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