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Birthday & Christmas Wish List Guidelines for Kids

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My older kids are at an age where they know how to manage their own Giftster wish lists.  This is both a great thing, as I don’t have to be the one to build it for them, and a not so great thing, as they could potentially put anything and everything on their lists.

And this is where we often hear from some that they feel that children having wish lists is teaching them greed.  However, I see it as an opportunity to teach kids the importance of need vs. want, being reasonable with gift requests, and doing things in moderation.  I think it’s an important lesson, and building a wish list is a fun way to teach it.

Here are the few guidelines I’ve put in place with my kids to rein them in and help them create a focused, thoughtful, and effective wish list for their birthdays and holidays.

Before I get started, I want you to know that this is sort of a buffet of guidelines you can pick and choose from.  You may not want to list all of these things on a wish list, and that’s just fine.  My hope is to give all of you (and my kids) inspiration to diversify what’s listed on registries.  Giving gifts to others is so much more fun when you have a variety of ideas to choose from.


Set a limit on toys

Show of hands: how many of your kids play with a toy as soon as they get it and then don’t touch it again for months, if ever?  Yep…us, too.  Start with maybe 3-5 toys or types of toys they seem to play with most often.  For my older son, that’s been Lego’s.  But try and have them diversify the toys.  Should they all be Legos?  Probably not.  Maybe one or two Lego sets will do.  My younger son loves stuffed animals.  The same logic applies.  Is there a toy that they both could enjoy together?  That should definitely go on the list.  Talk with your kids and decide on an amount and type of toys that are reasonable to add to the list.


Let’s talk about games

We have some pretty strict rules in our house when it comes to video games: types of games, how often they’re played, etc.  Adding one to a wish list is sufficient for our family.  Now board games, I can totally get excited about having my kids add to their lists.  But again, not too many (we have so many and our board game shelves are pretty full).  Adding one or two to each of their lists is enough.



I have an aunt who loves to give my kids clothing as gifts.  And, surprisingly, my kids LOVE to receive clothes as gifts!  They are apparel items that they will, of course, need as they’re both growing like weeds, and there are ones that they may want as well.  Talk this through with your kids and have them add it to their lists.  Remember to add sizes and color preferences as well.



Ah…my FAVORITE gift to give!!  I could easily have the kids create an entire list just of books, but since we’re doing this as an exercise of moderation, have them focus on adding a couple books their most interested in owning.  My husband picked this leather bound The Star Wars Trilogy for our older son, and he loves reading from it.  If your child is a bookworm, consider adding both books for them to read and ones that are more collectable that they will cherish for a lifetime.


Crafty/DIY/Activity Gifts

This could be as simple as crayons and paper.  For my younger son, it’s stationary and stamps (he LOVES writing letters to people and sending and receiving mail).  How about paints, Play-Doh, science sets, sewing or crochet kits, Rainbow Loom, model car kits…you get the idea.  Another favorite is the Insect Lore Butterfly Garden that can be enjoyed year after year (giving an annual voucher for new caterpillars is an awesome idea).  In my opinion, anything that keeps little hands busy, away from a screen, and encourages them to learn without it feeling like learning is most excellent.


Videos and Movies

Could be the latest in the Star Wars franchise or the latest Disney movie.  There always seems to be some movie that my kids would love to own and watch a few times.  Adding one to the wish list works well for us.


Outside Toys/Activities

This is a great gift idea that keeps kids active, occupied and running around.  Outdoor games, sports toys, water toys, exploring toys, snow toys and activities (if you’re in a location where there’s snow).  This is a fun gift idea because, often, it can be shared with others when playing and helps kids create awesome childhood memories.


Gift card ideas from stores you or your kids most often shop from

Some family members prefer the ease that comes with giving a gift card.  Help them out by giving them an idea or two of locations to purchase the gift card from.  There are a variety of stores that  you could choose from: clothing stores, sports stores, specialty or hobby stores, even restaurants your kids enjoy.  Then, you can use the gift cards when you need them or you’re going out for a special treat.


Fun things to do with others

Think trips to the movies, bowling alley, miniature golf course, sporting games, local theater or playhouse (the Chicagoland area has the Children’s Theatre at the Marriott Lincolnshire), apple picking or strawberry picking, the zoo.  This is an amazing gift as it’s not only something fun that your child may not get to do everyday but it’s also an opportunity to create memories with family members.  Huge gift giving win!!


Charitable Gifts Benefiting Others

Giving back to our community and others is something we try to instill in our kids and is such a good lesson to teach.  My younger son is a Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis survivor and something we’ve done for the last few years is collect and save the nickels we get as change and cash them in to donate during Histiocytosis Awareness Month.  He’s often received nickels as part of his gifts to help him along with his yearly donation.  My cousin and her kids have held an annual gingerbread house making competition with their immediate family and have collected money to donate to their local animal shelter.  Help your kids find a charity or cause that means something to them, and have them add items to donate on their wish list.  It’s so fulfilling to teach our little ones the importance of giving back to others.


It may take a little reminding each time your kids refresh their wish lists to follow your guidelines, but if you start right away, you’ll get them into a great habit that will stick with them.

Happy Wish List Building!Save






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Want gift giving to be fun again?

Quit guessing and stressing over gifts. Share and shop wish lists with family and friends for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and more.