My kids have zillions of toys. More toys than can comfortably fit in our home—and, of course, only about 5 percent of them get played with on a regular basis. A few times a year, I have to (secretly!) go through the closets and get rid of half their stuff. I donate to Goodwill, or pass them along to friends with kids.
I’m not complaining. I realize how lucky we are. I am eternally grateful to the grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and relatives near and far, who buy them gifts. My kids love getting new toys, and I know it makes everyone happy to see my kids’ faces light up when they unwrap gifts.
That said—oh my goodness—sometimes a gift can truly do more harm than good. I know it’s the thought that counts, but there are presents that can really wreak havoc on a household, or are just plain annoying—fingernails on a chalkboard, kill-me-now annoying.
As great as your gift ideas for kids may seem and as amazing as something may look in the store, I wish more people would consider what it will be like when the gift actually takes residence in a kid’s home. The thing is, once my child sees it, it’s pretty hard to just “exchange it.” Kids don’t let go of stuff that easily—at least mine don’t.
And my kids don’t always understand quite how intolerable the toy is. Yes, I’ll admit it: Some of the toys are just godawful to me, and me alone. But since I’m the one having to clean up their messes, and deal with their whining and fighting 24 hours a day, cut me a little slack, okay?
Please, pretty please, keep these kinds of gifts away from my kids:
1. Anything Gooey or Sticky
There’s this neon-colored goo called “Flarp” that everyone seems to want to buy for my boys. It comes in a can, and you’re supposed to squash your thumb into it so that it makes a fart sound. Hilarious, right? But wait, there’s more. If you get it on the couch, you’re screwed—that stuff stains. And yeah, I could just tell my kids to keep it away from the couch, but, umm, the couch is in the house and so are my kids, so yeah, I’m not too fond of Silly Putty either. I have more than once had to Google how to get Silly Putty out of a kid’s hair. No thank you.
2. Baby/Toddler Toys With Loud, Annoying Sounds
I know pretty much every baby toy lights up and has sounds. I mean, babies love that kind of stuff. But some are worse than others. Some don’t let you regulate the volume, and some play the most annoying soundtrack on an endless loop. Others don’t even have an on/off button. They just start yapping away any time I walk past them—not fun at 3 a.m. when I’m walking to the bathroom to pee. This talking Barney toy we have has scared the pants off me a couple of times in the dark of night. Shut up: Barney is scary!
3. Clothes for Kids Old Enough to Have Opinions About Them
When my kids are little, they’re not really picky about clothes. But the older they get, the more opinionated they become. It’s not that easy to convince an 8-year-old to wear a Power Rangers T-shirt when he liked them way back in pre-K (I mean, that’s ancient times).
4. Similar, But Slightly Different Gifts for Siblings
If you’re going to get both of my boys a similar toy, please just make them identical. It’s really cool that my boys both got bubbles from you, but now they are fighting about who gets the blue bottle and who get the green bottle. And soon they’ll argue that one container of bubble solution is better than the other (because, you know, the color of the container determines the strength of the bubble solution). It just goes on and on forever with these kind of things.
Need I say more? Glitter is deceiving. Even if you sort of remember how insane it is, it just looks really cool when it’s part of a craft kit. I mean, what’s a bit of glitter? There’s no such thing as a little bit of glitter. Truly. A speck of glitter contains 35 hours of clean up. Actually, it pretty much never goes away.
6. Toys That Are Part of a Set That My Kids Don’t Have Yet
Okay, I know there’s no way to know what my kids do and don’t have. But if you’re going to get them something that will soon require more stuff for it to be any fun, then it’s pretty much just digging a hole in my bank account. We were once gifted this moving, squeaking toy hamster (!) that did a seemingly endless repertoire of tricks—as long as you kept on buying more tunnels and wheels for it to “play” on. Needless to say, my kids just had to see what else the hamster could do and were begging me to buy them more and more accessories. Of course, they were completely bored with it all a month later!
7. Craft or Science Kits With Endless Instructions and Extra Stuff to Buy
Yay, let’s learn how to make a bouncing ball! Oh, but I need to buy Borax? I’ve never even heard of Borax. Oh, and let’s put together that skeleton of the human body. It only requires us to glue together 700 little tiny plastic pieces in exactly the right order.
8. Really Cool-Looking Toys That Are Totally Not Age-Appropriate
My older son is very determined to do any science or building kit he can get his hands on. And if it’s too hard, he won’t stop trying—he’ll just get so frustrated steam will be blowing out of his ears. Challenging is good. Stuff that’s for kids twice his age, no thanks.
Again, I am totally grateful for the stuff the world showers my kids with. I will always thank you for your gifts, and I expect my kids to do the same. But please consider that whatever you buy my kids will saturate our lives and require work and attention (mostly mine). If you think it might be the least bit annoying, you should probably skip it. My suggestion? When it doubt, keep it simple, small, clean, and above all, silent. Thank you!