A field guide to your child’s seasonal offerings.
1. The Blob
This is the gift of choice for preschoolers and kindergartners. The Blob, created at school, was the brainchild of a teacher looking to kill time in the week leading up to winter vacation. It’s made from some sort of self-hardening clay or “edible” dough substance. At one point in American history this arts-and-crafts project would have been described as “an ashtray,” but now it is, um, hm, an...ornament? No! It’s a CANDY DISH! Of course! It’s the most beautiful candy dish you’ve ever had and you’re going to put it on your desk so that you have a place to hold all your individually wrapped small candies forever and ever. You are required to keep The Candy Dish until it starts to mold when the weather gets humid.
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2. The Potentially Toxic
The Potentially Toxic present often arrives in the form of bath products for Mom. Children know that bath stuff is a big hit and thus seek out what’s in their price range. When your budget is “less than a dollar,” the relaxing suds available typically burn and may cause temporary blindness. It’s not that kids are buying off-brand soaps; they’re buying (or in some cases, making) versions with no discernible manufacturer or country of origin.
3. The Price Is Right
This gift takes many forms; the only constant is that, for a few moments, you are at a loss as to why your kid thought this present would be good for you. The Price Is Right present is popular among children who are just starting to understand money. If they know that they have $6.72 to spend on your present, they will find the one thing at the store/swap meet/gas station that is $6.72 and buy it for you. If they have no money, the present is whatever they find around the house—a staple of toddlers who have fallen in love with the idea of gift-giving. It’s basically your stuff under the tree, like the missing TV remote that’s been sloppily wrapped and carefully addressed to Mom.
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4. The Adorable
This present is one that seems odd at first, but once you’re provided with an explanation about it from your child it becomes priceless. Last year, I unwrapped a cheap plastic pen shaped like a nut and bolt. I looked at my wife with a confused expression and she said, “Ask your son why he bought this for you.” So I asked my 6-year-old why he got me this nut-and-bolt-shaped pen. “Because you are good at fixing things around the house and because you are a writer. So I thought you could use it to write your stories and it would also remind you what a good fixer you are,” he said. Despite the fact that no adult would describe me as a “good fixer,” this was an adorable gift backed by sound child logic. Clearly, a lot of thought went into this present. That’s why this cheap novelty pen, which ran out of ink three hours after I started using it, will never, ever be thrown away.