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Stay-At-Home Dad: Wish list sparks debate over gift registries for kids’ parties

Updated: October 23, 2013 6:12AM



Gift registries are customary for bridal and baby showers — not birthday parties.

A friend and loyal reader reached out to me after her preschool-age son was invited to a birthday party. Her son was excited about the party for a set of twins from his school. So my friend sent an email to RSVP, at which time she also asked for some gift ideas.

The hostess directed her to the Toys R Us website. She said the twins had registered at the store but warned that their taste was rather expensive. Thus, partygoers shouldn’t feel bound to the online gift list.

The email arrived after my friend already had bought something for the party based on her son’s recommendation. Nevertheless, she thought it was odd that 5-year-old children would register for birthday gifts. I agreed. So I looked into this a bit more.

“Starting in 2009, parents and kids have together created dedicated Wish Lists in-store. These tailored lists of toys are based not only on what a child wants, but also on his or her age, interests and abilities,” a Toys R Us spokeswoman told me last week.

First, I must say rebranding a gift registry as a wish list is shrewd. Parents and relatives are likely to bristle at the idea of children running rampant in a toy store with a scanning gun, whereas, a wish list conjures images of a child misspelling his or her favorite toys on a piece of construction paper with a dull crayon.

Call it whatever you like, a gift registry is a gift registry. And apparently these things have taken off as children’s parties have become more extravagant. My friend asked around and was astounded when other parents said they’ve also encountered wish lists. Sometimes the link to the online gift registry is even printed on the invitation, she said.

“I just think it’s bad to instill this mentality so young with kids expecting specific presents. What ever happened to giving what you can afford and putting some thought into the gift? The kid should be happy enough with the party itself, as things have become so elaborate nowadays,” my frustrated friend said.

I also think it’s in bad taste to have a gift registry for a kid’s party. I can see how a wish list might be useful for a child with family members scattered across the globe — particularly around the holidays. But directing friends from school to a defined list of toys seems inappropriate.

That being said, I usually ask parents for gift suggestions upon receiving a birthday party invitation. Typically, I let them know up front that I’m not afraid to buy pajamas, socks, underwear or other staples if that’s what the parents would prefer. I’ve only been taken up on this offer once.

Even better than asking the parents is to slyly pry gift ideas from the soon-to-be birthday boy or girl. I once bought a 7-year-old boy a box of corn dogs upon request. His parents found it odd when I suggested putting the present in the freezer if he wasn’t going to open it promptly.

I have no doubt wish lists are here to stay. It’s been four years since these kiddie registries debuted. If there were to be a backlash, it would have happened already. All I can say is that I’d be more inclined to go off registry for a kid’s birthday party than for a bridal or baby shower.

Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.

He can be reached at howardaludwig@yahoo.com.



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