The Worst Gift You Can Give a Toddler


Toddlers love stuff. They love ripping into a nicely wrapped present as well. But there is one thing they don't like and that's a gift card. I'm not one who mocks the power of the gift card. I can't begin to understand folks who let them sit unused in the glove box until next Christmas. I love the little colorful rectangles. An excuse -- a requirement even -- for frivolous spending? Yes  please.

I don't care if it's for Home Depot or the 99 Cents Store. I'll browse through the toilet seats or crappy generic candy all afternoon, thanks for the opportunity. Sometimes I'm even disappointed when I get a sweet-and-thoughtful gift but expected a gift card. My thank you is very sincere, but somewhere beneath it is the thought: "You mean I don't get to go shopping?" 

But if you want to get one for my pre-K kid? Thanks for nothing, you can keep it. I'd just as soon you got them a gun, an old tin toy with peeling lead paint, or a can of Whipped Lightning.

KJ Dell'Antonia at Slate hates them, too. Gift cards for her kids from last year are still gathering dust:

Filled with angst from the child unable to find anything she truly wants for that amount of money, but clutching something that costs just a few dollars more close to her heart. Avoided the cries of the child who doesn't get why her brother's card will buy him two tiny cars but her only one toy mobile phone.

Precisely. You are basically wrapping up a difficult car ride and a set of in-store negotiations followed by a set of fights then a big meltdown, putting a bow on it, and saying "Happy Holidays."

The whole beauty of getting wrapped gifts for kids is that there's no fighting, no negotiating (except maybe over sharing the thing once it's open). Despite all the usual holiday crowds and wrangling, the pleasures of shopping without a begging, whining, opinionated toddler in tow is just great. The gift card just brings it screaming back.  

If you must opt for the cheap, grocery-store line gift for my little one (Dell'Antonia suggests a dollar bill), get them a lottery ticket, maybe one of those pretty scratchers. It'll help instill a proper sense of gambling.

Norm MacDonald used to say that getting someone a lottery ticket was like saying "Here you go, nothing! I got you nothing! How do you like it?"

Actually, compared to a post-Christmas visit to Toys R Us, "nothing" sounds just great.

What do you think of the gift card gift for a toddler?


Image via bfishadow/Flickr

tantrums, toddler toys, holidays, holiday gifts, christmas


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Happy... Happyfacecookie

I say, why didnt you just spring for those extra couple bucks and let her have that toy?


I must say-I agree with Happyfacecookie. I don't mind if my kids get giftcards. Actually, the only reason I would prefer that they didn't get one is so that I don't have to drag them to the store. (especially if it's not one that I ever shop at.) However, what is an extra couple of bucks? When I have taken my kids to spend their giftcards, they either bought something for less than the price of the giftcard, or a couple dollars extra-which I actually prefer so that there is no lingering change left on the card. I think you should be grateful that you're getting SOMETHING for your child. Why do people always have to complain about the amount? You're getting the same amount as if they'd actually bought the gift, AND your child gets to PICK it instead of receiving something that they didn't want, or won't ever play with.

Peggy Morgan

I love gifts cards for the kids. I would much rather a gift cart to children's place then someone buying my kids clothes. No one ever gets the sizes right and i am way to lazy to take them back. If they get a card to toysrus or somewhere similar I just shop for them online.

ethan... ethans_momma06

I'm getting that the top two previous posters have never been in a situation where they literally CANNOT spend those few extra dollars. Some people simply can't. And I think it's kinda rude to give a gift and say 'Oh well, why can't the parent slap on a few more bucks if it's what the kid really wants?' 'Cause then that gift really ISN'T from that person, it's from both parties. And when you are splitting for a gift you need to make sure that BOTH parties consent to that, don't you?

I think an older child would be fine with a gift card, but I definitely think there is an age where they are just to young for them.

RanaA... RanaAurora

Rowan loved them, and we helped him use them when he was smaller. no issues here at all!

kjbug... kjbugsmom1517

Most of our family lives out of town so its cheaper to send giftcards. Which is fine. Then I take the cards and shop for them. They r still little enough not to notice or care. I'd rather shop for them and spend a few extra dollars if needed and get something they need or something I know they want. And wrap it up from the person who sent it.. We do this with birthday gift cards too. When they get alittle older and like to shop then we will do it different. But as it is my kids hate shopping so it works out.

LoriA... LoriAnn87

My brother and his wife gave my son a 10.00 gift card to walgreen for Christmas one year.

colin... colins_mom

My nephew is 8 and loves getting gift cards. He says that its like a credit card and he feels like a grown up. His little brother on the hand who is just a month younger than my son hates them. And so does my son. They are both 4 and love getting things to open! But if there is one big thing that my son needs or wants I will tell people what store its at and that they don't need to get that item, just get a card for that store and he can use them to get that when he has enough for it. That's how he got his first bike, threw gift cards from his aunts and uncles and grandparents.

tazdvl tazdvl

I guess it depends on how much it is for and if the parents are able to throw more money in. Isn't the only difference between money and a gift card is a gift card has to be spent at a certain store? I think if you are going to give a gift card it should be over $10 unless you know others are giving the same thing, otherwise just give money so it can be spent anywhere.

toria... toriandgrace

If my four year old gets gift cards I do one of two things, I will give her cash and help her pick out something in her price range (then I can pay using the gift card, but she better understands cash) or I will just go out and buy her something and give it to her. I have no problem with gift cards, especially when I have to fly all of her presents back home.

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