Grandparents can help their grandchild buy flocks of chickens through various agencies so a family can be self-sustaining.
Cellular phones, video games and computer software are common gifts for children these days.
With so many young people having access to technology, however, Ted Bernstein learned that many grandparents don't want to give their grandkids tech gifts for Christmas.
Bernstein, the founder of the Florida-based Life Insurance Concepts, Inc., said that children have come to rely on technology more and more, from communication to entertainment to telling the time.
Many astute grandparents say they want to give their grandkids something more meaningful, a gift the child will treasure and remember for a long time.
One way for grandparents to do so is by giving an annual helping hand for years after they're gone. Until these past few years, a life insurance beneficiary received his or her payment in a lump sum. Now, there are life insurance policy options that pay beneficiaries in predetermined amounts for up to 40 years, giving people the option of receiving their proceeds in installments.
"Grandparents feel this is a fantastic way of leaving something to their grandchildren – who they sometimes love more than anyone else in the world – and take care of those milestones in life. Maybe they leave some for their college education or to purchase a home or help as they get through the rough parts of starting a job," said Bernstein.
The gift of compassion is another possibility. Bernstein suggested sponsoring an impoverished child in another country in the grandchild's name.
"Have your grandchildren scope out a charity that interests them, and then go through the process of making the gift together," said Bernstein.
"As the technology world gets more disposable, I think it gets more challenging for the grandparents to give something of lasting value, and that is what seems to be the appeal here with this gift idea."
Frances Davis White, an Edmonton parent, takes this concept to heart. Her parents buy her sons something from the Salvation Army gift catalogue.
"The boys get to pick what they give and put a lot of thought into their choices. This year they will send a child to school, give a family a chicken, another family a pig, and buy some mosquito nets," said White.
She said the kids get a small gift as well, but they look forward to this part of Christmas the most every year.
"My parents spent three years working for the Salvation Army in Zimbabwe, so they saw firsthand how hard life can be and what a difference these small things can make," said White.
One Catholic organization with a similar program is Chalice. Its gift catalogue is available online at www.ccare.ca/chalice-gift-catalogue.
Time spent together is remembered forever.
Coreen Malloy, an Edmonton grandmother, made the decision to spend more time making memories than spending time in the stores. She and her grandkids shared quality time giving to others, preparing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and bringing mittens to warm the hands of the less fortunate.
"We have spent time curled up snuggling while I read Christmas stories," said Malloy. "I have made gifts this year for my grandchildren for I remember the love that went into the handmade gifts my grandma made for me."
The family has also spent time singing carols, had an evening drive to see the twinkling lights, and have taken in some Christmas festivals.
"I want Christmas to be filled with everlasting memories so that when the time comes and I am no longer here, the love I have for my three amazing grandchildren will carry on through all the memories we are creating," said Malloy.
"They may remember one or two gifts they receive during their lives, but they will remember always how much I loved them and that is what Christmas is about."
Lisa Hart lives in south Edmonton, and is the coordinator of Early Childhood Ministries at Ellerslie Road Baptist Church.
Hart said, "The best gift a grandparent can give is the gift of time spent together – tickets to ESO concerts, movie tickets, a coupon book full of things to do together – lunch or brunch out, swimming, going for a hike, playing a board game, serving at the Mustard Seed or Hope Mission."
In agreement about the importance of time together is Carol Holba, a Catholic schoolteacher from Cold Lake. She said that a crib board and a deck of cards make for a fun incentive for the grandparent-grandchild bond. The game allows them to spend time together.
"I always helped my grandma decorate her tree. I will always treasure those memories," said Holba.
Hallmark sells books where a grandparent can read a story, and the voice is recorded on the book with the person reading it. Even when the grandparent dies, the storybook remains as a lasting keepsake, a way to still hear the person's voice.
"One of my children's grandmas this year is giving us pre-designated funds to pay for 'activities' for 2014," said Dori Gibbon, the fundraising & development coordinator at Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Edmonton. "That way we have the funds to ensure our kids get to participate (in gymnastics, swimming and Scouts) rather than more toys."