When you have kids, people give you gifts. It's wonderful! There are sweet little blankets, jolly jumpers and charming little dolls - all very nice presents from generous relatives and friends.
Haunted doll? Check. Image via Flickr
It's Evil Week at Lifehacker, which means we're looking into less-than-seemly methods for getting things done. We like to think we're shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That's up to you.
And then there are the other gifts. There are things that are merely baffling: One friend told me her MIL brings boxes of recycling - literal garbage - for her toddler to play with. There are presents that are mildly clueless: The scratchy dresses for a little girl who clearly prefers jeans. And then there the purely, absurdly evil: The gifts and toys that will rain down a hellscape of misery upon the household. A brief, informal survey of parent friends revealed the 10 presents they would strongly like you not to give their kids, on penalty of your having to come over and deal with the fallout.
Glitter is the number-one scourge of the parenting world, worse than car sickness, worse than nappy explosions (I have found glitter in nappy explosions). My son's preschool loved doing craft projects in glitter, which upon arriving home would explode around the house like a letter bomb that can never, ever completely be cleaned up. Preschool ended three years ago and I am still picking glitter out of my eyebrows. So if you are considering offering an art-supply kit that contains glitter, please ask yourself, Do I hate these parents? If so, great, include extra glitter.
2. Things That Need To Be Stored
I also appreciate a good bargain on kids' clothes, but a 4T outfit for a nine-month-old just means that the parents have to store it for three years. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you live in a small home, storage is at a premium, and frankly if I store something, it's the equivalent of forgetting about it forever. I'll find it years after my kids could wear it and then it will just get added to the donations bag.
3. Noisy Things
One musician friend had a musical toy that sang the words "do-re-mi" but sang the notes "do-so-do", a fail so egregious that he considered smashing the toy with a sledgehammer.
For a full year my son was enamoured of a large plastic cube that played "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" over and over and over - as the toy wore out, an increasingly slowed-down, distorted rendition. I finally just disappeared it. Karaoke machines, kazoos, recorders and drum sets (unless approved by parents) also fall into this category.
Two friends of mine complained about Melissa and Doug music puzzles, which, they said, would often go off in the middle of the night, forcing them to stumble around in their nightgowns to find and destroy the errant pieces. Fun times!
4. Big Things
This goes for apartment dwellers, or really, anyone who doesn't live on a ranch. One friend has an easy formula for determining whether a toy is too big for her apartment:
length x width (in inches) < gift giver's age
Many toys that are great for kids with a lot of land are a no-go for kids in the city. So toy riding lawn mowers are out if your friends live in an apartment in the city, OK? Those toys are fine in principle, but they have to live at your house.
5. Things That Are for an Older or Younger Child Than the Giftee
Skip toys that are way too advanced for the kid - a drone for a toddler is going to end in tears. Craft kits for an 10-year-old are only going to frustrate and enrage a four-year-old. Consider the ages listed on the box, or at least ask: My son did enjoy Monopoly before age eight, but he is definitely not going to enjoy a LEGO set for a 12-adult age range.
Angelica Alzona Nothing sparks more conversation in parent circles than sleep - whether to co-sleep, whether to sleep train, and why the F won't this kid sleep through the night? But even after you're past those stages and your child is racking for reasonably long stretches, there are still kids who wake up really freaking early.
6. Weapons, or Other Things the Parents Have Specifically Forbidden
Here are some things my friends' kids have received as gifts: Real grappling hooks. Real bows-and-arrows. A ball pit was given to a friend of a friend, and she passed a pleasant year getting pelted by - and then having to clean up - dozens of little plastic balls. Also included in this category are electronics - if the parents are trying to keep their kids tech-free - or vats of lollies.
7. Choking Hazards, or Things With Many Millions of Tiny Parts
Many toys have a lot of little pieces. I am OK with LEGO but not with many other things in this category. One friend's baby received a choo-choo train with many little tiles that had to be loaded and reloaded into the choo-choo train. Bonus: The baby kept cramming the tiles in her mouth. Some people put take-apart trucks and planes in this category, though my own boys liked these things so much that I was willing to crawl under furniture to retrieve all the little pieces.
8. Highly Gendered Things, if the Parents Aren't Into That
Several parents bemoaned makeup kits and play high heels for their little girls - the heels make clacking noises on the floor and are unstable, sending more than one kid flying and falling flat on her arse (in fairness, this happens to grown women too). It's doubly crummy if the boy in the family receives something like a tool kit.
9. Anything That Will Make a Chore or an Expense for the Parent
Such as, for example, a toy that takes batteries that doesn't include batteries. Or things that will add minutes or hours to cleanup time, such as floam, slime, or kinetic sand, or a wet-the-nappy doll that mum or dad is going to have to change, right after they change their real kid's nappy. Or anything that requires a subscription, such as electronic game set-ups that don't come with any games. Or Bunchems, which have to be cut out of a screaming child's hair. Or anything that you will have to pack up and send somewhere (such as that bow and arrow set, which got shipped to Grandma's). Or even things, especially hand-me-downs, about which you think "Well, if they don't like them, they can run them to Vinnies." Don't make anyone run to Vinnies.
10. Anything Living
Don't buy living creatures without prior approval from the parents. Don't buy, for example, an ant farm. An ant farm that is eventually going to break, sending millions of little ants scurrying into the kitchen.
Of course, if you really hate the parents of these kids, these are all excellent gifts. But beware, at some point you may find yourself opening a gift-wrapped crate containing a pot-bellied pig.