We're fast approaching the end of another year; a time where its just starting to get much colder after months of beautiful weather. Families are apart more than ever, whether its because of work or school or health; there's this rise of "keeping busy" and its spilling over days that were traditionally meant for family.
Its also become a time where our friends, family, neighbours and generally people everywhere need each others help to be reminded that there is warmth to be found.
Whether, its a need for funds, time, gifts, or food, its a time to give back to those we love and to those we've not yet met.
Every year, TheHubs and I make it a point to purchase at least one toy that will have a better probability of going to a teenaged boy; something fitting for a child-in-need between the ages of 12 and 18. Why? In toy drives, this is the demographic most forgotten. Its so easy to find toys for children between the ages of 0 and 12, you could literally find something in any toy store, even with your eyes closed, for those younger age groups. It gets harder to find something thoughtful though, that isn't clothing related, and doesn't require a game console to play, for teenaged girls, and boys especially. And because its so easy to just grab any toy off the shelf on the way to work for your sponsored toy drive, we tend to go the easier route, instead of finding something that would be enjoyed by an equally deserving teenager.
Young ladies are giftable with accessories, such as jewellery, makeup, watches, wallets and purses, etc, though I tend to stay away from these just because of how easy they're purchasable when we have enough funds to purchase two gifts for a toy drive.
And for young men... I don't know about you, but I end up wracking my brain every year for something cool for the men in my family, so it's been hard for me to find those it-gifts for teenaged-boys.
Because its hard to find unique gifts for teenagers, here's a list of...
Gender-Neutral Gifting Suggestions for Kids 12 to 18
- I find myself still looking in the tech department when shopping for a toy drive. In the past years, we've gifted MP3 players, DVDs, and a few watches. There's a chance the family will have a gaming console, a DVD player, or a computer (to download mp3s,) so these kinds of toys could go to a good home. I do purchase these for boys in mind, but you never know if they'll wind up under the tree for a girl instead.
- Comic books are a great gender-neutral gift for teenagers, and if you go to an actual comic book store, you could purchase a TON for $20, which means you could make a lot of kids' holidays a little warmer this year;
- On a similar level, its also good to look at various collectible card games (CCGs), like Magic The Gathering (MTG) to help boost some young collector's stock;
- If you have only a few minutes left, and need to pick up something quick for a toy drive at a local one-stop-shop like Walmart, aim for the board game section. Board games are still cool; especially RISK, everyone loves RISK!
- Gift cards for food/restaurants, movies, and stores frequented by teens.
A quick sample of older toys/gifts I found the last time I stopped by Walmart, to get any idea of whats available for donation...
DVDs are fun for the whole family, and there are some great genres in the $5 bin.
Who doesn't love Angry Birds Star Wars Jenga??
RISK - I was so very addicted to this game when I was around 18, lol. Its also one of two items I picked up for gifting at a toy drive.
The second item I picked up. Chances are that if a child has a cell phone or a tablet, it will mostly like be Android based and this card can go towards apps, games and movies.
And now that we have gifts to give, where do we donate them? You usually don't have to look far to donate a gift to a toy drive - in fact, get in contact with your friends through text, or even facebook to see if someone is running a drive at their home. A friend of ours gets everyone in her circle of family and friends to help sponsor one family, so that they have a special Christmas to remember, including food for a family meal and gifts for everyone. I'll be checking with her first, should these gifts be helpful to any teenagers that may be part of that family. If not, TheHubs' work has a drive that has done well for our town for years now.
Alternatively, I've compiled an ever-growing number of readily available toy drives around the City of Toronto, so if you're a fellow Torontonian and want to find someplace close-by to drop off your gift, by all means check out this map for places accepting your gifts (this map will be actively updated throughout the coming month.)
Toronto Toy Drive/Donation Map
Children, though precious, aren't the only demographic that could use some love this year. Here are some places that would greatly appreciate some warmth and kindness, any time of the year.
Local Places That Could Use Your Help
- Senior Citizen Homes/Apartments - they would welcome your time visiting, send greeting cards, baked goods, etc.
- Women's shelters will have both mothers and their children who could really use some love by donation.
- Fire halls usually have a toy drive in the works, but the firemen themselves should be gifted some cheer as well!
As I mentioned right at the top, we're all busy bunnies, so sometimes the only help we can provide is via online. Here's a list of local and global charities that could use a little more help this time of year.
- Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund - Their goal is $1.6 million and they need your help to reach it!
- Toronto SickKids Foundation Get Better Gifts - a wide variety of gifts to donate, including: purchasing gifts from the child's wish list and providing dinner at the hospital for the family.
- Plan Canada - Gifts of Hope
- WWF Wildlife Adoptions - Symbolically adopt a species with one of WWF Wildlife Adoption kits to help conservation efforts (and educate those receiving the adoption kit.)
- CanadaHelps.org - find an abundance of organisations that need help throughout the year. We've actually created our own giving page to get you started! 🙂
There are so many ways to help when we can. In the comments below, I would love to hear what organisations and drives are near and dear to you. If your drive is Toronto based, please give me a heads up on this, as I'd love to add it to the map above!