I hate my kids’ toys. There. I said it. I got it off my fully mom-guilted chest. Honestly, I don’t hate all of their toys, but some deserve to go straight in the trash. Toys test a parent’s level of patience in the smallest of ways, and the threshold for annoyance is often a lot lower than anticipated. The toys thrust upon children these days seem to be designed by people with no children, or those who delight in torturing parents.
While those opinions may seem a bit dramatic, many parents like me can’t stand their kids’ toys. Trust me when I say parents are not buying these toys for their children. They often come from well-meaning relatives or friends. They usually show up at birthday parties and holidays, thus making it challenging to hide displeasure from the gift-giver or figure out how to sneak it into the garage for a return trip to the store. Sometimes they sneak in via goodie bags at another child’s birthday party.
My least favorite toys are battery-operated devices that don’t turn off or make gigantic messes for mom to clean up later (I’m looking at you, slime and kinetic sand). After turning to Twitter to consult other parents, I found a variety of pet peeves.
For Jeff Loiselle, a 44-year-old dad of two from Bridgewater, Mass., it's toys that emit loud noises. "[There's] no volume adjustment on many of them," he notes. "And they’re nearly all plastic. No one wants them when kids outgrow them, because no one wants secondhand plastic.”
Father of one Robert Bearden of Winter Haven, Fla., meanwhile, isn't a fan of toys that require downloading an app.
“I appreciate we live in an age where toys can have separate apps," Bearden says. "However, I hate this. I want my kid to be a kid and not use apps when playing with toys.” Instead, he buys his child items such as dolls and dollhouses to encourage her to “use her imagination and create her own world” instead of relying on technology for play.
Jenn Wint's toy annoyances include "anything that lights up and sings repetitive songs in high electronic pitches," the 39-year-old mom of two from Vancouver tells Yahoo Life. "A few years ago, my son was given a microphone that sang. Luckily he was too young to notice that it never made it out of the box. Usually, battery-operated gifts get re-gifted, passed on or donated.”
Wint shares that her 3-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son have also just started playing with toys that involve smaller pieces, such as Lego sets and marble runs. Though they don’t make noise, the smaller toys are hard to clean up and keep organized, and she finds that her children stop playing with a toy that doesn’t have all of its pieces faster than other toys.
So what can parents do about toys they hate? Polite society says that gifts should be accepted with gratitude, but do you have to keep something you or your child will never play with?
“Many friends and family members mean well when gifting your child certain toys, but oftentimes those toys prove to be a headache for you — or a safety concern," Olivia DeLong, , says. "If you feel comfortable talking with gifters about your toy preferences for your child ahead of time, you can gently explain the toys you’d rather your child not have (and why) and offer some other ideas instead.”
DeLong also shares that creating a list on a shopping website like Amazon gives parents more control over what toys a child may receive, even if the gift-givers simply use the list to get ideas. My own family has been doing this for several years, and it has been moderately successful in helping friends and family members gift safe and age-appropriate items.
But what about those instances where a child receives a toy, and it turns out to be a parent’s worst nightmare?
“For toys that are safe, but you’re just not crazy about having around, you can always donate them to local charities, shelters or children’s homes," DeLong suggests. "You can also call your hospital or doctor’s office to see if they’d like to have them for their patients. Your neighbors and friends may also want to take them off your hands.”
DeLong says that it can be challenging to decide what toy is appropriate and safe for a child’s age and stage of development. She suggests trying a toy subscription service that curates a set of toys based on your child’s age.
Personally, I am a fan of experiences over toys or other gifts. It can be tempting to fuel one’s sense of instant gratification over a gift that can be used immediately. However, my family has found that the memories of the experience often last longer than a toy. Kids grow out of toys, but their memories with their families last forever.
Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.