Math is Everywhere: The Kidz Korner Gift Shoppe Experience

The Kidz Korner Gift Shoppe provides schoolchildren a safe environment to buy holiday gifts for their friends and relatives in the safety of their own schools. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Last week I spent several hours at my 9-year-old’s school, helping children with their holiday gift purchase experience.  It’s a program that my boys’ schools’ PTOs put on as a service for the children.  For this particular school district, this was not a fund raiser.  This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve done this, both in Nebraska and here in Florida, and it’s so enjoyable!  Why do I love doing this?  It certainly isn’t because of the top quality products being sold.  It isn’t to get a sneak peek at what my sons might be getting me for Christmas, either….

I get the most joy out of watching kids come in with a budget and seeing them make gift choices for their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Items are grouped by price range. My job was to assist the children with gift choices, keeping them within their budget. I was also responsible for re-stocking items as they sold out. This is the super-inexpensive item area, which was tough to keep nice with 20 kids at a time picking through everything. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

It’s a great big math lesson!

The Kidz Korner Gift Shoppe program was started by two former PTA presidents who sought a “safe” environment for school-aged children to enjoy a holiday shopping experience, still allowing them to surprise their families and friends.  The products offered are low-cost and come in a wide variety of price ranges and qualities.  The shoppe focuses on tailored products for relatives, such as travel coffee mugs that say “#1 Mom” and “#1 Dad”.  Or pendants that say “Grandma” with a heart.

At the Gift Shoppe I helped with last week, we offered items ranging from $0.25 to $12.50.  In most of the price ranges were gifts tailored for men and women, old and young, serious and silly.

About a week prior to the Gift Shoppe opening, students were sent home with a gift planning guide envelope.  Parents could establish a budget for their children, and list what relatives and friends towards which the budget could be applied.   Money went into the envelope.

When I worked at this event in Nebraska, I was helping children ages 5-12 with their choices.  Needless to say, the younger children needed the most help.  Kindergarteners don’t all quite understand the differences between quarters, dimes and nickels.  So they needed a lot of patience and guidance working through their holiday shopping.

At my oldest son’s school here in Florida, we were only working with 3rd-5th graders, so it was much easier for me to guide the students’ choices without having to spell out everything for them.

These are among the least expensive items. If the children had leftover money in their budget, they had a good time in this area of the shoppe. The "Barrel-o-Slime" had to be rationed, in fact. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Your typical student came in with about a $20 budget, with instructions to shop for their parents, siblings and grandparents.  Most of the students did a good job with the math on their own.  Often I would be called upon to help check the kids’ addition.  Or a student would ask me to help fine an optimum combination of gifts for Mom with a $5 budget.

These are not the highest quality products.  They’re made in China, very simple quality.  The website proclaims they’re “department store quality”, but I’m not so sure.  Every year that my sons have shopped with this program, my husband and I, as well as the grandparents, definitely know that it’s the thought that counts.

One of the things I happen to LOVE about the Gift Shoppe is the gift wrapping that the experience includes.  The PTO is provided with these nifty mylar gift bags.  After the student pays for his/her gifts, they’re taken to a gift wrap station where a volunteer will wrap and label the gifts.  So when the student comes home from school, he/she has wrapped gifts ready to go!

In conclusion, if your elementary school student has the opportunity to particulate in a “Santa Shoppe” or “Gift Shoppe” experience, I encourage it.  It’s a great math lesson waiting to happen!

Several of us volunteers really got a kick out of some of the language on some of the products.  I’ll leave you with this one, one of a number of coloring books that we recommended to the students for younger siblings.

Engrish at its very best! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

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Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.