It’s easy to #GiftResponsibly: Easy gift ideas for the kids on your list

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By Lori Manson, Problem Gambling Services Coordinator
When shopping for the holidays this year, remember that lottery tickets are for grown-ups. Research shows that early gambling experiences, including those with lottery products, can be a risk factor for gambling problems later in life.

Having a hard time thinking of easy gifting ideas for the kids on your list? I have four grandchildren, and I did some research, so you don’t have to. Here are some ideas you can find right at your local shopping center, or online. Some even cost little to nothing.

  • Money: If you think gifting money is boring, think again. If you Google “fun ways to gift money”, you’ll find lots of ideas. I like the idea of using an empty fast food French fry container, an empty box of chocolates, or in a secret compartment in the middle of a jar of candy. See those ideas and more here:
  • The gift of time with you: Make a “gift certificate” for a sleepover, movie night, a baking lesson, a wood-working project, craft-night, ice-skating, or anything you’d both enjoy.
  • Gift cards:
    • Movie theater: A favorite in our family is Smitty’s Cinema which serves food, so you can have a meal, an ice cream sundae, or guacamole & chips while you watch your movie.
    • Arcade: Smitty’s Cinemas GameLab in Topsham and Sanford, and Round1 at the Maine Mall are the ones I’m familiar with.
    • Trampoline park such as Urban Air (South Portland and Bangor)
    • Book store
    • Restaurant / Fast food
    • Coffee shop
    • iTunes
    • Popular stores like Target and Walmart
  • Fidget toys like these
  • Fidget Pens: Pens to help keep you entertained during periods of boredom. Shhhh…don’t tell, but I bought these ones for my older grandsons:
  • Shashibo Shape Shifting Box: You can buy these on Amazon and at Wal-Mart. I bought some of these after I read the Good Housekeeping article on Best Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids 2023:
  • Craft kits: Can be found at Wal-Mart and JOANN Fabric or online. I like the Woobles Beginners Crochet Kit so much, I’m tempted to buy it for myself:
  • Sticker collections: These are not just for little kids. Teens enjoy vinyl stickers for their water bottles, notebooks, etc. My grandkids spent hours sorting this 600-sticker set to find the ones they liked best and then the adults were intrigued enough to start looking too:
  • Slime, kinetic sand, modeling clay, and sensory bins: I bought this one for one of the younger kids
  • Art supplies: One idea is a nice colored pen set from Staples or Wal-Mart which can be used for art and for making homework more fun. Here’s one I like:
  • Puzzles
  • Games: This article has great ideas. Some are new to me and some are classic. One thing that is sure to come out at any family event is Hot Potato.
  • Sports equipment: The kids may have all the typical sports equipment but you can find fun variations such as light up soccer balls (found that on Amazon) and a soccer game with a hovering soccer ball (found that in Kohls).
  • Books: My grandsons are currently into Diary of a Wimpy Kid. You can ask for suggestions from bookstore staff or have fun browsing to see what sparks your interest.
  • Nail polish, lotion, or bubble bath
  • Candy or snacks
  • Huggable stuffed animals or body pillows: One popular brand is Squishmallows, which can be found at Kohls, Target, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.

I hope you like some of these ideas. I am not promoting any particular product, but I thought I’d share some ideas for those who feel uninspired or overwhelmed when thinking of ideas for the kids on their list.

Here’s a bit more about the Gift Responsibly Campaign

It’s not uncommon for well-meaning adults to give lottery tickets to children as gifts, but many people don’t know the risks. People with gambling disorder often report that they began gambling at an early age, and that an early win increased their desire to gamble. The young brain is susceptible to addiction and youth may move quickly from gambling with friends and family to problem gambling. With increased exposure to gambling advertising and the growing availability of a wide variety of gambling activities, youth problem gambling is a growing public health concern. Even though gambling activities are legally restricted to adults, there is clear evidence that underage youth continue to actively participate in gambling.

Here are some other things you can do to reduce the risk of youth gambling:

  • If you purchase lottery tickets as gifts, remember they are only for the grownups on your list. Personally, I think you should only buy lottery tickets for people you know extremely well. Gambling addiction is so hidden, your co-worker or neighbor may be triggered by a gift of lottery tickets.  I know someone who experienced an terrible recurrence of gambling addiction after he was gifted lottery tickets.
  • Follow AdCare and the Maine Council on Problem Gambling on Facebook and Twitter and share #GiftResponsibly posts with your friends and followers.
  • If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, no matter what the age, help is always available. Call 211, visit, or text your zip code to 898-211

The annual Responsible Gifting Campaign began in 2003 to raise awareness about the risks of underage lottery play during the winter holiday season. Each year, the Maine Council on Problem Gambling and AdCare Educational Institute of Maine join the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) and International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors in educating the public with the message that lottery tickets aren’t child’s play.