Two of my kids have Post-it notes stuck to the fridge which read "Money Mom Owes Me." The irony of this is not lost when I've known that the average cost of raising a child in Canada is approximately $300,000. That's for one child. As the volume of children go up, the cost per child drops, presumably because of some shared expenses and hand me downs.
With four kids, money rarely physically stays on my person for more than a minute. It comes directly from the ATM, barely touching down into my wallet, before it goes out to the waiting hands of a retail merchant, school secretary, orthodontal receptionist, bored hockey rink attendant, or the outstretched arm poking from a fast food window. (Please note that none of these expenses can be shared between children. I've tried to negotiate used braces, trust me.)
My children are very aware of what "it's too expensive" means (they have heard me say it approximately 2.7 million times, sometimes in reference to the mere existence of a younger sibling), whether it's the toonie for the vending machine which spews out a five cent plastic ring, all the way up to some coveted pair of $200 running shoes. Not that this stops them from asking me for these and other things, over and over again. Part of me gives them credit (not literally) for continuing to ask for more and more. Their eternal optimism is impressive, if not hopelessly misguided and futile.
I feel like parents today seem to have more expenses than previous generations did. I think this is partly because of safety concerns, but also it's also somewhat due to our own gullibility in believing what they really "need." Some of the things I spend money on for my children that I'd like to cut back on include: the "indoor runners," a different helmet for each of the head-cracking activities my kids are involved in, the endless supply of Slushies which every hockey arena offers, $10 mandatory school agendas, postage stamp-sized games for handheld electronic units which are only "unlost" for the first two hours, the "book orders" which come home from school but have more computer games and plush toys than books on order, and every piece of overpriced merchandise that features a talking sponge or a transforming truck. Throw in all of the organized sports' fees (including the amount which goes to cover the "trophies for all" strategy), and it's not hard to do the math on why I find myself eyeing up their piggy banks and occasionally borrowing from them.
The only comfort I have is knowing that by the time they become parents themselves, there will likely be 16 more types of helmets they'll have to buy for their own kids. And I'm not extending or expecting any credit for that.
If you are going to spend money on your children, here are some educational gift ideas:
Talk about being in the 21st century. Say goodbye to your childhood Rubik's Cube from the 70s and say hello to the future. This face-to-face game will challenge kids to get their brain and fingers racing by matching the pattern of nine coloured squares. <br> <em>RUBIK's Race, $20, available at Toys "R" Us across Canada. </em>
This is high-tech money management in the making. Forget ceramic piggy banks, this electronic machine will help kids learn how to count their coins and even better, save them too. <br> Electronic Piggy Bank, $13, available at Sears Canada.
Don't let the design scare you. This maze will give your kid the ultimate brain puzzle and challenge them to keep going.<br> <em>Perplexus Rookie 3D Puzzle Maze, $20, available at Toy "R" Us. </em>
The LeapFrog family of toys is known to keep kids learning and entertained. This tablet allows kids to watch videos, read books and expand knowledge on their favourite school subjects -- and will finally get their hands off your BlackBerry. <br> <em>LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet, $130, available at retailers across Canada. </em>
Finally, adults, a chance to be a bit selfish -- or Smurfish. This Smurfs board game, for ages 5 and up, will bring back memories for the parents and open up a whole new world for children. Test your child's memory with this automatic and spinning card dispenser, that let's your kid match up cards. The first player to cover up all their Smurfy pictures wins. <br><em>Smurfs Whirl And Twirl Clumsy Game, $22, available at <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Smurfs-Whirl-Twirl-Clumsy-Game/dp/B004Y46R6O/ref=sr_1_4?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1324405607&sr=1-4" target="_hplink">Amazon.ca</a></em>
This version of Match It! allows kids who love puzzles and matching games to also learn a few new words. <br> <em>Match It! Spelling, $13, available at retailers across Canada. </em>
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is a fun way to match and sort acorns into tree stumps. Even if doesn't sound that challenging, it allows kids to develop strategic thinking and hand-eye coordination. <br> <em>Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game, $17, available at retailers across Canada. </em>
Before you buy them a pet, have them own a plant. But before you buy them a TickleMe Plant, you should watch this video. <br> <em>TickleMePlant, $6 to $20, available at <a href="http://www.ticklemeplant.com/" target="_hplink">TickeMeplant.com</a>.</em>
This kitty knows everything about numbers and colours. Get your little ones moving with this cat that plays sounds and moves with your child with a sensor.<br> <em>Vtech - Catch-Me-Kitty, $20, available at retailers across Canada. </em>
Your little world traveller can prep before his or her own big adventures with the globe that talks back to you. Learn about countries, play games and possibly learn another language. <br> <em>Intelliglobe, $150, available at retailers across Canada. </em>
Kids can put their feet up and go. The PlasmaCar is probably the cheapest price you might have to pay for your child's ride, but this one allows them to learn basic motor skills.<br> <em>PlasmaCar, $65, available at Indigo. </em>
Is your kid still afraid of the dark? This night light will brighten their walls and ceilings and also includes a bedtime story. <br><em>Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light, Lady Bug, $23, available at Amazon.ca</em>
Kathy's latest book "I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The "Business" will be published by Random House in Spring, 2013. It is available for pre-order now at Chapters and Amazon.com. Follow Kathy on Twitter @KathyBuckworth
Follow Kathy Buckworth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KathyBuckworth