loveI’ve tripped over my last stuffed animal.

This year I’m not getting my kids the traditional Valentine’s Day “surprise” – a stuffed toy and a chocolate something. They seriously don’t need it. However, they do need a little dose of unselfish giving – and, honestly, don’t we all. 

So this year, I’m looking into a charitable gift for my two munchkins. After all, I want them to remember the lessons I’ve taught them not the toys I’ve bought them.    

And this isn’t an original idea (big surprise). I’ve noticed their elementary school getting more involved in charitable donations entwined with daily activities. For instance, the fourth graders participated in a sly math lesson by holding a competitive food drive; classes competed with each other on the total weight of the donated food in kilograms. And first graders celebrated the “100th day of school” with a goal to bring in 100 items of canned food to donate. To better reinforce these lessons, I am going to bring it in a little closer to home.   

I thought I’d share some of the ideas I came across in my search for the best gifts for Valentine’s Day.    

Here’s a feel good gift, purchase something from the Women’s Bean Project, a nonprofit organization that’s breaking the cycle of poverty and changing women’s lives. Their web site has something for everyone – gift baskets to bracelets, salsa to soups. I pray there are more than a few young girls out there who would understand and appreciate a gift from the Women’s Bean Project. (    

Lesson #1: Everyone deserves a second chance.   

This Valentine’s Day protect a species before it’s too late. A monetary donation to the World Wildlife Federation (the true WWF) is something children can appreciate. Almost all kids love animals so it’s a perfect pair. Most children have learned in school about the threat of extinction to animals. If they’re not in school, they can still understand that dinosaurs are now gone and the WWF is trying to prevent that from happening to tigers, polar bears, elephants, and many other precious creatures. I know I said no more stuffed animals but even I’m willing to bend for this awesome cause (and they are adorable!). The WWF does have a Valentine’s Day offer, check it out under the ADOPT page. (

 Lesson #2: It’s up to us to take care of our planet.      

Another Valentine’s Day gift idea is to visit a local food bank or shelter with a bag full of groceries worth about what you normally spend on your kids for Valentine’s Day. I’m betting they will never forget the visit and hunger will suddenly have a face for them. You may think this is not a very cheerful treat for Valentine’s Day; but, just imagine how thankful they will be when they ask for (another) snack and you cheerfully oblige while gently reminding them to be glad you have food in the pantry.    

Lesson #3: If you’re lucky enough to have, be thankful and share.     

So there are just a few ideas to get your juices flowing.    

On a side note, if you choose to itemize on your tax return, you can claim your charitable donations as long as they go to a qualified organization.  

Kids learn, charities benefit, and parents save money - now that’s a sweet deal!