The 8 Worst Gifts You Can Buy for Children (and 8 alternatives!)

Last weekend, while buying Frank a pair of shoes, I overheard a couple shopping for a gift for their grandson. They were going to buy him snow boots for Christmas. I immediately thought, “How will they know the right size?” Geez, I can’t even get shoe sizes right when my children are right there with me and I have to seek professional help (the store clerk). How was this couple going to get the size right on a child who, obviously, lived in another town?

Each year, relatives write asking us what the children want for Christmas. I’m happy to give them hints on what the children would like, but also ask them to avoid certain popular toys and other items we’ve had personal experience with. I’m sure many of you parents know exactly what I’m talking about. So, today I’m sharing my list of the worst presents to buy for children, along with alternatives that will make them very happy!

1. Legos – Ever stepped on one of these on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night?

2. Pokemon Cards – They teach little ones to gamble! Children think they’ll get the really “rare” cards in those cheap (expensive!) “booster packs” and can sell them later for big money. In reality, parents just end up throwing away hundreds of dollars in cards later (many of them purchased with the child’s hard-earned allowance). Teaching children to buy these packs of cards in the hopes they’ll get that one card worth hundreds or thousands (sounds just like the lottery, doesn’t it?), in my opinion, promotes gambling. Our children are no longer allowed to spend their allowance on products of chance.

3. Markers and Crayons that Are Not Washable – Most children aged 2 to 5 (Max included) fancy themselves Picasso and write on every available surface. And, Percy (the dog) eats every crayon he can find.

4. Institutional-Sized Bags of Candy – Children are thrilled to receive a nice, small, pretty box of candy. Buying them a huge, institutional-sized bag is unnecessary and leads to belly aches and long, stressful sessions in the dentist chair.

5. Loud Toys with Repetitious Sounds – Drums, Fire Engines, etc. At the time of purchase, it may seem funny to buy a child something that loud and annoying. But, the toy inevitably gets “lost” about the same time the parent seeks therapy to recover from the auditory stress.

6. Blocks – Dogs like wooden blocks more than they like crayons. What worse is they leave wooden splinters on the carpet, which always seem to find a child’s bare feet.

7. Video games – They’re expensive and promote an unhealthy lifestyle. If our children must have these items now, we tell them to use their allowance to buy them.

8. Clothes – (This includes snow boots for out-of-town children!) I can’t remember the last time someone bought any clothes that our children ended up wearing. They all inevitably land on the racks at Goodwill, where some other unfortunate child is forced to wear something that looks like Aunt Minerva picked it out (’cause she did!). We all remember how particular we were about clothes when we were young, and today’s kids are no exception. I don’t buy my children clothing for gifts anymore because, even though I see them and their outfits every single day, I still can’t keep up with the trends.

Have some children on your list and don’t know what to buy? Try these:

1. Gift certificates – As I stated in my essay last week, gift certificates are always a huge hit. Most shopping malls sell gift certificates online and will mail them to you or the recipient.

2. Homemade gifts – Children love paintings, crafts, and anything made with love to decorate their rooms. And, homemade cookies and desserts from a loved one are always wonderful!

3. Photographs – Children loved framed photographs of themselves, their cousins and grandparents, and others to decorate their rooms and to remind them of their loved ones.

4. Water-proof gloves – If a child you love lives where it snows, there is always a shortage of dry, warm, water-proof gloves. Even the water-proof ones get soggy after an hour or two of sledding or snowman-building. Needing to wait for the gloves to dry while all the other neighborhood kiddos are playing outside is a drag. (We keep over a dozen matching pairs in a bag by our back door!)

5. Craft kits – Drawing, painting, clay, tracing, building, or anything that is a kit requiring them to build something is always a hit with children, even the older ones!

6. Hair Accessories – Rubber bands, ties, barrettes and clips are inexpensive and usually very popular for girls of any age. Be careful of the smaller clips. They may be a choking hazard. I made Ali get rid of hers after I kept finding them in Max’s mouth. Buy the nice hair accessories (not the pink, plastic Barbie-brand-type ones) so the littlest girls will feel all grown up when they receive them.

7. Planes, trains, and…well, you know. I’ve never seen my boys open a car, truck, motorcycle, helicopter, plane, or train they didn’t like.

8. Dinosaur excavation kit – We gave Frank one of these and he spent five hours (I’m not exaggerating) on it on Christmas day. He LOVED it!

Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of, the President and CEO of and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.

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