Note: I’m a member of the Target Inner Circle and Target provided the gift card for this post.
At our house we keep gift giving simple by using Want, Need, Wear, Read as our gift guide. The need, wear, and read are usually pretty straight forward, but the want can be difficult to figure out.
My kids, and I suspect some of your children, have no problem at all rattling off a gift list when asked. Sometimes my kids will want something and we know about it for months ahead of time and that makes it easy to shop for them.
The tricky part is when the items on a child’s wish list change constantly. Depending on the day, their mood, or most recent commercial influences, or what cool things they saw at a friend’s house, sometimes their most wanted item changes. It is hard to know exactly what to give them in the face of such indecisiveness.
Or maybe one of your kids is like my daughter Jillian was when she was a preschooler and knew exactly what she wanted but wouldn’t spill the beans to anyone but Santa himself.
Because we keep it simple, I want to make sure that their wanted item is something that they really want and I need to keep the secret from being discovered until Christmas morning. This is where the fine art of being a gift detective comes in.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is do to some intelligence gathering and 1) find our what your kids really want and 2) keep it a secret until Christmas.
Becoming a Gift Detective
Target has asked Jonna Mendez, a former CIA intelligence officer with more than 25 years of service, to share some of her tips to help moms and dads and grandparents this holiday season.
A mother and a grandmother, Jonna has an impressive resume:
Last held Chief of Disguise position at the CIA
Her duties included preparation of the CIA’s most highly placed foreign assets in the use of spy cameras and the processing of the intelligence gathered by them
Co-author of “Spy Dust,” a book about Jonna and her husband’s (Tony Mendez, inspiration for Ben Affleck’s character in Argo) work in Moscow during the last decade of the Cold War
I’m borrowing a few tips from Jonna and you can, too!
Kids’ Gift Detective Technique: Covert Observation
Definition: Observation uses biometrics, or the science and technology of measuring and analyzing biological data, such as body language and facial expressions, to decipher subjects’ unintentional clues.
Kids’ Gift Detective Tip: As you go about your normal routine, observe your kids’ faces and their posture. For example, gauge their reactions to the gifts featured in Target’s Kids’ Gift List , known as open source material.
When their eyes dilate, their faces light up, they naturally sit up straight and tall and their body language opens up, this serves as a clue that they are very interested in something. When they are not interested, they will sink down in their seats or even cross their arms.
You can also listen to changes in their speech pattern, specifically their tone and pitch – when they’re excited about something, their tone will become lighter, the pitch of their voice will be higher and they will talk faster.
Gift Detective Technique: Access Agents
Taking another page from Jonna’s detective play book, as mentioned on A Bullseye View, this mom asked her oldest daughter (and favorite Santa’s helper) to be her eyes and ears. If Jillian hears one of her siblings mention something they hope Santa will bring them this year, she reports back to me – “hey, mom, I heard Max say he wants those Marvel Universe guys again.”
It helps to have an agent under cover on the inside. And, she’s proven her worth as an agent by using her skills in the field to report back to me regarding Daddy’s holiday wish list, too.
Kids’ Gift Detective Tip: Covert Shopping
My kids are almost always with me when I’m shopping, so it can be tricky to purchase gifts for them. My personal preference is to enlist the help of a special agent babysitter to watch the kids so I can shop alone.
But, if back up isn’t available to facilitate a solo shopping trip, Jonna offers this tip: while shopping, indulge your kids with a stroll down the toy aisle. As they interact and point out toys they like, you can easily pull out your smartphone and use the Target app to make a purchase right there in the toy aisle without them ever knowing it.
Kids’ Gift Detective Covert Shopping Tip #2: Enlist your kids in the shopping fun and do a good deed.
Want a sneaky way to find out exactly what your kids want for the holidays while also shopping for a good cause? Shop with your kids for gifts to donate to a local charity, and have them pick out the toys to donate.
Your kids will love scanning the aisles for their favorite items, shopping for the other kids and you can get some gift ideas, like I did when my five year old daughter insisted that she knew the kids would love a Sofia the First doll.
Drop off items you bought for your local charity and keep your cover in tact once you get home by ordering items for your family online.
Thanks Jonna! Now the only tricky part is figuring out how to hide the gifts until Christmas morning. I’d love to hear from my Simple Kids readers: how do YOU keep holiday gifts hidden, and surprises from being blown, at your house?
One lucky Simple Kids reader and gift detective will win a $25 gift card from Target to help you with your holiday shopping.
This giveaway will end at midnight EST, December 13, 2013. Open to US residents only. Thanks and good luck!
Find more Gift Detective Tips, including Santa’s Secret Ink, at A Bullseye View. Target invites you to share pictures of your gift detective work on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with the hashtag #MyKindofHoliday.
Note: the kids and I had a great time hamming it up for these photos, but you should know that no wish lists or holiday secrets were compromised in the making of this post. And, big thanks to my daughter Jillian for taking some of the pictures in this post and for being my ace detective!