Parents all too often think more about the big gifts under the Christmas tree, and forget how excited children get about getting their own personal stocking with goodies inside and seeing cookies half eaten from Santa. While it might not be appropriate to include prepaid cell phones, iTunes cards, or the latest video games in stockings, it helps to set a price limit and stick to it.

There are so many parenting websites that offer the hottest ideas for spending less than five dollars per stocking item. From thumbing around on these sites, I have compiled some ten helpful suggestions for creating the best stocking stuffer this Christmas:

1. Choose a stocking theme for each child and stick to it. Maybe you have a child that really loves sports or crafts or ballet. Try to find objects and activity-centered gifts that speak to the child’s interests and passions.

2. Give children one gift card. By purchasing a five dollar gift card to a toy or book store, the child can go with you to pick out an item to donate to a non-profit organization. This is a great way to teach children the power of giving to the less fortunate without intimidating them.

3. Purchase coupon booklets. Another great gift idea is to purchase a fast-food coupon booklet for cookies or malts that a child can use after school or with friends.

4. Try to include a ticket to a museum. If there is a museum or movie that a child has been asking about, you can purchase them a child’s ticket. This way they learn that gifts don’t always have to be so tangible.

5. Include a hand-me down item. Ask each child in the house about one item they do not use anymore. Give that item to another child. If for some reason, the child will not use them that are okay. Try to encourage each child to donate the item to a non-profit organization or to give the item to a friend at school.

6. Include a personal certificate. What I mean by this is a including a personal note promising a free trip to the library, movie theater, or the mall. This makes children appreciate those trips so much more.

7. Include UNO game. Research shows this is the most widely given game. Its pocket size and great for many different age groups.

8. Include a craft activity. It’s a great idea to give children something they can make and enjoy for years to come. Whether it’s friendship bracelets or a kit to make a battleship.

9. Give a stocking suffer. Always try to include a small kit for a child to create a stocking for someone less fortunate.

10. Do your best to make what’s in the stocking stuffer relate to the larger Christmas gifts, by choosing smaller gifts that give hints. Children love to make guesses and will enjoy figuring out their larger gift.

The main purpose of the stocking stuffer this season should be to spend less and encourage children to be philanthropic. With most of these ideas, children can easily learn the value of being kind to their neighbors and greater community.

This has been a guest post by Vanessa Burke.

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