Before having children of my own, I had zero clues regarding age-appropriate gifts for kids.

I once showed up at a baby shower with a silver spoon. It sounded traditional.

Out of pity, my roommate slapped my name on a box of Duplos at a toddler’s party the next month. I thought the gift was perfectly hideous, but the birthday girl was ecstatic about that box of plastic rectangles.

Eventually I married and had children of my own, when I got the delicious taste of my own medicine. I watched in horror as my 3-year-old daughter opened a neon, feather-covered beer Koozie from her godmother.

She insisted a Koozie was a great way to keep sippy cups insulated. I insisted she take a moral inventory.

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So I want to share with you things NOT to buy children, outside of the obvious train-wreck gifts. Every disaster gift mentioned in this guide has been purchased for my children, or for children of moms I know, so while these words may make you laugh, just remember that at some point, they also made a mother cry.

No child under the age of 12 should receive Sharpie permanent markers. Or markers that smell. 

Sharpie does a nice job of indicating just how permanent their products are, so you have no excuse for giving this to your grandchild. Don’t buy scented markers for kids who like to smell things, which basically means this advice covers all children.

I wonder how many kids have brain damage from the old styrofoam trays of Mr. Sketch markers? I could have been a surgeon had I not spent first grade high on purple grape fumes.

Never buy drum sets.

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I’ve known more than one jokester who thought it would be cute to buy drum sets for kids with infant (napping!) siblings. You will not be forgiven. Ever.

Never buy “thousands” of anything.

10,000 tiny beads, 1,000 foam shapes, a lifetime supply of flugelbinders. I’ve spent years picking up plastic coins and my cats regularly poop rhinestones. If it advertises a “handy carrying case,” the playroom is ground zero, but the fallout zone will cover the entire house. I speak from experience.

Glitter kits.

The words “glitter kits” should stand without explanation, but on behalf of two pets who survived last winter’s “glitter war,” I must add: NEVER GIVE KIDS GLITTER.

Talking toys.

Lastly, if a toy talks, please review the words before purchasing. My friend’s daughter can chant several songs featuring the phrase “wiggle it” thanks to a cheerleader doll. It also dances, so she knows which parts to wiggle. The whole thing is horrifying.

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Just be prepared for damage control

Gifts that will put you in the good graces of your family include things like tape, fingernail polish remover, and water bottles. Do these gifts sound boring? Not to our kids! Come take a tour of my home, where you can help me search for any of my 7 pairs of scissors, thousands of missing safety pins, and clean washcloths. Perhaps you could just give my kids interior wall paint to cover up last year’s drone accidents.

I love that extended family members enjoy giving my children gifts at the holidays or for their birthdays, but just remember, if you can’t be a good example, you’ll have to settle for being a horrible warning.

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