How to buy gifts for young kids when they’re always with you at the store

Another holiday hack from Kelly:

I just heard about the other day (from a nurse while I had a few day stay in the hospital). The mom told me that she found it hard to buy for her young daughter for Christmas because her daughter was always with her. So if her little girl wanted something at the store, the mom told her that they’d have the salesperson scan the item in so that it would show up on her Christmas list. The mom was actually buying it. When they went home, the mom typed up a Christmas list and showed the girl on the computer that the item had, indeed, shown up on the list!

Creative, and she said it worked!


  1. Allison says

    Who shops in the store anymore? Other than items that can be purchased at locally owned stores (i.e. not a local big box), why not just buy online?

  2. Nathan says

    My kid would just giggle at me for this. She’s three and already knows when we are messing with her.

    I buy online, and don’t let her look in the box. :-)

  3. says

    Yes, Allison, because when the big box with a picture of a bicycle on the side shows up at the front door, that is easier to explain. And that doesn’t even factor in the additional shipping costs for some items.

    Although I didn’t notice it at the time, I have childhood recollections of being down the mall with both parents, going in and out of stores….and there being these big gaps where my dad wasn’t with us, and then he was, wasn’t, was. Never really clicked back then, but he was running back to stores, buying things, and running bags out to the car.

  4. James says

    The reason for not buying everything on line is so you can support your local economy.
    Do you really enjoy seeing malls deserted and closed down? You don’t think that happens because of a bad year do you? That happens because people simply stop shopping there or go somewhere else. Or in this cane they go on line.

    Support your local stores, shop locally.

    As for how we do it, easy, I buy the toys, he doesn’t get them till Christmas, no real mystery there, he is 4 and while he has a nearly perfect memory, he doesn’t remember a toy I bought back in February when he unwraps it for Christmas.

  5. Sapphy says

    This sounds like it would work for a really young kid, and if it’s just 1 small toy your kid’s not really going to notice that it’s in the bag. However, if my husband was with me I’d just do the whole, have dad buy it and go put in in the trunk thing. Oh, and I usually don’t buy online unless there is either free shipping or I absolutely have to have it but can’t find it anywhere else, just because I hate wasting money on shipping if I don’t have to.

  6. says

    I don’t get it… perhaps I’m daft. The mama bought the toy at the store, put it in her bag, then the trunk, then the house? And told the child that it had really only gone onto a wish list?

    Neat if it worked for her, but I think my particular 2 year-old would have none of it… unless I’m missing something?

  7. Anonymous says

    I don’t get it either. If she’s at the store all the time, how does she not also understand the process of checking out and paying for things? I can’t see this working for a kid younger than 2, but I also can’t see a kid younger than 2 then caring about the pretend wish list.

  8. STL Mom says

    One of our local shops, the Whittle Shortline Railroad, has clipboards and pens scattered around at this time of year. Parents write down what they want to buy, and an employee will walk around, pick up the trains and other toys, ring you up, and hand you a bag. Your kid sees that you bought something, but doesn’t know exactly what.
    I think more stores should offer that kind of service!
    Also, you guys have some really smart, aware two-year-olds. I think my kids would have believed that scanning thing until they were at least four.

  9. Lorrie Diemer says

    My mom always took a friend (Aunt Mary) along on Christmas shopping day. I remember walking through the aisles at a toy store and everything I wanted, Aunt Mary bought for her nieces. I’d get one small (cheap) toy. I was really jelous of these girls I’d never met until Christmas Eve when Santa (Mary’s Hubby) brought me all those toys I’d urned for.

  10. CH says

    Count me as one with the smart two year old who wouldn’t fall for it. She’s two and a half now and has known for months that anything that if we pick something up in the store then we “pay the lady” (gender biased, but most of the checkout employees are women). Her knowledge developed because we needed to explain the process in the context of why she couldn’t open/eat/play with stuff as soon as we took it off the shelf.

  11. says

    that hint wouldn’t have worked for me, either.

    I do most of my shopping online because most of my list gets shipped to faraway relatives and it’s easier and cheaper (usually) let Amazon or whoever handle it. But for those other things, I’ve found that the small local merchants who (unlike chain stores) really keep the money local are quite willing to take your order over the phone so you can pick it up, wrapped up and ready to go, at your leisure.

    So far as shipping … my parents always had things delivered to my grandparents house, and my shipping address is at the office.

  12. Wendy says

    When we go to the toy store, my two year old (who wouldn’t fall for the scanning to a list, either) stays absorbed with the trains while I look around. Luckily, we have several birthdays to celebrate in December, giving me a reason to be in there shopping other than Christmas. While I pay for the birthday gifts, the shop owner discreetly wraps any Christmas items for me, and I just slip them into my bag. Husband can go by on the way home from work to pick up any bigger items.

  13. Sandy says

    My sisters and I pick a weekday in early December and do all our Christmas shopping together. We do lunch and make a fun day of it. My husband always saves a day of vacation to stay home with the kids for me. It’s worth it for him because he hates to shop!

  14. ziggi says

    I agree with the shop locally idea. What about all the transport it takes to get the item to you (think food miles), and the extra cost to you for that shipping. Being on the other side of the world means that shipping costs are always high so we have to think local first.

  15. mozo says

    The method used by For Better Or For Worse ( is this: Have the new girlfriend (Elizabeth) take the daughter for a walk around the mall while the Dad (Anthony) buys the gift for the child. The result seems to be that the ex-wife (Therese) shows up in the mall and an awkward situation occurs, of course, so this method cannot be considered foolproof.

  16. says

    Oh, well. Maybe it just works on gullible kids! :) She said it worked for her, so you’ve got to go with what you can do! My daughter hasn’t hit that stage yet, so we’ll see! I’ll probably just let Dad help!

  17. mom, again says

    One of the few benefits of divorce: the kids regularly go away, giving you time to do things that are difficult to do with the kids around.

  18. Charity says

    When I really want to avoid shopping with my 4 year old I go back to the store at night. He’s in the bath/stories/bed zone with daddy and I’m in the car and shops.

  19. Beth says

    Yeah, count me in as someone who doesn’t get the part where the cashier hands you the bag and you walk out. My kid is 2 and would never fall for it.

    I buy online. No paid vacation time to shop, no partner who can run around doing for me or stay home with the kid while I do it. With all due holiday merriness, people should be a little less judgmental about what other people can and should do.