The holidays are coming, which means it’s time to figure out what the hell to get your kids.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of retail advice out there. Everyone from magazine editors to “news” program producers to, ahem, bloggers have suggestions for what to buy your littles. Even my kids’ teachers and occupational therapists have sent home lists of “recommended” holiday gift ideas.
I wish I could add to these mounds of wisdom but I can’t. All I can do, after reading through all these lists, is tell you which recommended toys I will definitely NOT be buying my kids:
1. Portable Hopscotch Play Carpet
If memory serves, hopscotch is among the most portable games in the world. All you need is chalk, pavement and a pebble. I suppose you could argue that the mat is for days when it’s too wet or cold outside to play. My response is, for $50 plus tax and shipping (the price quoted in the catalog I saw), my kids can play a game called Find Something Else To Do.
What, are parents so worried that the urge to hop and scotch will hit their children with a fury the day of a major downpour and they’ll be stuck consoling their irreversibly traumatized little tykes because they didn’t have the foresight to spring for the stupid indoor mat? In this case, think of it as a teachable moment, when you as a parent can introduce your children to a little life lesson called “Sucking it up.”
2. Buddy’s Balloon Launch
According to the sales pitch, this game “can teach cause and effect, turn taking, cooperation and sequencing.”
They lost me with one word: can.
Because what is more likely to happen with a toy like this is bickering, name calling and me acting as a referee for a game that looks kinda stupid anyway.
3. Essential Oils Beginners Best of the Best Aromatherapy Gift Set
Yes, the above was actually on a list of recommended gifts for children. In all fairness, it didn’t mention the age of the child in question, so for all I know it’s for teenagers who want to get their aromatherapy on.
In the hands of my children, however, it would be good only for saturating our furniture with vomit-inducing concoctions reminiscent of a house of ill repute.
4. Ecobonk Organic Cotton Bop Toy
According to the sales pitch, instead of letting your child go 10 rounds with a plastic clown bop toy, with Ecobonk “your little one can cuddle, bounce, and bop with a variety of friendly safari animals.”
Um, not sure if the Ecobonk folks have checked a map lately, but you will find neither penguins nor grizzly bears on the plains of Africa. Unless you’ve been drinking. As for the inferior plastic bop toys in the shape of clowns, I think they’re a few decades off. Clowns aren’t for kids anymore. Clowns are for nightmares sequences in horror movies.
Forgive me for being obtuse, but what is the educational benefit of this toy? If it’s to instruct children in the idea that all nature is violent and we live in a world where the only way to ensure the survival of your species is to kick the crap out of others, then that’s really depressing and accurate. If it’s that grizzly bears just want to cuddle then they’d better have a good legal team on hand.
5. No Stress Chess
I’m sorry but chess should be stressful. They made a whole musical about this.
6. I Got This!
This is a game. I think. I started to read the description but it was really boring. I think the idea is to bet on whether you can complete a particular challenge and there’s a self-assigned points system.
Basically, it introduces children to the fascinating world of gambling. I plan on teaching them that by taking them to the track, like a normal parent.
7. Sturdy Birdy: The Game of Perfect Balance
My kids would take one look at this game and proclaim it dumb. I would then agree with them.
Look, if I seem weary of the hypothetical joys offered by the world of retail, it’s only because I have bought the equivalent of the above — or worse — for my children during holiday seasons past, only to watch them play more enthusiastically with a bowl of sand. Among my brilliant purchases now gathering dust are a Snap Circuits kit and a $50 inflatable horse described by its Italian manufacturer as both an “involving and relaxing toy” and a “pyscho-motor tool.” What a “psycho-motor tool” is and why I thought it would be appropriate for my children now escapes me. The lesson not to buy anything like it again has endured.
Happy friggin’ holidays.