It’s Your Money Column – Give Gifts that Help Kids Grow Mentally, Imaginatively

Parents and grandparents are always on the outlook for presents that make a difference. At the same time, the choices can be overwhelming and you can waste a lot of money on cute things that don’t work with children. One resource that will help you select just the right thing for kids is the Web site of the Parents’ Choice Foundation at

This nonprofit foundation was established in 1978 to evaluate children’s products that help kids grow imaginatively, physically, morally and mentally. There are no commercial ties. Awards committees are composed of parents, teachers, librarians and kids, too. Each year they name winners in categories including audio, books, home videos/DVDs, magazines, software, television, toys and video games.

At the Parents’ Choice Foundation, you’ll find several ways to track down their recommendations. You can start by clicking on the Parents’ Choice list of awards. In the Fall 2003 list of award-winning games, there are 17 games listed in categories by appropriate ages. Unfortunately, there is not much to tell you how the game works.

The book award section for fiction includes a synopsis of the story as well as suggested ages of readers. Recommendations for previous years are available for all of their products. Another search category is Doing & Learning. In the category, "Imagine the Possibilities," the reading list includes a number of books to inspire children to look beyond what is and to imagine what could be. Recommended ages are given for each book.

Another way to search is through the product-finder service, where you can select age, price range, award level and award year. You’ll be given the products that fit your categories. Armed with these recommendations for award-winning products for children, you should find winning gift ideas all year round.

Another Web site to couple with the Parents’ Choice Foundation is Dr. Toy’s Guide at The site is filled with details, descriptions and prices of various books, toys and games. Each product is linked to an appropriate age range.

Reverse mortgage update

In previous columns, I discussed reverse mortgages. Additional information for you or someone you know who may be interested in a reverse mortgage is available at two counseling services in Fort Collins. Both are approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Call Jean Schmidt at the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northern Colorado at 229-0695 or LeAnn Abrahamson at Neighbor to Neighbor at 484-7498 to make an appointment.

by Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension,, 491-5772