Christmas shopping: For kids only Parents left at door of school 'store'

December 13, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Jessica Roth, 7, bought a refrigerator magnet set for her grandmother and a screwdriver for her father, but then she paused, turned to her adult helper and said, "I'll have to get something for my boyfriend."

And with that, she marched over to a table resevered for little boy toys and picked out a sponge baseball and a toy car. And she still had $3 left for a gift for her mother.

She and other children were in the library of the Park Elementary School in Brooklyn Park yesterday, shopping for Christmas presents without bothersome parents hanging around.

They were guided through the more that 500 gifts ranging in price from 25 cents to $4 by parent and teacher volunteers while their parents ate hot dogs and shopped for crafts in another room.

"I came so the children could buy gifts for their relatives," said Jessica's father, Michael, who lives in Brooklyn Park and sends his two children to the school.

"It's nice to let them spend their own money and shop on their own. They can't do that in malls."

But the children still need guidance. And that's where Mary Bilenki, the secretary of the school's Parent Teacher Organization, comes in.

Jessica had a hard time spending her last $3, and Ms. Bilenki suggested a set of earrings.

"She doesn't have her ears pierced," Jessica said, quickly moving to another item. She finally settled on a jewelry box, costing $3.

Most children seem to have a good idea of what their parents want. "You could have a real nice item sitting here, and they will say, 'No, that's not mom or dad,'" said Ginger Reid, president of the PTO and who has organized the Santa's Workshop and Craft Show for four years.

The most popular items, Ms. Reid said, are necklaces for mom and screwdrivers for dad. "I think every kid knows what a screwdriver is," she said. "I think we sold out of them all."

Parents are responsible for telling the adult guide how much the child can spend -- usually between $10 and $20 -- but then the parent must leave.

And the children have a good idea of what they can afford to purchase.

"They know what money value is," Ms. Reid said. "They know if they don't have $4, they can't look at this particular table."

Gifts are organized by cost and by subject matter. The PTO bought them from a company and then resells them to the children at the school.

Ms. Reid said it is a break-even venture for her organization.

There are inscribed coffee cups for $3.25, "crazy crystal balls" for 40 cents, dinosaur straws that cost less than $1, rings, stuffed animals and water coloring sets.

Jillian McSweegan, 3, of Crofton, searched for quite a while before settling on a coffee mug for his father, inscribed, "My dad is the best."

She got the "ice-gem" necklace for her grandmother, a paperweight for her mother and some bathtub stickers for her 9-month-old brother, Thomas.

But she wasn't done yet. She grabbed a troll doll from one of the tables.

"Who is the troll for?" asked Judy Davidson, a 6th-grade teacher at the school.

"Me," Jillian said, as if the answer was obvious.

As Ms. Davidson had remarked earlier, "This girl knows how to shop."

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