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Sustainable gifts for kids

Samara Beall with an organic doll at Grandrabbit\'s

The Thanksgiving turkey is barely off the table when my 6-year-old son starts jabbering on about Christmas. When will we get our tree? Can we hang the lights tonight? We should put some carols on. Can I watch a Christmas DVD? And, naturally, the famous inquiry about presents begins, which is, of course, followed by the speech on how Santa must have noticed what a good kid he was this year.

As my son happily chatters on and on, all I can think about is stuff. Our home consists of far too many things — toys, games and even books — that spend most of the time on shelves, buried in a toy box or stuffed into closet corners. And as the gifting season approaches, I can already see the packages littering our doorstep sent from out-of-state grandparents, aunts, unwcles and cousins, and the huge smiles on my children’s faces as they rip through mountains of wrapping paper, bows and ribbons to uncover more stuff.

While I feel that I cannot stop my family from sending my children gifts that may have been manufactured in China and will break after one use, I do have some control over what I give them and what Santa’s sleigh delivers.

First, rather than shopping at a retail chain store, I’ll spend my money to support local businesses. For books, I’ll shop the Boulder Book Store rather than For toys, games or clothing, I’ll shop at Grandrabbit’s Toy Shoppe or at Rocky Mountain Kids rather than Target or another major retail store. Although the gifts at some of these locations may be slightly pricier than places like Target, I believe it’s worth the extra money to support my neighbors and help strengthen the local economy, especially during the gifting season.

I’ll also consider giving my kids toys and games found on sites like The Hunger Site Store, which promises that each item purchased funds at least 25 cups of food for the hungry and directly benefits charities such as Feeding America, Mercy Corps and Millennium Promise. The online store offers an array of fair trade toys and games, apparel and gifts for babies — many which cost less than $20. Some interesting gifts include Zypper singing magnets, a monster bowling game and a rainforest chewing gum kit.

Eco-friendly gifts or ones that educate kids on environmental issues are also options worth considering. There are a wide variety of gifts for purchase that are made from recycled and organic materials, and for the techie kids on your list, there are games that teach kids about the environment. A couple of notable options include Max’s Mud organic sculpting dough and Fate of the World, a computer game that teaches kids about natural disasters and climate change.

I’ll also scout local secondhand stores in search of gently used gifts. Local retailers, such as Childish Things, The Book Worm, Once Upon a Child and the many thrift stores in the county, carry a good, albeit hit-or-miss, selection of clothing, books and toys that are still in good condition and sometimes even new.

Finally, there is always the option of giving a child on your holiday list an experience rather than a thing. Instead of giving my son a Hot Wheels track that will likely break after one use, we’re talking about a show he might like to see or a class that would interest him, such as karate or yoga.

Books are also always great gifts for the growing and discovering mind. Collier Publishing, an Arvada-based publishing company, recently released a new children’s book, Dreaming of Colorado: A Bedtime Story, written, photographed and illustrated by Coloradans Grant Collier and Stephanie Lowman. The story follows the dream of Cosmo the Cub as he travels in a magic canoe and encounters events, people and animals that make up parts of Colorado’s rich history. The book retails for $12.95 and can be bought directly from the publisher’s website.

If nothing else this holiday season, I want to instill in my children that the holidays are more about giving than getting and that it’s not the quantity of gifts received, but the quality of the holidays and the time spent together that is truly important. And, when it comes to gifts, the memory created by an experience or the food someone hungry receives because of our purchase is more lasting, sustainable and meaningful than anything plastic.

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