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Dear Super Saver: I would like to share a little trick I have used to keep my two youngest children occupied while I shop.

I keep my old coupons if they have good, colorful illustrations and large, clear writing. Some of the best examples are cereal coupons and detergent coupons.

When I take my preschooler and kindergartner along shopping, I give them each several coupons. If they can find and identify the products I have given them coupons for, I give them a reward at the end of the shopping trip.

As they learn, I hope to let them "graduate" to hunting down actual items I plan to buy, but for now it's just like an Easter egg hunt -- purely to keep them occupied in the store and help educate them. However, I have noticed that there is less begging for a million items as we go down the aisles because the kids are intent on finding the items on their coupons.

Perhaps other readers with young children should try this system. It may have saved my sanity and I find them wanting to "play store" at home as well.

-- Daniella Larsen, Buffalo
Dear Daniella: I love your idea and used variations of your theme when my own daughters were younger. In fact, I went a step further and laminated the coupons so they could be used over and over again. My daughters both loved to play store, so they would use the coupons at home as well.

Coffee, cereal, detergent and pet food coupons are especially eye catching, and usually have large, clear lettering that is easily identifiable.

We aren't the only ones who think coupons can be educational. The Promotion Marketing Association of America, in conjunction with the American Coupon Council, has this to add: "Children learn by interacting and they like to try new things and learn from many sources. Coupons can be a fun way to help a child learn to read better and gain knowledge of math, money and the calendar."

Though I can't list all of their suggestions, here are a few from each age group that I thought would be easy to work into a busy day.

For preschoolers:

1. Read through coupons inserts with your pre-kindergarten child. Encourage your child to identify colors, faces (eyes, mouth, etc.), people, animals, fruits, toys, grocery items.

2. Practice counting by recognizing the numbers on the coupons.

3. Name the things you plan to buy.

For kindergarten through grade 3

1. Clip out the coupons for small motor coordination.

2. Talk about money, where it comes from, how we get it and what it is for.

3. Discuss coupons and saving money.

4. Introduce the possibility of an allowance and what to spend it on and ways to save.

For grades 4 through 6:

1. Offer children an opportunity to help share money-saving responsibilities.

2. They can help clip and file coupons.

3. Give them a portion of the savings in return for their efforts.

4. Math lessons can include learning about percentages of savings, using coupons on differently priced items and how to use a calculator in the store.

I have to say from personal experience that when I gave my daughters a portion of the savings for helping with the coupons, I got the most enthusiastic reaction and the most assistance. I recently obtained a number of coupon inserts in Spanish and gave them to my high school daughter to use as an educational aid in her Spanish class. There is really no end to the ways coupons can be used to teach the old as well as the young.

Savings 101

This week's Super Saver is Juanita Munoz of Houston, who writes:

"My saving isn't huge, but it is holiday appropriate. I will be receiving my free Thanksgiving turkey from work. I have a large family and wanted to make a lot of stuffing. I saved up my Stove Top stuffing coupons and when it was on sale, I was able to get six double boxes for only 56 cents per box due to coupon doubling. I am adding some secret ingredients like chorizo sausage to the stuffing, and I am having each of my four sisters bring dishes to pass. We will be having a Thanksgiving feast very inexpensively thanks to my free turkey and stuffing coupons!"

Today's offers

$80 Quick Cam2 rebate. For an $80 rebate, send the Universal Product Code from Quick Cam2 video camera plus circled cash register receipt dated between July 1 and Dec. 31, 1998. Required store form must be received by Jan. 31, 1999.

$1.99 Pantene coupon offer. For a $1.99 coupon, send your name, address and ZIP code on the required store form. Offer good on Pantene shampoo/conditioner. Expires Dec. 14, 1998.

Send any questions or problems regarding coupons and refunding to Super Saver, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 639, Libertyville, Ill. 60048.

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