As a kid, I couldn't wait until this time of year when the giant two-inch-thick Sears catalog would arrive in the mail, and my sister and I would spend hours perusing and circling the desired toys for our Christmas wish lists.
Every year, with a bit of nostalgia and Christmas excitement, I sit my girls down with a stack of catalogs and markers to let them start their own wish lists. I excitedly make my shopping lists, find the perfect toys, and anticipate seeing little faces of joy on Christmas morning.
Sometime around January, when the new toys are no longer their favorites, batteries are running low, some toys have already lost parts, some just keep falling apart, and some won't stop making that noise, I have a bit of Santa's remorse about the toy purchases for our children, and begin to wonder how long I have to tolerate the new annoying toys before I can donate them, or at least tuck them in the back of the closet.
Now, I'm no Grinch; I love giving my children toys. However, some toys present a certain level of grief and frustration for a parent that just isn't worth having. Through experience, I've come to identify toys that I just cannot stand in my house for various intolerable reasons.
Category: Machinery and Messes
The following items will entertain my children for about 15 minutes, yet I will spend days finding the remains on my kitchen floor:
Moon Sand: It's sand...in my house.
Play Doh itself, I don't mind so much, but a few years back, all my kids wanted were these Play Doh playsets: one for making sundaes, cake decorating, or some kind of "meat" grinder. After one use, every wheel, cog, and crannie was filled with Play Doh that would remain there forever, and once you've got fossilized Play Doh in the machinery, just call it a paperweight.
Category: Doll "we'll never play with these" Playsets
I have been suckered by toys in the category more than once! There are three problems with doll playsets:
They take up floor space- too big to fit on a shelf, too bulky to fit in a bin, so they come to live in the corner.
So many accessories- Santa will verify that the Barbie Dream House has so many stickers, it took him three hours to assemble on Christmas Eve. The Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bitty Market has over 30 accessories including teacups and saucers the size of a grain of rice!
They don't get play time. One would think that your kid would like to set up the furniture in these little houses, put plastic meals on the tables, make the itty-bitty beds for their dolls just like the kids in the commercials, but they don't. The dolls, they play with, but the house remains in the corner.
Last year, following the release of the new Disney Fairies movie, the girls couldn't wait to get Tink's Pixie Cottage, but when they played with it, things just kept falling apart, like a scene from "Money Pit". While I didn't write this Toys R Us website review, I sure wish I had read this one prior to purchase.
"Tinkerbell's wings broke off. I could pop them back in until they finally broke for good. The only thing the girls played with was the doll because the house is TERRIBLE. The swing fell off and will not stay in, so no swinging. The thing that spins around on the top that makes Tinkerbell fly will not stay up. So no flying. There are 2 pieces (front and back) to the house and they do not stay together. The house constantly falls over."
Category: "That doesn't look like the one on the box!"
Every year, there are new toy commercials where marketing geniuses fool kids with images of amazing toys doing cool tricks and a fast-talking Micro-Machines guy tells you that all the cool stuff in the commercial is fake and the toy actually does nothing. My daughter's most recent disappointment was when she first used her new Easy Bake Oven last Christmas. The box of cake mix showed this great-looking fluffy yellow cake with chocolate icing. In reality, there was not enough batter to fill the pan, and the yellow cake was more the texture of a crumbly cracker. We tossed the "cake" and ate the frosting straight from the packet.
Category: Things Mommy's Vacuum Eats
Toys that get lost in the carpet pile, spend eternity with the vacuum gods. Some examples of such sacrifices are:
Squinkies: Cute, tiny, little figurines made of rubber, and the size of a pencil eraser. Fun to collect, keep in pockets, and lose within minutes of opening said present.
Polly Pocket Clothes: Does a doll who's three inches tall need couscous-sized rubber high heels? Who are these toy makers and why are they so sadistic?
Category: Things That Go Beep in the Night
When my oldest child was a toddler, she received a walker/ride-on toy for Christmas. To our delight, she'd push it around the room and it would sing popular preschool songs. It provided hours of fun for both our kids at that age. However, in the middle of the night, I would be startled awake to the tune of "Wheels on the Bus" coming from our living room downstairs. The beloved walker would freakishly start singing at all hours of the night causing me to stumble downstairs to flip its switch off.
After a more recent Christmas, I was awoken by squeaking sounds coming from my daughter's room. Her new favorite toy, a Zhu Zhu pet, was squeaking at will in the early hours of the night without provocation. New household rule- all toys that make noise must have an "OFF" switch, and the kids must use them!
While my kids may circle every toy in the catalog, I am a bit more particular about what toys actually end up under the tree. I have learned that I need to approach holiday toy shopping with some "buyer beware" know-how. I read toy reviews online, listen to opinions of my fellow parents, and really inspect what comes in the box, so I know what I'm getting into.
Wishing you happy holidays and great shopping sales, and may your toys not have too many little parts!