29 October 2008

Simplify shopping with kids by taking pix for the "wish list"

My standard response to my kids' pleas of "Can we buy this?" is: "Put it on your wish list!" Michelle's simple hack takes it a step farther:

Shopping with kids is never an easy task. The kids are always begging for this or that. To quiet this I let them take pictures with my phone of what they want to 'put on their wish list'. Works like a charm every time!

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

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Ooh! That's a great idea. I've been keeping a list in the notepad on my cell phone. And I just looked at it and realized that there's one item on the list that makes no sense to me: "four car drag strip." Boy, I hope my son doesn't remember asking for that one because I sure don't remember what it is or where I saw it!

I have found with my 3 boys - who rarely ask for anything while out shopping - that it may be due to the fact that we DON"T have a wish list. We don't ask them what they would like for their birthday or Christmas (we know our kids!). We just avoid the "gimme" attitude by avoiding putting any focus at all on what they WANT. Kids these days don't seem to be lacking for toys. And any observant parent can figure out what their kids will enjoy.
It has been tempting as they get a bit older to hand them a catalogue and say, "Hey, circle all the things that look good, maybe you'll get them for your birthday!" but as we've avoided doing so, we've noticed their contrary-to-our-culture attitude about getting things.
Do we really need to feed that selfish "ME! I WANT IT!" attitude that kids are pretty much born with? No thanks!

When we shop, we have a rule, "If you ask for something while we are shopping, you will never get it." The kids get to look and touch and covet if they must but no whining or begging.

Their reward for their silence is a bounty at Christmas. Just before Christmas, we take my digital camera to the toy store (and clothing store for the eldest) and take photos of the twelve things they want most (we chose the number for the 12 days of Christmas.) They are allowed to choose one item over $50. We email the "list" to the people who ask for it. They've learned to choose their twelve carefully because they almost always get every item on the list and not much else. And, thanks to emailing, they never get duplicates because the grandparents and aunts and uncles keep in touch.

Sarah's method is interesting. I'm not sure if I could be that anti-"stuff" but I would love to hear how it has worked out for her kids when they are in their 20s. So many kids go crazy in college accumulating stuff and the debt that comes with the stuff. Sarah might have found the trick to spare her kids that fate, or it could backfire and they'll want everything. It's a tough call. But any method has drawbacks. I admire the way she thought it through and put it into action.

I used that trick the other day in Hobby Lobby. My daughter fell in love with this piggy bank and still loved it after hearing it was going to cost her $15. So I used my cell phone to take a picture of her and the bank. She hasn't mentioned it since.

I read this hack this morning and didn't think much more about it. But I had to go to the mall with my 3-year-old today (something I try not to do often, with or without her) and she found a stuffed elephant she fell in love with. Because I don't take her shopping that often, I haven't had to have a plan to distract from the "gimmes" but today, I needed one and this idea came to mind. It worked beautifully!
It IS hard to resist the lure of "stuff" with kids. Our family struggles with coming up for a solution to our culture's rampant consumerism. No TV and limited advertising exposure has helped in the kids' lives, but will it last forever?

Sarah, I think we are more alike than you might know ;)
The wish list doesn't really exist. It's forgotten as soon as it's mentioned. We are minimalists!

We've been doing this for a couple of years and it's great. I take a picture, the kids forget about it and if santa can't think of anything for christmas i pull out the pics. I highly reccommend it, my girls also really like getting their pic taken with the item, happy girls, no whining, no downside!!

What's the harm in kids not getting what they want for Christmas? Yes, I know this stomps on all those "dreams of sugarplums dancing in their heads" attitudes of "everything has to be perfect for my kids!" But hey, what a great lesson in selflessness. Not that you purposely get them stuff they don't want, but if my kid opens up something and throws a fit about how he didn't want THAT, it really tells me where his attitude is and that some serious adjustment is needed. Wish lists and such only feed into this, as the kids then learn to expect to get exactly what they want!

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