Operation Covert Christmas Mission! #MyKindOfHoliday @Target #Giveaway #Ad

*I participated in a campaign on behalf of Target. I received a promotional item to facilitate this review and as a thank you item for participating.  All opinions are my own.

    Every Christmas, it seems like it is getting harder and harder to figure out what our boys want as part of their wish list.  They change their mind from day to day and my husband and I have to be careful not to question them too much since they both still believe in Santa Claus and they expect him to know exactly what they want to receive. Luckily, this year we will have the help of Jonna Mendez, a former CIA intelligence officer, to show us how to determine the gifts our kids want the most this holiday season.  She has teamed up with Target to help moms who are struggling to figure out what their kids really want this year.

    Jonna Mendez is a retired CIA intelligence officer with more than 25 years of service as well as being a mother and a grandmother.  I would say that these qualifications make her an expert in the area of how to be a gift detective this holiday season!  The Target Kids’ Gift Detective Technique that we will be using for the purposes of this covert Christmas Mission will be Covert Observation.  This technique will include observing my boys’ in their natural habitat and, as we go about our normal routine, observing their faces and their posture when watching commercials.

    When they are interested in something that they see on television, their eyes dilate, their faces light up, they naturally sit up straight and tall and their body language opens up. When they are not interested, they will sink down in their seats or even cross their arms. I also listen to changes in their speech pattern, specifically their tone and pitch – when they’re excited about something, their tone will becomes lighter, the pitch of their voice will be higher and they will talk faster.  This is something I can do casually as we are all watching television as a family.

    Additionally, I will be observing and mentally recording their reactions to the gifts featured in Target’s Kids’ Gift List.  For the first time, electronics, video games and sporting goods join toys on Target’s top kids’ gift list which is right up my boys’ alleys because their top five presents to receive this Christmas seem to be in those three areas.  I’m very excited about being able to get some gift-giving inspiration an using this resource to help me shop for my boys and my nephews this holiday season.

    To further covert my mission, I’m going to find a unique way to wrap and give my boys their gifts this Christmas. I don’t want all of my hard spy work to go to waste when they see the gifts wrapped under the tree.  Here are some Detective Tips that are going to help me pull this off:

  • Kids’ Gift Detective Tip 1: If you are giving a smaller gift such as the Beats Solo On-Ear Headphones, try wrapping it in a large box to disguise it and with something heavy inside to weigh it down. Or wrap an obvious shaped item in the same package to really throw kids off the trail. Place a basketball on top of a boxed gift and wrap both together – the box will look like the basketball packaging until the wrapping comes off.
  • Kids’ Gift Detective Tip 2: Often times on Christmas morning, there’s one big gift that kids are longing for. To build up the excitement for opening “the big gift,” give smaller accessory items that accompany the big gift, creating a scavenger hunt that leaves the presence of the big gift in doubt until the moment it comes into view. For example, if the big gift item you’re giving your daughter is a Barbie Dream House, give her a new Barbie, a couple of Barbie outfits and place a note within one of the smaller gifts that leads her to where the Barbie Dream House is hidden.

     Make sure you check out Target’s tips to finding out what your kids really want this holiday to help you plan your own covert Christmas mission.  They will help you figure out what your kids want and allow you to fulfill all of their wish lists!

Let’s Discuss:  What are some of the creative ways that you find out what your kids want for Christmas?


Our sponsor is giving away a $25 Target gift card to one reader of Tough Cookie Mommy!a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  This is a compensated campaign on behalf of Target. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

© 2013, Tough Cookie Mommy. All rights reserved.


  1. steve weber says

    no kids.. I just ask my sister what my niece and nephew want..

  2. I’m a bit sneaky about it, to be honest — I ask my niece to make out her Christmas list to Santa, and then I offer to mail it to the North Pole for her. I then take a peek at the list before actually dropping her list into the “Letters for Santa” box at the Post Office. 🙂

    Geoff K
    gkaufmanss at yahoo dot com

  3. I let them ask for what they want (nieces who are older) because who doesn’t love opening something you’ve had your eye on? For the younger ones, our two, we go by what they love. This means phases for sure: Elmo, Thomas the Tank Engine, currently Lightning McQueen and friends but soon, I suspect, displaced by Dusty the Cropduster!

  4. skynkatesmom says

    I ask my kids to make a list each year, I also pay attention to things they say to me and things they point out in magazines or on TV.

  5. Jennifer R. says

    I always have my kids make a list in the fall for Christmas ideas, the earlier the better. That is how I find out what they are thinking about for holiday gifts.

  6. There is no issue finding out, my DD makes sure she lets us know! She will look through toy catalogs and point out what she wants. Of course she ends up wanting everything, ha ha.

  7. The easiest way is to have them write a list for Santa.

  8. Janet Watson says

    Since my grandsons are still too young to write a letter to Santa, I have them point to some things in a catalog of what they like or catches their eye. My daughters used to write a letter to Santa and that’s how we knew what to buy them.

  9. Janet Watson says

    Entered 2013 Hess Toy Truck & Tractor giveaway, too!

  10. Oh wow, this woman is awesome. I’ll sit with my boys while we watch something on the Disney Channel or something & literally every time a commercial for a toy comes on, one or the other pipes up with “I want that”. It’s hard to tell sometimes what they really want, so I will have to try some of her techniques!

  11. When my kids were younger, they would write letters to Santa. Now that they are older, I ask them what they would like for Christmas.

  12. I entered the Despicable Me 2 DVD giveaway

  13. Stephanie Phelps says

    Every year I ask them to make me a list of all the things they want and I pick from that!

  14. I do not have any children-nor do I have any to buy for this year! These do seem like good ways to discover what your kids really want.

  15. I always ask for a list, with limitations of course. I just pick from it.

  16. I find out when they write letters to santa or when they sit on his lap. Thankfully they don’t ask for expensive gifts yet.

  17. all my kids are grown ,but my grandson wants a new game for his x-box and some cloths

  18. Kimberly Deallovingrandma Stcl says

    I have my kids write a list…one in October, one in November, and one in December.

  19. maleficent mcneff says

    We give them the toy r us toy add and they circle what they want and ask them to make a list for santa.

  20. Yea, beats will be something they would totally love for sure!

  21. i have no children, but I do have a husband that i keep an eye on during the year to know or get an idea of what he would like. i also look at the things he has bookmarked on ebay to see what he needs.

  22. margaretsmith says

    They write letters to Santa and they also tell us.

  23. My kids just write out long lists and hand them to me.

    I also entered your Despicable Me giveaway.

  24. BohemianBabushka says

    I always made sure my kids collected something- made it much easier to buy. As long as it was that character/item related it was welcomed.

  25. I make notes all year long about what people need or want. I try to pay attention to more than just what they say they want, and think instead about gifts they may not realize fit their interests perfectly. It really makes gift-giving fun, and so much easier!

  26. I just ask them.

  27. I love Target!! Our kids write lists , but i throw in ideas to surprise them.

  28. I casually notice what captures their interest or what they are focusing on. Sometimes asking subtle questions can give me clue. If it’s really a hard guess, I will directly ask for a list.

  29. I just ask my nephew what he wants. If he doesn’t know, I get him books and video games which he likes a lot.

  30. I have my kids circle what they want in the ads to find out what they want. Target was one of those ads this year. 🙂

  31. I fine out what they want for Christmas every year by asking them to write a list to Santa. Funny it always is a LONG list so I get to pick from them.

  32. My Mom usually asks my nephew, and that’s how I find out – I don’t think he’s ever written a letter to Santa. He’s at the age now where he is questioning Santa…I blame kids at school. Anyways, he wants to tie his Dad to his leg on Christmas night to prove he’s not doing Santa’s work.

  33. My son writes a wish list and I buy a few items from that list. It used to be a list for Santa, but now he knows Santa doesn’t exist so it’s a list for parents

  34. coupontammy says

    I have read my kids letters to Santa. The worst I have ever done was have a friends husband call and say it was Santa and ask them what they want for Christmas that they hadn’t told anyone else.

  35. coupontammy says

    I entered the Despicable Me 2 giveaway.

  36. JadeLouise Designs says

    These are fun tips. We like to wrap our gifts sot hat the kids can’t tell what they are. And putting a small item in a big box really throws them off and makes them laugh.

  37. Daisy Tremorev says

    I take my son to Target and walk up and down the toy aisles so that he can point at everything that he likes. LOL – it’s the funniest thing because he likes pretty much everything. He’s such a sweet little boy too that he always says thank you for letting him point at what he likes. 🙂

  38. Wow, I can’t believe a REAL CIA intelligence officer was consulted for this. How fun is that?! My parents used some of those tricks when I was a kid, and I plan on using them, too. They would also put our gifts in really disappointing boxes to throw us off. I remember one year getting a Barbie doll in a big Land-O-Lakes American cheese box. 😉 LOL

  39. I used to have the kids write a letter to Santa with their five most wanted items. That way they had to think carefully because once the letter was gone, Santa didn’t know what to get them.

  40. My kids are still very small, so I pretty much decide what they get for Christmas. In the future, I’m sure I’ll just have them do a letter to Santa like I used to do.

  41. My kids write letters so far on their own and shove them under their pillow. I snatch them to see what they want. lol 🙂

  42. Linda Kinsman says

    I look for clues throughout the year and write myself notes on my planner. Also- having one on one talks with their siblings provides me a wealth of information. I also make sure to let them browse the Holiday catalogs that invade our home and star any items they like.

  43. natali alvarez jaimes says

    hi, I am natali alvarez jaimes , I think the best way to know what children really want gift is: ask what you are going to ask santa.
    ask them to write your letter in advance time.

    Creo que la mejor manera de saber lo que los niños realmente quieren de regalo es: preguntarles a ellos lo que van a pedir a Papá Noel.

    pídales que escriban su carta antes para poder tener los regalos a tiempo. gracias por la oportunidad.

  44. AmandaSakovitz says

    I have a friend or family member ask them so I can find out.

  45. I always had my kids write up a Wish List and then I would choose a few things from their list.

  46. Thomas Murphy says

    My kids tell me what they want for Christmas. They are not shy.

    rounder9834 @yahoo.com

  47. Jennifer Williams says

    My little one is at the age where everything starts with “I Want” he wants everything he sees. my oldest is a lot harder and changes his mind. He does not do much so watching him does not help, great tips, hopefully something will help with the youngest.

  48. TouristMeetsTraveler says

    My kids are not shy, they write me a list and tell me exactly what they want and where I can get it 🙂

  49. Marielle A. Lord says

    i gave my son the some catalogs with toys (target, toysRus, sears) and gave him stickers. and told him to only stick it next to the toys he really wanted.

  50. I love Target and wish my daughter was still young so I could buy all the great toys they have!

  51. Ginoy Caro Ramos says

    My kids just write out long lists and hand them to me

  52. Sara Wagner says

    My kids are toddlers so this year I just pulled up certain items on my computer and then they would get curious and come to see what I was up to. When they come over and they see something they like, they usually tell me. So that made my shopping experience a little easier.

  53. My children always want something that plugs in or video games.

  54. My sons are older so it is pretty hard to surprise them with gifts. We usually ask them to make a list of things and also try and be creative and think of a few things that are not on it.

  55. Rebecca Shockley says

    I usually go to each one of them and tell them to put some thought into it and then make me a list with item’s that are not out of reach. They grunt and groan, but eventually give in!

  56. We like to go there and have him point out everything he loves!

  57. Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell says

    I like to watch them looking through catalogs so I can gauge their reactions!

  58. Katherine Bartlett says

    Who doesn’t love shopping at Target?!

  59. I have a 9 & 13 year old. I flat out ask them what they want and we go from there.

  60. they tell me what they want

  61. Melanie Roberts says

    I love target and what a great mission… I’m still clueless as to what to get for the Teenagers..uuggghh they have everything and don’t even have a wish list. crazy kids

  62. Both of my sons are still pretty young so they’re not aware they can actually ask for items. But my oldest son has pointed out one commercial over & over again every time it comes on. He’ll be finding that toy under the tree this year.

  63. Each year, my daughter makes a list of what she wants for Christmas. We also go out to the stores and browse and she will let me know what she wants. The third way is that I let her look at catalogs that we have to give her more ideas.

    kport207 at gmail dot com

  64. BabsProjects says

    We don’t do the huge gifting thing in our home, but we have two birthday’s during this month. MY little one has already written down a long list and as usual, she is wants everything on the list.

  65. I have it easy so far…. My daughter is about to turn 5, so I just ask her What does she want Santa to bring her this year? My son is 2 and doesn’t quiet make sense when he is talking so I’m still picking out things for him. I expect its going to get harder after this year though…

  66. I definitely try to be observant throughout the year to see what their interests are and if they have changed from what I know to be sure. It helps a whole lot!

  67. Todd Lovessweeps says

    I have each child give me a list of what I want – I buy things off of the list and add a few cool things I want to get them

  68. Laurajj Jacobson says

    Oh I pretty much know what he is into and would like, but we always ask him and let him look at all the toy catalogs that come! But, I try to find neat things he would like!

  69. Onica {MommyFactor} says

    How interesting that you got to observe and note their reactions. I like the tip about giving little presents that lead up to the big one. Gonna try that this year

  70. I simply ask or take a peak at journals.

  71. Rebecca Williams Parsons says

    A lot of times I see their reaction to a commercial or a tv show they like. And see what they play with at other families homes. I always throw down a sales add and see their reaction to the toy section.

  72. Tracy Parral says

    I find out what my kids want for Christmas by plainly asking. Technically I can’t get what they want, so I just get them small things I can afford that by using my listening ears, I know they want.

  73. I have my daughter write a letter to Santa and then read it before I “mail” it to Santa.

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

  74. I entered the “Leave Nothing To Chance” With Blue Nile! Giveaway

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

  75. I have the kids write a letter to Santa Claus.

  76. Allison Downes says

    I have them write a letter to Santa telling him what they really want! Thank you for the nice giveaway.

  77. No kids, but my nieces and nephews have no problem giving me a lengthy list of things they want for Christmas. Of course, they know they won’t get it all, but I end up with plenty of ideas!!

  78. We have them make a list of what they want

  79. Heather Hayes Panjon says

    The Kids Make Out Several Wish List’s One For Santa, And One For Mom And Dad And Aunts, They Have Very Creative Wish’s, That Gives Everyone Great Ideas!

  80. Amanda Hoffman says

    well my son is only 2 so i just get by age wise. i also look at what hes interested in right now its elmo,cars and anthing with the alphabet :).

  81. I always ask my kids and also get them toys similar to ones they already enjoy.

  82. ambersconfections says

    They write letters to Santa and tell me what they want.

  83. well my daughter is only one right now, so I just get things for her that I think she will like. I plan on having her write to santa every year though to find out in the future. 🙂

  84. Every year the kids make a wishlist to send to Santa. I like to get a few things from the list and other toys that are on sale. Happy Holidays! 🙂

  85. I just have a niece and nephew to buy for…no kids yet. I try to dig for info when I get to hang out with them, but mostly I end up picking something fun that catches my eye 🙂

  86. I have them make a Christmas list for Santa so I know what they want!

  87. I don’t have kids yet but anyone who wanted to know has always asked me. If not, they have asked my mom what I want and she usually has a pretty good idea.

  88. Migdalia aka @MsLatina says

    In my family, each child is given a budget and asked to list 5 items they would like to receive. The list is shared among the adults, with each taking an item. They also receive a surprise gift.

  89. I ask them what gifts they are asking for from Santa.

  90. My son writes a Christmas list. I also ask his cousins what he has told them that he wants!

  91. Ask them and listen when they say they like something.

  92. Gift giving is all year long for us

  93. I have them make lists.

  94. Denise Taylor-Dennis says

    My son is only 4 so its tough at the moment, I kind of guess what he would like. My daughter is 20 so pretty much she likes cash LOL.

  95. I find out what they want by asking them. I also ask their friends what they would like for Christmas and mine usually chime in as well! 😉

  96. Right now she is still to small to write us a list so we just have her show us ideas at the store. Of course she wants every thing that pops up on commercials as well! lol

  97. My son is three years old and is very vocal about what he wants. It is basically every toy that he sees on tv:)

  98. Btty M' Ruiz says

    i like gift cards .I have them make lists fot my kids

  99. Jean Brinkley says

    My daughter loves to make a picture list (drawing of things she wants, with labels). She’s six and her spelling isn’t always the most accurate, but she’s happy to translate. The things she talks about the most get my attention.

  100. Jessica Wyatt says

    My son is only 20 months so I just have to go off what he seems to be enjoying at the moment. Right now that’s coloring, so I have the Aquadoodle Travel ‘N Doodle and Color Wonder on his list. 🙂

  101. Meagan Bailiff says

    I ask her what she told Santa she wants for christmas. I usually try to make a point to get that thing, and other things I just listen for what she talks about the most.

  102. kelly Nicholson says

    How do you find out what your kids want for Christmas every year?

    i dont have kids..dad use to ask me..

  103. Amanda Rauch says

    Ever since my son was little we have him write a Christmas List with everything he wants on it. The item he wants the most, he puts a star next to and that is usually the Santa present. Works pretty good until they get older and all they want is cash 🙂

  104. Jennifer Dunaway says

    They make a list each year.

  105. Jason Vaughn says

    No kids

  106. I take notes when they ask for things during the year. We also sit down and write a letter to Santa.

  107. Lesley Maxey says

    My son is only 3, so it’s basically just seeing his interests during the year and going from there. This years its trains, trucks, cars, etc.

  108. everyone makes out a list every year with their wants

  109. Richard Morris says

    My kids are 4 & 8 so they are able to tell us some of their wants, then there is Santa and just watching watch they like to do.

  110. I find out by asking them to write a list of what they want every year.

  111. Brittney House says

    I looked at my son’s Christmas list to santa.

  112. Rhonda Grisham says

    When my grandkids visit, I listen to them when advertisements come on tv. If it’s something they really want, they will ask “Nana will you get me that?” LOL (this happens a lot)

  113. My kids makes a note of what they want and we buy they one want and more of what they need.

  114. I took my son grocery shopping and visited the toy department and observed which items he was interested in.

  115. T Michelle Trump says

    We look at toy catalogs and flyers and then we write a letter to santa and glue pictures to letter of wish list items.

  116. Paula Tavernie says

    I always find out by reading their Santa letters before I mail them off! The kids never knew that I read them!!

  117. I ask! My kids typically do not withhold their requests from me.

  118. AngelaCisco says

    In all honesty, I just ask. They don’t hold back trust me.

  119. Annabellainla says

    They usually make a list and give it to me whether I need it or not 😉
    annabella @ centurytel dot net

  120. mommyto2girlz says

    I tell them that they have to make a Christmas list. Most of them time that don’t actually make the list but just tell me what is on that list. Thank you!!
    crystalfaulkner2000 at yahoo dot com

  121. We know what our kids want for Christmas because they make out a list for us that we share with other relatives.

  122. Erica Carnes says

    They give me a list.

  123. I don’t have any kids in my life right now, but if I did I would just ask them.

    Thanks for the contest.

    slehan at juno dot com

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