Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes in the time period between my friends and family starting to have kids and having my first one. No mistake is greater than responding to their pleas "not to get their kids anything for their birthday" with, "Oh, come on, kids are so fun to shop for! I'll just get them something small." Because, as I now appreciate as a parent, small toys can be just as bad as big ones. They are often sharp. Or loud. Or disintegrate into a dozen smaller pieces that find their way into every corner of your home.
What might have helped me, as I shopped for kids' gifts, was if the marketing around them were a little more honest about the impact they would have on people's lives. So I've revised a few toys that we've given or received over the years to show what these ads should have said.
5. Laser Tag
I actually bought this for our house when I saw it at Costco for an insanely good deal. Upon busting it out the first time, I realized why it was priced so low - and that it was, in fact, not a good deal at all. It turns out that, when kids play laser tag, everyone is cheating all the time. We recently got this game out again when my son had friends over and instituted a new policy of, "I will only intervene if someone is bleeding." That's going OK, but the sheer number of debates over what counts as a time out, whether someone is hiding behind furniture or cheating by using a pillow as a shield, and how old a little sister must be before she qualifies as an enemy combatant will make you realize what a miracle it is that the Geneva Convention exists.
4. Corn Popper Thingy
I don't know a single person who has ever purchased one of these, and yet we all somehow have them. How did that happen? What did Fischer Price do to us? AND WHY? My favorite part about this toy is that there are two life stages when a child uses it.
1. Learning to walk. Oh, how cute, he pushes it a foot or two with his little baby steps. Aww.
2. Learning to irritate adults. "Look, Mommy, I'm vacuuming. No, I can't hear you telling me to stop, I have to vacuum everywhere. Why don't I use the real vacuum? No, that's too loud and it scares me. But this is fine for some reason."
3.Robot / Circuitry Sets
I love the idea of these, but here's the problem with elaborate STEM sets in a world where capitalism and global trade agreements have created a race to the bottom in both cost and quality: there's actually no way to know if the thing is not working because you are not building it correctly or if it's not working because it is a cheap and flimsy thing made in China and delivered with a general lack of quality control. And so you do teach your kid while you're building it, but sometimes it's a science lesson and sometimes it's a lesson about when you need to walk away from something because THIS IS WHAT THE INSTRUCTIONS SAY TO DO AND WHY ISN'T IT DOING THE THING AND NOW WE NEED TO TAKE A BREAK.
2. Any STEM Toy that Boasts About the Number of Pieces Included
What's funny is that this is just the kind of thing I would have bought for a friend's kid before I had kids of my own. Now, as a mother of two, this picture is stressing me out just looking at it.
I don't understand why slime exists. I don't understand why there's a market for people who are like, "Sure, I hate my floors and furniture and kind of wanted to spend my Saturday trying to get gross stuff out of a child's hair, I'll take three slimes, please!" But it's here. And kids love it. And if slime manufacturers would just be honest about how much they hate us, I could at least respect them for that. I still won't understand them, but I will respect them.