It's that time of year again; wallets are opened, budgets are blown, and credit card balances are sure to increase, all in the name of giving. Everyone loves buying gifts for the kids in their lives, but sometimes us parents are less than thrilled with the choices of even the most well-intentioned gift giver. There are a few basic rules for buying my kid a gift that (I humbly think, of course) most parents would love to share with friends and family members, too.
I have a very small house, according to today's standards, and as a family of four living in a two bedroom house, our space is limited. We don't have a playroom, so my kids' toys live among us and throughout the general population of our home. Every year, I remind our family of our limited space, and every year I am soundly ignored. My children have been gifted with what can only be described as humungous toys. While the sentiment is very much appreciated, the impact on our daily life is, well, not. When your gift makes it difficult for me to navigate my home, maybe you should rethink it. Bigger is not always better. The same goes for toys that make noise. As I sit here writing this very word, my children are playing with the most obnoxious toy ever conceived by man, and I've had to rewrite the same sentence no less than six times because the noise from this one toy is making my brain crash.
So, in the spirit of parents everywhere, I offer you my quintessential 10 rules for buying gifts for my (and everyone else's) kid to help make this holiday season better for everyone involved.
Rule 1: If You Ask My Opinion, Please Listen
If you want to buy my kid something you know he'll love, but you don't know what that "something" is, just ask me. After all, I know my kid. I know what he'll go nuts over and I know what will end up under the bed or in the corner or behind our couch.
So, if I tell you five things he would love, don't say something like, "I'll just keep looking then." If you're going to get him whatever the hell you want to get him, please don't ask me to waste my time making you a list.
Rule 2: Smaller Is Better
I know, I know. You want to get something that'll make my kid say, "Wow!" Trust me, I get it. However, please understand that space in my already toy-filled house is very limited, so if you give my son a gift that's 5 feet tall and 7 feet across, I'm going to be annoyed. If you want to get a large gift, make it an outdoor toy.
Rule 3: Just Because It's "Cool," Doesn't Mean It's Cool For Us
There are a lot of "cool" toys out there, but not every "cool" thing appeals to every kid. If you have your heart set on getting him a robot building kit or a microscope with prepared slides, or those Hatchimals people are constantly freaking out about this year, you should probably check with me to see that it's something he'll actually dig. I don't want you to spend your money on something that you think is cool, that my kid will only shrug his shoulders at.
Rule 4: Don't Gender Stereotype A Toy
I have two boys and you know what one of their favorite toys is? Their purple toy vacuum. I bought it in one of the "pink" aisles at Target, and they play with it all the time. If my kid tells you he wants a doll or some other traditionally labeled "girl" toy, listen to him.
Rule 5: Experiences Are Better Than Things
I know I sound picky, and I'm sorry if you find it off-putting, but if you don't like any of my suggestions so far, how about tickets to the zoo? Or the aquarium? Or ice skating? Maybe an art class? You could even come with us!
Rule 6: Just Because You Don't Like A Toy, Doesn't Mean My Kid Won't Like It
You may have an issue with screen time or video games or whatever arbitrary thing you is inppropriate for kids to play with, and that's fine. However, please don't throw shade if I tell you my kid wants a Nerf gun or Minecraft. We do us, and you can do you.
Rule 7: Don't Waste Your Time On Trendy Gifts
If it's the "it" toy of the year, chances are we don't want one. The "it" toys are the ones most often found in a dusty corner of the closet in March, forgotten and ignored. Instead of hunting high and low for a Hatchimal, how about something more traditional? Wooden toys are always a hit. Craft supplies get used regularly, too.
Rule 8: If The Toy Needs Batteries, Provide Batteries
There's nothing worse than being super excited about a new toy, but not having the batteries to make it work. If you don't want to be the cause of that very specific, very real heartbreak and devastation, toss a pack of appropriately sized batteries in the gift bag, too. You'll be holiday hero.
Rule 9: Actually, If It Takes Batteries Just Skip It
I used to tell my family (every year, mind you) that if it took batteries or made noise, we didn't want it. Did they listen? Nope. Of course not. So now I'm, you know, begging.
I implore you, if it takes batteries or makes noise, please for the love of all that is holy don't give it to my children. We have enough noise in our home, already. We don't need the drama that comes along with dead batteries and no replacements. I want my kids to learn to entertain themselves with toys, not by toys. Please, please, please, no battery operated toys.
Rule 10: Don't Stress
Most importantly, please don't stress about giving gifts to my kids. I say this in all sincerity, your presence in their life is gift enough.