Creative Gift Ideas for Kids

If you have a little one on your holiday shopping list, you may find what many parents already know - today's toy stores have more and more unsavory toys on their shelves...

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Treat Your Family to a Game Night

Finding family time during the holiday season can be surprisingly difficult. One fun way to make family time a priority is by scheduling a family game night - no cell phones, TVs or other distractions allowed...

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Don't Let the Holidays Get You Down

For many of us the high expectations and busy schedules that accompany the holiday season can become overwhelming. Depression and anxiety are common this time of year....

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Creative Gift Ideas for Kids


If you have a little one on your holiday shopping list, you may find what many parents already know - today's toy stores have more and more unsavory toys on their shelves... Video games focused on violence, toys made to look like weapons, dolls that may not promote healthy images of women and girls. 

December is Safe Toys Months, sponsored by Safe Kids Worldwide - a great time to consider whether the toys you are gifting are safe and appropriate. This holiday season, whether you are shopping for your own children or children of friends and family, why not try to make an effort to buy healthy gifts? Toys and games that will enrich young minds, promote creativity and encourage healthy play. 

First, choose toys that are appropriate for a child's age. Look for the age recommendation on the toy's packaging and then follow it. Sometimes that age recommendation has to do with safety - small parts can be dangerous for younger children. Sometimes it is because a younger child would not be able to "figure out" a toy and would not have fun with it. But often, that recommendation is because the toy is not appropriate for younger children. Regardless, heed the warning and don't buy toys meant for older children.

Second, pay attention to safety concerns. This means avoiding small parts or sharp edges on toys if you are shopping for a child less than elementary age. Avoid strings or straps longer than seven inches - they can be a strangulation risk for children as well as for pets. Moving parts can also be a concern for younger kids - fingers or clothing can get trapped. Also -think about the child's hearing safety. If a toy involves sounds or music - be sure it has a safety mechanism to prevent it from being too loud.

So once you determine what is appropriate and safe, what should you buy? For kids between the ages of one and three, consider simple toys like building blocks. Wooden blocks, plastic blocks, blocks with letters on them - all these can be fun and stimulating for toddlers. An added bonus? Toddlers can never have too many of these types of toys - this is truly a case of the more the merrier! Of course, if you want to stay on the parents' good side, it may be helpful to provide a good bin or carrying case for the blocks too!

For preschool age through elementary school kids, consider toys that promote either activity or creativity. Activity toys like scooters, skates, swings, jump ropes and even a basic rubber ball can all get kids moving - a wonderful thing in today's sedentary society. Of course, pay attention to safety and age recommendations and always provide whatever safety gear is recommended as well (helmets, knee and elbow guards, etc.). 

For older kids, anything that sparks their creativity is ideal. Coloring is very popular right now, with good reason. Coloring has been shown to be soothing and relaxing for both kids and adults. A set of nice gel pens and a coloring book featuring nature or geometric designs would be perfect. 

Finally, consider something that can engage the whole family like a deck of cards or a fun board game or a deck of "question and answer" cards. These activities are great for engaging children with their siblings and their parents. Anything that can get a family gathered around a table together, talking, laughing and just spending time together, is a great gift.



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End 2016 on a Generous Note

The end of the year can be tough on the family budget... Gift giving, holiday vacations, and other year-end expenses can take a big hit on your bottom line. It's often hard to find room in the budget for end-of-year...

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My Favorite Things: Joyce Higley

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Wrap Up the Perfect Party Snack

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End 2016 on a Generous Note


The end of the year can be tough on the family budget... Gift giving, holiday vacations, and other year-end expenses can take a big hit on your bottom line. It's often hard to find room in the budget for end-of-year giving. But even if you are able to give just a little, it can make a big difference to an organization in need. And you will be grateful come tax time.

According to the IRS, individuals and businesses making contributions to charity should keep in mind several important tax law provisions that have taken effect in recent years. Among those tips - to  be tax-deductible, clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return.

Donors must get a written acknowledgement from the charity for all gifts worth $250 or more that includes, among other things, a description of the items contributed. Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens.  

To deduct any charitable donation of money, regardless of amount, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, bank or credit union statements, and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the transaction posting date.

Other tips to keep in mind:
  • Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2015 count for 2015. This is true even if the credit card bill isn?t paid until 2016. Also, checks count for 2015 as long as they are mailed in 2015.
  • Check that the organization is eligible. Only donations to eligible organizations are tax-deductible. 
  • For individuals, only taxpayers who itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A can claim deductions for charitable contributions. This deduction is not available to individuals who choose the standard deduction, including anyone who files a short form.
  • For all donations of property, including clothing and household items, get from the charity, if possible, a receipt that includes the name of the charity, date of the contribution, and a reasonably-detailed description of the donated property.
  • The deduction for a car, boat or airplane donated to charity is usually limited to the gross proceeds from its sale. This rule applies if the claimed value is more than $500. Form 1098-C or a similar statement, must be provided to the donor by the organization and attached to the donor?s tax return.
For more information on end of year giving, visit IRS.gov.


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