1. Savings bonds

Savings bonds make excellent gifts for kids, especially those who are too young to be tempted to cash them in any time soon.

The bonds are more or less loans you make to the U.S. government, in this case in the child's name. They can be redeemed any time after 12 months, but cashing them too soon can mean lost interest and even penalities.

Series EE or I savings bonds will earn interest for up to 30 years. You can buy them online at TreasuryDirect.gov.

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2. Money for college

Though young children won't understand what it means if you open or contribute to their 529 college savings plan, they'll thank you years later at high school graduation time.

And really, it's never too early to start talking to kids about the value of education, to help set them on the right track for their future.

These plans have tax advantages and are offered by states. You can either save and invest a pile of money for a child's higher education, or prepay for tuition at a participating school.

3. Stock shares

What's a better way to teach kids about the stock market than to make them actual shareholders?

Give a Share, UniqueStockGift.com and other sites make it easy to buy a single share of stock in companies children will know, like Disney, Target or Activision, the publisher of Guitar Hero.

You can get a frameable stock certificate, either a genuine one or a replica (since many companies no longer issue paper stock certificates). Kids will be excited to say they own part of a company and will enjoy watching their stock grow over time.

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4. Savings account

A piggy bank is fine for little kids, but once they get older a savings account is a great way to teach them how banking works.

Make sure you find a bank that offers free accounts, without minimum balance requirements or hidden fees. You may even find a high-yield savings account, especially if you look to credit unions or online banking. You'll likely be required to sign on as a co-owner of the account until your child is old enough to take complete control.

You can also set them up with Greenlight, a debit card for children that parents control through an app. Automate their allowance payments, establish parent-paid interest rates and assign chores to help your kids manage some early income. If you want, you can use the app to restrict where your kids can spend their money, too.

"We want kids to be able to grow with Greenlight," says founder and CEO Tim Sheehan. "Whether they’re young or they’re an older teenager in high school, they’ll still be able to get a lot of value out of it."

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5. Investing account

Another great way to get children interested in the stock market is to open an account as a gift.

An automated service, such as Acorns Early, can take all of the work out of it. Acorns Early works by rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar, then investing the spare change into an account for your kids.

By buying your daily $2.30 coffee, you've secured $0.70 toward your child's future. It doesn't seem like a lot, but $0.70 per day adds up to over $250 in just one year.

Then, once your kids are old enough to manage their own investments, your account can be transferred directly to them.

6. Kiva gift card

A gift card for Kiva — the microlending platform — is a great way to show a child how to use money to make the world a better place.

Kiva makes small loans to help people in developing countries improve their lives. A kid armed with a $25 Kiva card could look through the site and select a cause to support with the gift.

Over time, each lender is repaid and can use their money to make a new loan to help fund another cause.

7. Certificate of deposit

If you'd like a stable way to save for your child's future, then a certificate of deposit is an excellent option.

Not only are CDs a smart way to stash away savings for kids, but they also tend to come with higher interest rates than savings accounts.

CDs have terms ranging from a few months to several years. Generally, the longer the money is held, the better the interest. There are penalties if the money is withdrawn before the end of the term.

8. An old-fashioned board game

One of the easiest ways to make learning about money fun is to turn it into a game.

Old-school board games like Monopoly and Life are perfect for this — they've been giving kids crash courses in finance for generations. If you play along, take the time to explain the underlying concepts about banking, investing and budgeting.

Telling kids how the game has real-world implications may make it even more engaging.

9. Life insurance

Life insurance may seem like a very odd gift choice for a child, since policies are typically sold to pay funeral expenses and offer financial protection to survivors if the insured person dies unexpectedly.

But fans of the idea of buying coverage for kids say a permanent life insurance policy can build up thousands of dollars in "cash value" that could come in very handy when a child is grown.

Even so, a much better use of life insurance where kids are concerned is for parents to make sure they have enough coverage to keep their loved ones financially secure if the unthinkable happens.

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10. Cash

It may seem a bit impersonal, and it's not a gift children can play with. But giving cash can — obviously — be an excellent way to teach kids about money.

Rather than just handing out a $20 bill and telling a child to go buy something nice, give bills in various denominations and talk about all the possible ways of spending and budgeting the money.

You may want to pair the cash gift with a small bank or coin counter, so that soon-to-be-savvy kid on your list can learn to value and keep track of his or her funds.

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About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman

Former Editor-in-Chief

Doug Whiteman was formerly the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CNBC.com and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

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The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.