With most elementary and high school graduations taking place this month, parents and relatives are searching retail stores for gifts to satisfy members of the class of 2006. Items such as clothing, CDs, and iPods, are all gifts your soon-to-be graduate has likely dropped hints about. However, gift-giving should also reflect the nature of the event and not simply the request of the young graduate.

As a parent, you want to make sure that graduation is a joyous occasion that motivates your child to achieve even higher goals. And what better way to promote this than through the graduation gift. By giving presents that promote further learning, parents make academic accomplishment an expectation, not just an amenity.

Below are several alternatives to the more common graduation gifts. They show the pride you have in your child and also encourage and prepare him/her to achieve further goals down the road.

Kindergarten grads

After the balloons and hefty compliments, present them with something they can use to prepare them for the next school year. Children’s books are always a favorite among kindergartners if you’ve instilled in them the love of reading. A great graduation book is Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go. This picture book highlights the interesting possibilities that life provides readers, both big and small, in a creative and fun way that only Dr. Seuss could convey.

If you feel the need to splurge, invest in an educational hand-held game. For example, LeapFrog’s Multimedia Learning System teaches school-agers phonics, spelling, music, and art. Additional cartridges may also be purchased in order to expand upon the skills your child has already mastered.

Another trendy gift for the little one is a share of stock. Introduce your child to the world of investing by presenting them with a share of stock from kid-friendly companies, such as Disney, McDonald’s, or Build-a-Bear-Workshop. One company that sells shares of stocks from the abovementioned companies at affordable prices is oneshare.com. For an additional cost, oneshare.com allows you to place an inscription on the frame that holds your child’s shareholder certificate. With your child investing in one of their favorite companies, they may begin to view Penny Proud in a whole new light.

Eighth grade grads

iPods give kids the advantage of having their favorite song at the push of a button without carrying around an armload of CDs. The meaning of unfamiliar words can be obtained the same way through electronic dictionaries which allow your child access to Merriam-Webster’s 1,000 plus-page dictionary through an approximately 5-ounce handheld electronic device. This item is especially advantageous for high school students who will be reading longer novels and more comprehensive textbooks.

A field trip makes a great gift as well. Want to get your adolescent excited about college? Then take them on a campus tour of an esteemed university. For example, explore the campus of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (only three hours away). Your teenager will have a ball checking out the great academic and recreational sites that students relish.

If you prefer a monetary present, give a gift certificate to an office supply store instead. Throughout the school year, your child will need everything from highlighters for English to a project display board for biology. Rather than set aside money for these academic needs yourself, give your child a sizable gift certificate to Office Depot, Staples, or OfficeMax so that he/she can use it at his/her whim.

High school grads

Laptops/notebooks are one of the most important gifts you can invest in for your child’s high school graduation. Although colleges house computer labs, nothing compares to having your very own computer that you can use anytime, anywhere. These days, laptops are less expensive than they were five years ago, and you can find one that is suitable to your child’s tastes and needs if you do your research.

Time management is the skill that even the most gifted students sometime lack. However, it is also the skill most utilized by thriving college students. A significant number of first-year college students drop out because they have a problem organizing their time for classes, studying, working, and partying. Get your high school grad on the right track with an electronic organizer. Most organizers are equipped with a phone book, calculator, and unlimited alarms, which students use on a daily basis. Carrying around such a device will make your collegian feel trendy as well as prepared.

Finally, with academic textbooks averaging approximately $100, get your child a gift certificate to their college campus bookstore. This will allow them to purchase the books they need for class without waiting for their refund check to come in the mail days after classes start.