase a “share” of a larger animal for between $10 and $50.
’Tweens might appreciate having their personal horizons broadened with a subscription to the theater, such as Broadway in Chicago (www.broadwayinchicago.com) or a student membership to a museum. The Shedd Aquarium offers Trainer for a Day, an expensive but interesting program that’s perfect for the budding marine biologist. (For more on that, see page 32.)
For the more altruistic adolescent, consider helping him change the world with a donation to protect the rainforest, www.ran.org, or adopt a whale, www.whales.org/adopt2.htm.
All children (even those too old to actually admit it) would like more of your time, so give them the gift of yourself. Make Activity Day coupons that promise a tea party at the American Girl store or a hike at Starved Rock State Park. Or sign up for a parent-child class at your park district or community college—just be sure to choose a class that will interest both of you.
With a little creativity and effort, you can dream up a gift that embodies the spirit of the holidays and creates new family memories.