Tips on Shopping for Kids Without Them Knowing

Remember how excited Ralphie was in A Christmas Story when his dad surprised him on Christmas morning with his dream gift of a Red Rider BB Gun? That’s the kind of reaction we all hope to get from our kids when they open their holiday gifts, but unfortunately it’s no longer so easy to keep kids in the dark about what they’re getting. Nowadays, to shop for our kids’ presents without them knowing, it takes some Mission Impossible-style sneaking around.

Though I have some ideas on how to successfully holiday shop in secret (which I will get to shortly), I know far more about what NOT to do. One huge no-no is trying to shop for your kids when they’re with you. I did this last year with my then nearly two-year-old daughter, Annie, and I thought she wouldn’t notice what I was buying but I was wrong. This year I can’t even walk near toys without her radar going off.

“Princess toy!” she shouted. “There’s a princess over there! I want that princess! Can I have it? Can I have it, Mama?”

Shopping online often isn’t much better. Annie has figured out that the boxes that show up at our door are presents (possibly for her), so every time the doorbell rings she loses her mind.

“PRESENT, MAMA?! PRESENT FOR ANNIE?!”

As annoying as this is, I’m usually able to distract her long enough to hide the box, and then it’s only three or four short hours before she stops asking about it. On a few especially infuriating occasions, however, the gifts showed up in boxes that had photos of the item on the outside. This is how the surprise of Annie’s big gift from last Christmas — a playhouse — was ruined.

Another unwise thing parents do is attempt to walk back into the house with their newly acquired shopping bags. Even if the presents are hidden in the bags, many impish kids will do their best to steal a look. This often leads to fun moments like:

“Mom! The shape of the box in that bag totally looks like the robot dinosaur I wanted! You got it! Yay!”

So how do you avoid all this trouble? I don’t know any tremendous tips, but I do have a few that seem smart to me:

Ship To Someone Else

I often have presents shipped to my parents’ house instead of my own. This avoids all the drama described above, and helps keep Annie blissfully ignorant of the awesomeness that I ordered for her online.

Get Help From A Spouse

While it’s a great help if your spouse watches the kids while you hit the mall, it’s especially helpful if he or she takes them out of the home (for ice cream, to the park, etc.) around the time you plan to return home. This will give you time to get the gifts inside and hidden in peace.

Leave The Gifts Under Lock

My mom’s classic move still works — leave the presents in the trunk under lock and (car) key!

Have some better tips? Leave them in the comments!

Do you know a deserving family, school, or charity this holiday season? We’re giving away one grand set of 20 toys from Target, including those mentioned in this post! To nominate, simply comment and tell us why you’ve selected them! 

A big thanks to Target for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.


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