At my daughter’s first birthday party, everyone made that same joke about her having more fun playing with the empty boxes than the toys that came in them. This timeless parenting principle was proven ever more true as she grew and as we continued to welcome useless things well-meaning people bought my toddler into our home. Some of the gifts were the result of a special occasion, but others were the bi-product of some visit to a national park because what 18-month-old child doesn't want a yo-yo as a souvenir, right?
I know how this happens, though. It is so easy to buy ridiculous crap for kids. In fact, the smaller my children are, the more susceptible I am to purchasing useless items on their behalf. I bought my newborn a purple suede, lamb’s wool-trimmed snowsuit that, once she was zipped into it, made it impossible for her to fit in her stroller. Even if I was able to strap her in with that overstuffed onesie roasting her, she would have outgrown it in a week. I wised up as my daughter got older, though. Other people — namely those without kids — did not. I get it, though. You read the convincing marketing copy on the packaging, see all those five-star reviews, and become convinced that you will be this child’s savior by gifting her with that one thing to ignite her genius and send her on the path towards the Ivy Leagues (on full scholarship, I hope).
The truth is, and I know this from living with a baby-turned-toddler-turned-child, it’s not usually the toy itself that helps a kid’s brain develop. Nope, it’s the myriad of ways a kid invents to play withthe toy that has a hand in his or her development. Whether it was a Baby Einstein gadget or a half-deflated balloon, my kid’s interest was always in figuring out what she could do with the thing that defied its intended purpose. If the toy depended on batteries, everyone was usually screwed.
So after a decade of parenting, I’ve determined the following items to be a total waste for toddlers, even though they were purchased by well-meaning adults: