As the father of three kids, the whole concept of toys for Christmas can sometimes be frightening.  The words “some assembly required” put fear into the hearts of parents all over the world.  I’d love to know what the line is between “some” assembly required and “MAJOR” assembly required!  But, I digress.

One of the coolest things I saw this year was a gift that my girlfriend’s son received.  It was a piggy bank that counts money as it is placed into the bank.  It was cool to hear “ten cents, you now have one dollar and fourteen cents” when I put a dime in the bank. But what was even more interesting (at least to me, he wasn’t the least bit impressed with this part) were some of the additional items in the box.  There was a workbook that showed kids how to save for a specific goal and even had a few ideas (a bike, a computer, a car, etc.) with blank lines for Cost, Days/Months To Go, Money Saved So Far, and Savings Needed Per Day/Month.  While the concept of interest on savings isn’t included in the workbook, it’s a great way to teach a child how to begin thinking about saving money for something.  There were a few other worksheets and tools available, along with a website to go and learn more about math and basic financial education.

Also in the workbook was an example of the impact (if you weren’t as disciplined) of buying a video game or general shopping purchase ($10-$20 per month) on the amount of time needed to save for the goal.  I wish I had something like this when my kids were younger.  I wish they had something like this when I was a kid!  But, I think I got it at an early age.  (One day I’ll tell the story of my first business – giving other kids an advance on their allowance in exchange for repayment of the advance PLUS a box of Lemonheads.  Not everyone is “lucky” enough to be born a math geek.)  My only regret that day was not making a mental note with the name of the manufacturer of this product.  I was impressed enough to want to give them a plug so that parents everywhere know about this really awesome gift idea.

In a kid’s world where the hot toy today is yesterday’s news faster than I can write a blog, this is a gift/toy that can have a lasting impact.  I know he was excited later, when he found three coins in the back seat of the car.  He wanted to immediately run into the house and put them in his bank.  Out of all the gifts I watched people unwrap, I think that one has the potential to be the most useful over the course of time.