"What happened to the good old surprise?"
"I know whatís best for the children, not them"
"It is just encouraging them to be greedy"
What is an online wish list?
Itís simple really: just as some children write a list for Santa each year, they can now create a similar gift list online, this time for friends and parents too.
The beauty of the online list is that each item can be described by a picture, the childís description (including details like colour, model or size) and most importantly a link to the actual item. Many stores, like Amazon, have their own wish lists, but these are of only limited use because most children will want things from more than one store. And you only want one definitive wish list, not several. Dedicated wish list sites offer a range of stores or even the facility to add items from anywhere on the web.
How does it work?
To build a list the child (or parent) would search for a particular item - Johnny is mad about football and finds a club shirt in his size online. In order to add this to his list he needs to have joined a site and set up a list (each site will do this differently). The easiest way to add the shirt is to copy the web address of the shirt and paste it into the appropriate page of the wish list website. Many sites provide a clever facility by which users can download a button onto their browser. Once the shirt has been found, rather than copying and pasting the URL all Johnny needs to do is click the browser button and the shirt is automatically added to the list. Once Johnny has finished adding items, will email a link to parents, relatives and friends who can, in turn, log on and view the list. So when Grandpa sees something he wants to give, he will be able to promise the item which is then either removed from the live list or marked as "promised". Now all Grandpa has to do is click through the link to the gift and proceed to checkout.
"But then there will be no more surprises?"
Not necessarily true. Maybe the parent (who knows the child best) makes the list without the childís knowledge. With some lists it is possible to choose to hide information about whether a gift has been promised so although the child knows the contents of the list, she doesnít know exactly what to expect from whom on the day! And this media age, children are pretty clear about what they want, and donít want. A surprise is all very well, but if it lies unused at the back of a cupboard ...
"I know whatís best for the children - not them"
And nor do other givers. Building a wish list is an opportunity for parents to discuss childrenís aspirations with them, to give good suggestions and to remind them of things they have mentioned.
"It is just encouraging them to be greedy"
No more than conventional giving. Children love presents, they love the anticipation and they love the surprises. No one is going to be forced to visit the wish list or buy anything from it. Any child will soon realise that the contents of the list need to be tailored to the givers. Indeed by building a wish list the child is no longer the passive recipient of (sometimes inappropriate or unwanted) gifts but is an active participant in the process.
How to make a good wish list
A successful wish list is one that has something for all givers. Every potential giver who visits your wish list needs to find what they want to give you. Grandparents may rather give books and educational toys so a list full of jokes and obscure iPod accessories will turn them off and they will resort to traditional methods. With traditional consequences...
When my own children used online wish lists last Christmas, everyone was happy. I was delighted to be able to get them exactly what they wanted without battling the pre-Christmas shopping crowds. In fact, we had a blissful day out together choosing a Christmas tree and then decorating it all together. Other years Iíd still have been in the shops, and probably pretty grumpy too. The childrenís grandparents, aunts and uncles were very pleased to be able to choose something they knew the children wanted and the children themselves were over the moon. Never had Christmas delivered so spectacularly.
Getting them to write thank you letters has never been so painless. How much easier to say "It was just what I wanted" when it is true