Is a Child’s Gift Registry a Good Idea?

When I was young, one of my favorite things to do in November was to go through the thick Sears and JCPenney catalogs (for those of you as old as me, you remember getting catalogs sent to your house every year) and creating a wish list of all the items I wanted to get for Christmas.

I gave this practice up a long time ago, but my cousin who is now 30 still types out a detailed wish list for her parents every year.

The modern wish list can now be found in the form of Toys ‘R Us’ new Wish List which is touted as “the ultimate toy registry—Perfect for Holidays and Birthdays.”

I admit I was originally appalled by the idea of a gift registry for children.

All I could think of was the greed these little kids might be feeling.  Do they really expect to get everything on their wish list?  Is this just yet another way to spoil our children with material items?  Will a wish list like this instill in them a sense of entitlement?  A sense that they deserve to receive every toy on the list, no matter how expensive?

Yet, the more I thought about it, the more it didn’t seem like such a bad idea.

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Honestly, is it any different than the handwritten wish list I used to make every year?  I had many more items on that list than my parents’ could ever afford (and even if they could have afforded everything, they wouldn’t have bought it all for me).

Would today’s kids honestly expect to receive everything?

My son is routinely invited to birthday parties, and I have no idea what present to give.

child birthday gift registry

What do you think of a child's birthday registry?

Just recently he was invited to a classmate’s party and suggested I get the boy the last Harry Potter book because the child had every Harry Potter book except the last one, or maybe it was the first one?  My son couldn’t remember.

Scratch that idea.

I ended up buying a small Lego car set because all 7 year old boys like Legos, right?  I just don’t know what this 7 year old boy likes.

It would have helped me if I had been able to print off a registry and pick a present from the list.

Likewise, friends and relatives often give presents that are not appropriate for a variety of reasons.  When I was in 4th grade, my mom’s friend gave me Green Eggs and Ham for a birthday present.  Yes, this is a good book, and it would make a nice present, but I had mastered that book two years previously; it was essentially a wasted gift.  As much as we don’t like to think it is true, sometimes family members and friends don’t know our children as well as we would like.  A registry would help in a situation like this.

However, it is the parents’ responsibility to help the children choose appropriate gifts including fun play toys and educational materials in a variety of price ranges and to explain that they will not get every item on the list and should not expect to.

What is your opinion on gift registries for kids?  Do you like the idea, or do you find it ridiculous?

About Melissa

Melissa blogs at Mom's Plans about learning to live a fulfilling life on less. She has quit her day job and now blogs and writes, in addition to taking care of her three kids.

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  1. I guess not. It will conveniently avoid duplication of toys, for one reason. But perhaps, the number of gift items should be limited to only a few favorites and set the rest of contributions for wished party facilities like a children’s magical show or a cool bubble party.

  2. I find the idea appealing, as long as the child understands that it doesn’t mean she or he will get every item. At one point I kept a detailed list of all the Thomas trains we owned, so that I could tell gift-givers which ones to avoid. Sheesh!
    I find a better gift-giving method to be: give my child (the friend of birthday girl/boy) a budget and allow them to pick 2-3 items. They tend to pick things like books, coloring books, or new craft supplies (playdough, cool markers, stickers). I always include the gift receipt, just in case the gift is truly a duplicate.