A Family Therapist’s Guide to Gifts for Kids

Need a last minute holiday present for your kids? Why not give them a gift that will nourish your relationships with your children and create fun for the whole family?

Sure, it’s the season to indulge them with the latest and hottest and most popular toys—and you probably already have. So I’d like to suggest a few final ideas that will last far beyond the glitter and excitement of the holiday season and perfectly round out your gift giving this year.

My gift selections promote age appropriate, healthy conversations among all the members of your family. They increase communication skills by getting even the quietest kids to speak up—in hilarious and silly ways. They build self-confidence by requiring kids to express their ideas—in a non-threatening and fun environment. They improve reasoning skills by asking kids to think about questions that are sometimes serious and sometimes ridiculous. And they improve family bonding as even Mom and Dad share their thoughts and join in the laughter.

1. You Gotta Be Kidding! It’s The Crazy Game of “Would You Rather…?” for kids by Zobmondo that’s recommended for children 7 years and older—especially great for boys. Their tag line is “Makes You Think. Makes You Laugh” and they are right. Your family will crack up every time you play. The magic of this outrageous card game is that no child can say “I dunno” or just remain silent. Instead they have fun speaking up and making decisions about goofy questions such as: “Would you rather have your ears where your eyebrows are or have your nose where your belly button is?  Or, “Would you rather eat a bucket of apple stems or eat 20 banana peels?” As each family member begins to answer the zany, sometimes gross, absurd and silly questions, other family members guess what answer they will choose. It’s a great game of how well do you really know your family members—or want to know them!

This game is perfect for dinner time, time in the car or in the living room when the whole family is together. Kids get the opportunity to let their imaginations soar and their fantasies explode. It makes them think and reason as they defend their choices and the whole family laughs. And best of all, it builds great family relationships as moms, dads and the kids all jump on board and have a blast together. (Check it out on Zobmondo.com)

2. The Protocol Institute offers a set of smart and interactive etiquette lessons that combine etiquette and technology to deliver online courses for children (and adults). Founded by Laura Pulido, who wanted to train her own two small children in the basics of etiquette, The Protocol Institute was launched in June, 2010 and has already become known as the extreme makeover in manners. The company offers free demos so you can see for yourself—before you buy—exactly which courses will be best for your kids in order to prepare them to succeed in today’s world. Since they are online, your kids can complete their courses according to their own time frame.

There are four courses for tweens —each 16 to 18 minutes in duration. The first course, “Introducing Yourself and Others,” teaches how to make respectful introductions, taking into account age, rank and gender. By the end of the course your tween will feel confident to make introductions that make everyone feel comfortable. The second course, “Group Conversations,” teaches a set of skills to engage others in meaningful conversations and minimize awkward moments. By the end of the course, your tween will be on the way to becoming a conversational champion. The third course, “Thank You Notes,” teaches the value of a handwritten note in the world of email, text and instant messaging. It will equip your tween to write a simple but heartfelt note that shows appreciation and maintains healthy relationships. The fourth course, “Text Messaging and Mobile Phone Etiquette” teaches how to merge technology with positive human relationships. By the end of the course your tween will learn guidelines for becoming more considerate and respectful in using a cell phone more appropriately. (Find out more on TheProtocolInstitute.com)

3. The Box Girls offers a series of games to engage your whole family in fun, interesting conversations. The Box Girls started in 2002 when two moms began engaging their hungry kids with questions while waiting for dinner at a restaurant. From then on, the company has sold hundreds of thousands of their colorful gift boxes complete with sets of age appropriate holiday, party and family themed questions. A percentage of their profits is donated to charitable organizations.

The Christmas Box of Questions inspires great conversations by asking questions like “If you could kiss a person under the mistletoe, who would it be?” The Family Dinner Box of Questions, for ages 6 and up, sparks wonderful conversations by asking 82 thought-provoking questions such as “What qualities do you look for in a friend?” or “What is one way your mom or dad embarrasses you?” Truth or Dare (one for ages 9 and up and one for ages 12 and up) has been teen tested and mom approved. A sample question is “What’s the worst lie you ever told?” And The Family Dinner Faith Box of Questions asks things like “What do you think heaven will be like?”

Each box is easy to carry with you to a restaurant, to outdoor barbeques, on a weekend getaway or a family vacation. What better way to bond and share as a family than with conversations starters from TheBoxGirls.com?

4. Kubit2Me is a new truth or dare game, especially for girls, that comes packaged in an adorable fuzzy cube. Truth or dare games can be sketchy, but this one takes the pain out of it by including age appropriate, healthy and fun truth questions and dare challenges. This toy was chosen as a Dr. Toy “Best Pick” for new products in 2009. The rules encourage girls to create their own truth or dare cards once they’ve played with the ones provided. A great idea, I think, as long as mom or dad has a say in which words and phrases would be inappropriate in the questions.

The game begins when one player throws the cube to another player. That player then takes out a card from one of the 6 side pockets of the cube. The cards have both a truth and a dare written on them, which the player must respond to. A truth example is: “If you got a tattoo, where would it be and what would your parents say?” And a dare example is: “Put a blindfold on the person to your right and have them put red lipstick on you.” You get one point for telling the truth and two points for taking up the dare, and you keep track of your points by wearing one rubbery bracelet for each answer that players pull out from the center of the cube. It’s silly, it’s super fun, and it’s just a good time for tweens, teens and even younger girls. (Look for it at Kubit2Me.com)

5. Family Time Fun believes in the value of the family dinner to improve family communication, improve nutrition and eating habits, improve dietary development among preschoolers and develop a protective factor for adolescents against tobacco, alcohol, drugs and low grade point averages. So they’re created a variety of games to keep families talking and laughing and enjoying each other at the dinner table.

Original Dinner Games (for ages 6 – 12) and Beginner Dinner Games (for ages 3 – 6) each have 51 game cards in different categories to teach kids creative and critical thinking, social skills, numbers, math and more. The original box includes games like “Guess the Macaroni,” “Last Bite” and “Pass the Pepper.” The beginner box has games such as “Magic Spoon,” using a wooden baking spoon or silver spoon. Each person takes turns saying “Magic spoon, magic spoon, if I had three wishes, I’d wish for…” And the game “My Big Day” asks you to tell your family about something new you did or learned today. They also offer Pizza Night Family Dinner Games (ages 5 and up) which comes in pizza box packaging with pizza slice game cards and two “Gather ‘Round” games with 132 games each both of which require two AA batteries and exciting push button action. There’s no better way to bring your family closer together than with these super cool games designed to be played while you eat dinner. (You can find these games at ftfgames.com)

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Santosh Wagh
Santosh Waghabout a year ago

Thanks for this wonderful writing..If you want to get best online gifts for kids, then they are available at Tohfaindia.com.

Santosh Wagh
Santosh Waghabout a year ago

Thanks for this wonderful writing..If you want to get best online gifts for kids, then they are available at Tohfaindia.com.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado4 years ago

Good idea!

Joy Wong
Joy Wong4 years ago

Thank you.

xxx y.

thank you !

Marianna B M.


Lu Ann P.
Past Member 4 years ago

The manners course seems really useful for my children and my husband, who, god love them, seem to clam up when approached by others.

Still, I'm not digging that idea for a gift. The games seem ok but not stellar either.

How about family activities? Learning to ski together or ice skate or whatever will help bond your family, promote conversation, and give physical activity opportunities to everybody!

Cristi Sturgill
Cristi Sturgill4 years ago


Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman4 years ago


Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS4 years ago

I know a lot of grown-ups who should take the manners courses, as well.