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Easter Basket Makeover

How will you stock your Easter basket?

Marshmallow Peeps, jelly beans and chocolate bunnies fill supermarket shelves this time of year. If you celebrate Easter, preparing baskets full of sugar-loaded treats for kids is often a tradition. This time, try something different. Fill a basket with things that engage their mind and their body, not just their stomach.

Origami Think about getting a book on making origami characters and including it with a packet of paper to fold. Pique their interest by putting a couple of origami pieces already folded in the basket. Figuring out how to make some of the more intricate folds can entertain kids far longer than devouring a candy egg.

Sandbox and Beach Toys Give a beach kit and a book on how to make sandcastles. Include the basic tools they'll need to pack the sand and make forms. If you want to splurge, include an inexpensive digital camera that's waterproof so they can take pictures of their creations. You might spark an interest in architecture or photography.

Bubbles Pack bubbles. There are dozens of different types of bubble blowing kits available, from the traditional to mega-sized bubbles. There are even candy bubbles that taste sweet if you pop them with your tongue. Remember how much fun it was blowing bubbles on a sunny spring day? Share that with your kids.

Jump Rope Include a box of sidewalk chalk to encourage a budding artist or start a game of hop-scotch. Jump ropes, beach balls, hula-hoops and Frisbees are all things that are fun and encourage more exercise. For indoor activities, you can give them a fingerpaint set, age-appropriate board games and card games.

Electronic Games Electronic games are fine, but try to choose ones that encourage group activity. Avoid single-player games or anything that doesn't require much movement. Your goal should be to get everybody on their feet.

Remote Control Vehicles A high-tech option people often forget are remote-controlled vehicles like cars, helicopters and planes. (Age appropriate, of course.) Have your kids build obstacle courses and see who can navigate them with the best time. Stage races and buy a couple of small toy trophies to give to whoever the current champion is.

Silly Putty If you can't imagine an Easter basket without plastic eggs in it, make it a silly putty egg. Be sure to include a copy of the Sunday color comics newspaper and show them how to transfer images.

Fish Bowl  Even the Easter basket itself can be replaced. A fishbowl filled with some of the things they need to start an aquarium and a gift certificate so you can go together to pick out the rest. They'll learn the value of the certificate, how to budget for what they want and how to take care of someone other than themselves. Or maybe a gardening basket that includes seeds, tools, a watering can and gloves so they can learn where vegetables come from. I still remember how good the first tomato I grew tasted when I bit into it!

Tent Baskets for bird lovers, budding artists, sports fans and even a sleepover basket, so they have everything they need to spend the night with other family and friends.

Blood Orange Yes, you can put something in the basket for them to eat. When I was 10, my parents skipped the chocolate Easter eggs and put a blood orange in my basket. On the outside, it looked the same, so they taped a label to it that said, "Guess what I am?" After I went through the obvious, they told me what it was, and I eagerly peeled it open to see the deep maroon color. The taste was unlike any orange I had ever tried before. and I loved it. Ever since then, I look forward to enjoying a blood orange whenever there's a special occasion.

Ranier Cherries You might also try a honey orange, grapples (a cross between a grape and an apple) or Ranier cherries that have a yellow tinge. Even common fruit like tangerines can be fun because they fit better in children's smaller hands, and they're easy to peel.

Once you break out of the sugar-filled basket rut, you'll realize there's a whole world of fun and creative things you can put together to share.

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