I’m absolutely fascinated by the way my own kids and step kids use tech to make ongoing gift wish lists — the iOS Notes app has become the method of choice for them and so far, that’s working pretty well for us.
Then I saw Jessica Bradley Rushing’s hilariously 2021 tweet:
11yo sent me his Christmas list via Notes app.
13yo sent a Google slides presentation.
15yo sent 20 individual texts over the course of 2 weeks.
17yo sent a Word doc.
Now organizing a family meeting to talk about standardization of formats.
Get it together, kids. Sheesh.
She is not alone!
I shared this in our Out-Tech Your Kids Facebook group (you should join, we’re fun and helpful!) and it was fascinating to learn how our kids — of all ages — are using tech to ask for gifts for holidays and birthdays these days.
Related: The 3 best digital planners for parents, according to parents
Kids’ favorite ways to make gift wish lists online these days
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I’ve provided a few tips for each of the options below, to help you figure out what works best for you. Most likely, the answer will be whatever is easiest, and most intuitive for your kids to use, but hey, you still get some say right?
That said, I highly recommend you try to get all the kids and cousins, nieces and nephews, using the same method if you can. Or as Jen G put it in our Facebook Group: My oldest did an Amazon list, a Google doc and Google messenger ideas. I told him to put it together on one or he gets coal .
1. Google Docs
Google Docs, complete with hyperlinked URLs to gift ideas, seems to be the most widely preferred gift wishlist method from kids in our super scientific research. (i.e. not entirely scientific.) In part this is because most kids are already familiar with it thanks to Google Classroom and online learning.
Some extremely organized kids are also using Google Sheets, or alternatively, Excel. Better them than me.
Tip for Google Docs gift lists: Copy and paste their entire list into a separate, private doc of your own so your kids can’t see what you’re crossing off.
Bonus tip for kids: Parents are extremely impressed when you use a Christmas-y font for your list. Photos optional.
2. Powerpoint, Google Sheets, or Google Slides presentation
Yes, as in a whole presentation. Complete with photos, links, and pithy commentary. I have to say, that’s pretty impressive that so many kids seem to enjoy doing this!
Oh, and feel free to guide them toward Keynote if that’s easier than Powerpoint. (It is.)
3. iOS Notes App
This is a popular one with my own family. Each kid creates a shared note from their iOS app, and we even get notifications with every update. The drawing feature makes it extra fun if kids use it — but not kids use all the features (like check-boxes and formatting), so it ends up being a simpler version of Google Docs in a way.
Tip for iOS Notes App gift lists: If they’re sharing their gift list with multiple family members (say, the grandparents) be sure you’re communicating or two people are going to buy that same Nintendo Switch Game or pair of new headphones. Unless you want to cross something off the list, in which case the kids now know what you got them — if not who bought it.
Related: 12 practical tech gifts to help get us through another long winter
4. Amazon Wish Lists
Lots of kids are huge fans of the Amazon Wish List feature, because it gives them that same ease of when we were clicking “add to registry” for baby gifts. You can make your own by following these simple steps. It does make the most sense if your kids tend to pick gifts from Amazon — but of course you are welcome to buy gifts from anywhere you’d like.
It’s also convenient (well, at least for the powers-that-be at Amazon) because you can add an “idea” to a list and not just individual items. So if your kids, like mine, tend to write things like LOTS OF BOARD GAMES GOOD ONES IDK you can jump off from there.
Tip for Amazon Wish Lists: One mom suggested that she keeps her own running list there all year, as a way to pull in and keep track of all things the kids ask for — and then if she doesn’t buy something for one holiday, she moves that list over to the next holiday. 10/10 for organization and planning!
5. Bookshop.Org Indie Bookstore Wishlists
If you’re supporting your local booksellers — and please do! — encourage kids to use the wishlist feature at bookshop.org. Not only is it incredibly easy to click the giant “Add to Wishlist” button next to any title — it’s not just books! Just do a quick search for “Funko.” Gifts galore.
Tip for Bookshop.Org wish Lists: You can order items for pickup at your own neighborhood bookstore like Books are Magic near me in Brooklyn — that way you don’t have to stress about making holiday or birthday deadlines, you can save money on shipping!
Related: 6 cool ways to support indie bookstores right now. They need it!
6. Etsy Favorites
Here’s to those young indie shoppers after our own hearts! Speaking of hearts…it’s super easy for kids to just favorite an item on Etsy by clicking the heart — or favorite an entire store too. Which they may do when they find one like LA’s Roshion Shop, above, which sells all the plush from Pokemon, Undertale, and Five Nights at Freddies that they could ever want.
If kids have multiple favorites, they can create “collections” with names like Holidays, Birthday, Splurges, Maybe. Just know that if they have private lists, they’ll have to unlock
Tip for Etsy Wish Lists: Be aware that while sold out items stay in your favorites lists on Etsy, they will disappear if the seller removed it from their shop, closed their shop, or Etsy removed the item. This is one reason that external apps can be more helpful — especially Pinterest, which will not disappear your pins.
7. Pinterest Boards
You know we’ve been on Pinterest for-ever, so it’s second nature to us to use it — and you may even be surprised to see your tweens or teens already have an account. When my daughter was asking for all new back-to-school clothes to start high school, she already had various “aesthetic” Pinterest boards anyway. So it was easy for her to add one more private board for wishlist gifts, then share it with me.
(PS if you want to follow the @CoolMomTech “Cool Tech for Kids” board for ongoing inspiration, feel free! Your kids may already be doing it, ha.)
Tip for Pinterest Board Gift Lists: One of the reasons I like this idea is the visual sort — much easier to get a quick sense than the all-text options your kids might be using. It’s also easy for anyone to just delete or move something to a different board, if it doesn’t look all that great on further consideration.
8. ToDoist App
Considering I raved about this app earlier this year, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this! You can simply create a “project” called Birthday or Hanukkah or GIFFFFTTTTTS and your child can have access to add all their gift wishes. Be sure to click on sharing and “invite people to project” — that way select people can see the list.
ToDoist App Gift List Tip: Go ahead and create an additional shared project — without the kids on it — so that all the adults and other generous gift-givers can actually track who’s buying what. This is also a smart idea, even if kids are creating their lists through Notes, Google Docs or other apps.
Just use ToDoist for everything, basically. You’ll love it!
Related: 5 apps I started using that changed my life this year
9. Dedicated Wishlist Gifting Apps
Lots of parents I’ve talked to are fans of services like MyRegistry or Giftster (also a recent podcast sponsor of ours), both of which make it super easy to track everyone’s gift lists. Especially if you’ve got large families or multiple groups to shop for and you want to keep it all manageable. I like that you can add items from all over the web, and not just one single behemoth retailer (ahem).
Just know that you’ll be setting this up, not the kids.
Overall Tip: Have your kids shop through the app, and not use the bookmarklet on their browser, if you have issues with tracking/privacy.
Gifster Wish List Tip: In your group, you can use the anonymous list reminder feature to ask a question about an item — size, color, “do you really want this?” and so on. That way your kids won’t know who’s buying them what.
MyRegistry Wish List Tip: Remind kids that they can add items from any store — even local shops that don’t have websites. It doesn’t just help you support your communities, it can really come in handy when you’re shopping last-minute and don’t want to pay for $$$$ express shipping.
10. Smartphone Photos of Gifts
One intrepid mom walks the store aisles with her kids, then photographs the items her kids ask for. Similarly, some kids photograph the things they want, or simply screenshot items online and just forward along using one of the other methods above.
Tip for Smartphone Photos of Gifts: Have your kids (or you) add them all into one shared album called “Jasmine’s Wishlist” or something like that. That way you’ll see new items automatically as they’re added and you’ll always have access. Plus, it’s super easy to forward the image directly to a relative so they know exactly what you’re talking about when you say something like Just Dance 22 for Switch NOT Playstation — look for that red icon on the top right!
11. Regular Old Texting
Yes, kids are impulsively texting random items they see, as they think of them, and expecting us to somehow remember it all and keep it managed. Good times! Or as Elizabeth R put it in our Out-Tech Your Kids Group, she gets scattered, vague text messages with occasional links.