As a materialistic mother of four with nine holiday seasons of motherhood under my belt, I feel qualified to weigh in on the value of certain coveted kid gifts. Ads can be deceiving, trends can be weird, and kids can be persistent so I feel a responsibility, having bought too much of all of it, to let you know that sadly, some things will be a bust. And so here, without further ado, is my non-exhaustive list of kid purchases that have been a total waste of money. You’re welcome.
Indoor Toddler Trampoline
God, it seems so great. You envision this little piece of furniture in the corner of your living/play room allowing your wild little one to bounce his/her energy away in the cold winter months. The trouble is that to prevent this toy from being a complete safety hazard, there needs to be a handlebar for the kids to hold onto — extending at eye-level from one side to the other. Each manufacturer covers this metal bar with a layer of soft, foam-like material — again, for safety. Well, four out of four of my children spent less time jumping and more time eating the foam layer off of the handlebar. And don’t bother covering it with masking tape — it doesn't work. Just trust me, and pass.
This one is going to be controversial I am sure, as I have seen so many of my friends' kids live for these things. But for whatever reason, this is a complete flop in my house. Maybe because mommy isn’t much of a chef and therefore not inspiring a lot of pretend play scenes, or maybe because daddy isn’t much of a builder so some of the cabinet doors are on incorrectly — I don’t know. But the set doesn’t get used, and all of the hundreds of little pretend foods get lost and we are now left with two pizza slices, a potato, and a plastic pickle.
L.L. Bean Snow Tube
For all my wonderful New Englanders, this is a no for me, dawg. My kids were adamant about these after seeing some friends towing them up the hill the winter before, but these did not get the use necessary in my house to make up for the price and storage of this thing. And quite honestly, when it came around to sledding, they all preferred the comfort and ease of a cheap pool tube to this heavy-duty, bank-busting mega-sled.
Indoor Fort Builder
I get it, I really do, because this is what my brain did: “My kids love forts! They will love taking their fort building to the next level with this obviously necessary fort builder!” Trouble is, half the fun of fort building is using your imagination to create a masterpiece using cushions, blankets, blocks, and other normal household items. Fort in a box takes the magic away and for that reason, it’s a hard pass.
God, you wanna love it, right? You want to give a sensible home to all those tiny pieces that get stuck on the bottom of your feet and send fury through your entire body. But sadly, the Lego table is not the solution. Mostly because it is just a regular table with that lego bottom that makes you think that your kid is going to spend hours building large scale Lego cities on, but doesn’t. And also because it takes up a ton of space and wrecks the feng shui of any respectable room.
Now before you roll your eyes at me for this purchase, let me first admit an understanding that this toy is extra and obnoxious. But my four year old was obsessed with unicorns and ride-on toys, so for her Christmas, it fit the bill. Sadly though, this glamorous ride was quite slow moving for her liking. A little less Beth Dutton and a little more Zootopia sloth vibes — especially if you live on a street that is not freshly paved. So for her, it was one slow, bumpy trip around the block and then it was back on her bike.
Table Top Air Hockey
Unless you are an extremely patient electrician who is also trained in engineering and has really tiny fingers — just don’t. It will break more times than it doesn’t and your kids will become increasingly frustrated each time.
This was so fun and cool and entertaining… for exactly six minutes, at which time this (expensive) piece of electric equipment was mistakenly routed over the river and through the woods never to be seen again. Contrary to Amazon item descriptions, even kid drones are not fool-proof and require a decent amount of product understanding and technique. A one-star review for sure.
A Bow and Arrow Set
If you are thinking, “well, duh,” on this one, you would be correct! Turns out Santa can be very irresponsible and it is not safe for six and eight-year-old brothers to engage in target practice in the backyard. Also turns out that although arrows might be advertised as “kid safe,” that might not apply to every (my) kid. Lesson learned.
Runners up on this list include but are not limited to jumbo cardboard blocks, electric piggy banks, science kits, Bey Blades, and anything with a remote control. And likely a lot of other stuff too.
Because while kids (and sometimes parents) think they need it all, it is so often everyday household items or nature that keeps them the most entertained. But since we’ve all gotta splurge every once in a while, it is important to have the facts. So go over their lists, and check them twice. Because some of the stuff on their lists ain’t worth it. You’re welcome.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.