Giving of yourself is best gift for kids

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
December 7, 2003

A reader emailed me this week asking for gift advice for her three-year-old niece. In the past, she's given coins, savings bonds and other financial-type gifts. Staying with that theme, she wants something that is affordable and won't end up broken in the bottom of a box full of plastic junk.

Here is my gift advice for the young budding capitalists on your holiday gift list.

Kids love to be like their parents. The most requested present my three-year old son wants for Christmas is some handkerchiefs, just like his dad. (This, of course, says volumes about my allergies this time of year.) Get your little ones something just like their parents use or wear. Something obvious, grown-up and inexpensive.

Don't buy anything associated with a movie or fast food. Don't give them anything that will take more than 200 years to decompose in a landfill. (This is good advice for all of your gifts.)

Buy them a copy of "The Little Red Hen." Read it to them. Every night. Do it until they can recite it. The lesson will eventually soak in. It's Ayn Rand for pre-schoolers.

Give a plastic stadium cup with some change in it. (OK, maybe this comes close to violating the landfill rule.) Ideally, give several stadium cups from several different colleges. (Go to a college's website to order them.) Make a big deal about each different college and about saving for college. My three-year-old daughter dons her red and black baseball cap and proudly proclaims that she plans to 'go to college at Georgia.' She puts every penny she finds in her "bank." I don't care if she goes to Georgia, but she has already decided she's going to college, even though she doesn't yet know what that means.

Consider buying an inexpensive musical instrument. If the child is not your own, get an instrument that makes a lot of noise. Drums, harmonicas and tambourines are good choices. Children love playing along to their favorite songs. And it will continue the parents' habit of sleep deprivation that started at the birth of their kid.

Write a letter to a child. Write it as an adult would, not a child. Assume she will read it when she's ten, again when she's 22 and then when you die. Fill it full of your wisdom - ideas and observations that will make more sense to her as she grows and matures.

Give yourself. Your time. If you make the effort to mentor a four-year-old, you will pass along a piece of yourself - your soul - in the life of that child and everyone he touches over the next 70 years.

Nothing influences the life of a child more than the unfulfilled life of his parent. Too many people want their children to be something they aren't. But your child is likely to become what you are, not what you wished you had become. Be what you want them to be.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

Add me to your commentary distribution list.

MCM website