(I know I said I wasn't going to be posting much this week, but here goes anyway.)
After spending an hour and a half sorting the girls' toys, I put together in my head a few things to keep in mind when buying other people's kids a toy. If you want to continue to be friends with the parent, follow the following rules.
1. Ask the parent. They will know if there is something specific to buy or NOT to buy. If they are overflowing with teddy bears, they'll tell you. If they love books and want more, they'll tell you.
2. Get what the kid NEEDS. If mom tells you kiddo needs clothes, get clothes. If dad tells you they have plenty of toys, then don't get toys. Respect the wishes of the parent. Want to give them the best toy ever? Go find a big, sturdy box. Decorate it with non-toxic markers. It is now the best toy ever. AND you can store toys in it. AND it can get recycled/thrown out when it's worn out. (They don't recycle corrugated cardboard where I live.)
3. Small pieces/parts. How many parts are there? (Meaning, how many pieces are there for mommy and/or daddy to pick up?) Will it work if some of the pieces go missing? Are any of the pieces a choking hazard? How much will this hurt a barefoot mommy or daddy when they step on it at 3 in the morning? Our girls love to "cook" with their play food and play dishes. However, that's about a hundred little pieces and parts that end up strewn about the house.
4. Storage for small parts. Does this set come with a sturdy storage container? Mega Bloks are great, and they come in a very handy, sturdy vinyl zipper bag. When we're done building, we're trying to encourage the girls to pick up all the blocks and put them back in the bag. Wish us luck on that one.
5. Storage for big stuff. If you want to buy them a really big toy, such as a toy car, is there space in the home to store it? You don't want the parents to resent the toy for taking up too much space.
6. Batteries. Are they replaceable? Does it come with them? Read the packaging, find out how many and what size batteries you will need and include a pack. Rechargeables are even better.
7. Noises. Stand in the toy aisle and press that button over and over for about 5 minutes. Are your brains leaking out of your ears or nose? Do you have a twitch? If so, put the toy back. If not, it's still better to ask permission first. A well-meaning grandma bought the girls a little microphone that flashes lights and plays a verse of "Bippity Boppity Boo". After five minutes of hearing that over and over, I was wishing that toy lost. We're happy to hear that the batteries are dying. That toy is gonna get lost soon. Toys like this are often called "Hate Toys", because parents hate them.
8. Smaller sibling consideration. Much as I hate it, there are some toys that Kaylee (2 1/2) can't have because they're too dangerous for Aby (14 months). I already have to watch out like a hawk with crayons (Aby puts everything in her mouth), so there are some things that Kaylee is old enough for that we just haven't gotten to yet. I don't think she's suffering too much, though. I have a few of Kaylee's toys (such as the Memory game) that end up shelved pretty much indefinitely, and you don't want that to happen to your gift, do you?
9. Books are usually a good bet. Board books for little ones under 18 months or so. Until you know kiddo is good with not tearing up books, lift flap books are out (at least at my house). They will be demolished in no time. Then the paper gets (nearly) eaten. So, to the top shelf they go, for the time being. My favorite kind of books are bubble books. They're vinyl, soft, and are washable. I think they're safe in the bath, too!
10. Is this gonna make a mess/wreck the house? If you're going to buy crayons, get WASHABLE crayons (they wipe off easily). Stickers? I know I wrecked a chest of drawers with stickers when I was a kid, so I watch my kids closely with them.
So, that's all I've got for right now. I'm sure something else will come up later on, of course!