Example: Tickle Me Elmo. Sesame Street executives admitted that when they approved Elmo's voice, they knew, deep in their dark hearts, they'd found the one voice most likely to appeal to toddlers and the voice most likely to make anyone over age 4 stick their fingers in their ears and yell, "nah, nah, nah, nah."
You deserve what you get if you buy these toys and hand them over. But here's help for anyone looking to inspire adoration in the little ones and drive mom and dad insane. In no particular order, below are some of the toys that I've hated over the years — those that I pray will never again find a spot beneath my Christmas tree:
1. Really loud toys. My mom once gave my boy this electronic guitar that played six different Wiggles songs really loudly for 10 seconds every time he hit a button. That guitar was not just annoying — it was evil. My boy loved it. When one of the song lyrics got stuck on nonstop instant replay in my head, I decided I'd had enough. I hid the guitar on the top shelf of his closet, hoping he'd forget about the devil's toy. He managed to find it. Ultimately, the batteries expired, and because removing the battery cover and replacing them required a Ph.D. in engineering, I pleaded ineptitude.
2. Messy, sticky toys. Silly String, Slime, Play-Doh, glitter glue, bubbles, etc. I hope Play-Doh is biodegradable because I've tossed enough of it into the landfill over the years to fill a small dump truck. My son recently has been playing with some sticky sand sculpture stuff that doesn't sculpt. However, it fills the small cracks between our wooden floorboards well — though electric blue doesn't really match the oak.
3. Toys that require parents to buy expensive accessories. While a Wii is a generous gift, the video system requires a number of accessories, not to mention games. Unless you've checked with the parents first, don't give their kids a toy that will become a techno-money pit.
4. Toys that shoot. I don't care whether they shoot pingpong balls, foam arrows or potatoes, toys that shoot will be abused by kids. Period. My boy once shot a "soft" plastic arrow into the back of a friend's neck. Luckily, there was no blood, but the dude has wisely avoided my children since then. Though we have a strict "no shooting or throwing any kind of objects at people" rule, it's the one rule that seems impossible to stick to consistently (well, that, and don't hit your sister/brother).
5. Tiny, self-procreating toys, such as beads. You may think beads are made from plastic or glass, but actually they are made from some magical substance that has a magnetic attraction to rugs. Once scattered across the rug, beads blend into the carpet's design, only revealing themselves when stepped on. Though not as painful to the bottom of the bare foot as the Lego shape, beads roll, causing dramatic falls. When you end up in the ER after a bead accident, send the hospital bill to whomever gave your kids the tiny balls of doom.
My name is Edgy Mama, and I have approved the following toys for holiday gifting: books, CDs, non-messy art supplies, video games for already-owned technology, bikes and other riding toys, baseball gloves, and inexpensive, comfortable clothing. Also, even though they fall into the "tiny, self-procreating toys" category, I approve Lego blocks. Because my kids will play with them for hours.
Just call me Grinchy Mama.
Anne Fitten "Edgy Mama" Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com
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