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A Family Therapist’s Guide to Gifts for Kids

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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

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

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Joanne Stern

Joanne Stern, PhD, is a psychotherapist with a private practice emphasizing counseling with families, parents, couples and teens. She’s a teacher, consultant, speaker, and expert guest on parenting and family topics, including communication, discipline, self-esteem, addictions, eating disorders, grief, and loss. Parenting Is a Contact Sport: 8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Kids for Life is her first book. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband, Terry Hale, live in Aspen, Colorado.


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11:43PM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

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

11:42PM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

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

9:48PM PST on Dec 25, 2010

Good idea!

4:47AM PST on Dec 23, 2010

Thank you.

3:22PM PST on Dec 22, 2010

thank you !

1:59AM PST on Dec 21, 2010


10:50PM PST on Dec 20, 2010

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!

6:28PM PST on Dec 20, 2010


9:29PM PST on Dec 19, 2010


6:03PM PST on Dec 19, 2010

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

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