What to get your grandkids for the holidays

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Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. A financial gift that grows over time or an experience that creates a happy memory will last much longer than a material item that will take up space in a closet. 

Of course, before giving a gift that’s off the beaten path, it’s always wise to check in with the parents first. But once you have their go-ahead, you can’t really go wrong with these gift ideas.

Any age

Gifts you give in these early years will have plenty of time to build value. Whether the recipient is a newborn or getting ready to head off to college, it's a great time to set up a financial gift that will grow alongside your grandchild. You could give:

  • Savings account. You can add to it every year and watch the compound interest build.
  • Certificate. The longer you let it mature—up to 5 years—the more interest it will earn.

Ages 5-12

These are the ages when kids develop the skills and qualities that will shape who they become. The most meaningful gifts are those that create a special memory while helping them build skills they can draw upon for the rest of their lives. For instance, giving grandchildren swimming lessons every year to set them up for a lifetime of enjoying the water. Other ideas include:

  • Matching donation. The joy of giving truly is one of the best gifts you can give a child. For every dollar you give or spend on them, consider giving an equal amount to donate. They could give it to a charity of their choice or give it to a friend in need.
  • Moon jar. Like a piggy bank that is accompanied with financial education that encourages children to divide their money into three categories; save, spend and share.
  • Summer camp. A camp aligned with your grandchild’s interests could be the experience of a lifetime, and there are programs available to suit any interest. There are even camps that help kids who love technology develop skills that could one day become a career.
  • Prepaid pass. Help your grandchild pursue their passion or try out something they really want to do with a prepaid pass to an activity such as an indoor trampoline park, bounce house, roller skating, ice skating, go-karts, or the arcade.

Ages 13-18

Today’s teens are all about experiences. They love being able to post photos on Instagram and say, “Been there, did that.” The right experience will depend on your grandchild’s interests and maturity level. Here are a few ideas:

  • Prepaid pass. Teenagers are most interested in activities they can do with their friends, such as paintball, laser tag, bowling, mini-golf, or the movies.
  • Adventure outing. Tap into their sense of adventure with a thrilling experience such as a hot air balloon ride, helicopter ride, zip lining, rock climbing, or snowboarding.
  • Concert tickets. One way to get teens to take off their headphones is to give them tickets to see the band live instead.

College students

College students want to get the most out of their college years, but funding is often tight. Gifts that help ease the financial strain a bit or allow them to enjoy luxuries that aren’t in their budget are usually appreciated. For example:

  • Digital gifts. Young adults get most of their entertainment and many of the things they need online. You could give a subscription or gift card for Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, Xbox Live, or one of the other online services they love.
  • Gas card. College students love road trips. Whether they’re coming home for weekend visits or saving up for a spring break trip, a prepaid gas card can help them get there.
  • Gift card. Gift cards can help college students live it up a little even when they’re strapped for cash. Some good places include coffee shops, nearby eateries, frozen yogurt, and the on-campus student store.

The best gifts are both meaningful and fun. These ideas can help you make the holidays memorable at any age.