Editor's note: Cory Byrom is a stay-at-home dad to three children all under the age of 7. Sometimes, once the kids are in bed, he does stand-up comedy in the Atlanta area. He is also the husband of HLNtv.com's Art Director Kelly Byrom.
The holiday season is upon us, which means every toy and department store around is pushing toys on us like a sketchy teen selling used CDs at the skating rink. With so many toys on the market these days, it seems more and more complicated to figure out what to actually buy the kids in your life. I've already had multiple people ask what to get for my three kids, all under 7.
Let me make it easy for you: Get them toys. They're kids; they're easily pleased. If it is a toy, has a cartoon character on it, or can be inserted into a video game system, chances are they're gonna be happy to open it.
If that's not sensible enough for you, then put money in their college fund and give 'em a pat on the back. They won't be happy, but the parents will love you for it.
Having said that, I feel like I've dealt with toys for long enough now that I've learned a thing or two about what is guaranteed to drive parents crazy. So here's a quick list of What Not to Buy my Kids for Christmas.
1. Anything loud and/or repetitive. My mother is the queen of this category, though not on purpose. One year, she got my oldest son a remote control truck. Seems innocent enough, right? Only this truck blared techno-music any time it was turned on. There was no volume button, and no way to turn the music off while still zooming the truck around. Of course my son loved it, and was sad when he went to play with it one day and it was mysteriously gone.
This category is rough with younger kids who seem to get immense pleasure out of pressing the same button over and over for 10 minutes at a time, but then of course, the older kids get games like Bop-It, where the purpose is to make as much noise as possible for as long as possible, then try to beat that record.
2. Any game with a million pieces. Hi Ho Cherry-O? Hi Ho Cherry-No Thank You.
My house is enough of a disaster zone already without 600 tiny cherries rolling under every piece of furniture and getting stuck up my 1-year-old's nose. See also: Hungry Hungry Hippos.
3. Any toy musical instrument. Maybe your kid is a musical prodigy and you want her to get a new guitar for Christmas. That's wonderful. But if it's bought in the toy section and is primarily made of plastic, don't even think about getting it for my kid.
For one thing, these are toys, not instruments. That means they are not made to actually play music. They won't stay in tune, they aren't made of quality materials that sound good, and they are not durable. Fine, you say, who cares? Let me put it another way. If an instrument isn't made to actually make music, then what is it made for? That's right: to make noise. We've got enough of that around here already.
4. Anything that's going to hurt like holy hell when I step on it in the middle of the night. This is a tough one because Lego, a toy I'm a fan of, is the NO. 1 offender in this category, but the bottom line is my kids are all young enough that they still sometimes wake up during the night crying, which means I must get out of bed to go see what's the matter.
Chances are they didn't put their toys away, particularly the smaller toys, and that means I'm going to step on them as I fumble through the house in the dark. And if I yell a curse word in the middle of the night, that's just going to wake up the other kids, too.
5. Any water toy that doesn't go in the bath or outside. There are all kinds of “color changing” toys out there that require warm or ice water to do their magic. Here kid, play with these cups of water. I don't see how anything could go wrong. Not to mention that in about 5 minutes, both the ice water and warm water have reached a common temperature that does nothing for changing the toy's color. Let's go ahead and throw slimy, foamy, and gooey toys in here, too.
6. Any toy that isn't appropriate. Barbies are the most obvious ones here, but even worse are the tarted-up knock-offs and the various other bizarrely proportioned dolls that send a message to my girl that the more skin you show, the prettier you are. She'll get that message thrown at her enough when she's older. Let's keep it out of her toys.
This category also includes any toy that deals with poop, barf, boogers, or any other word I don't want my little ones hollering around the house.
7. Anything that's alive. No way are my kids going to keep it alive. If you give my kids something that's alive, what you're really giving them is something that's going to be dead soon, and boy oh boy I'm just not ready to deal with that lesson yet.
Stay away from these categories, and you're sure to please both child and parent this holiday season. Then again, maybe the parent in question has been getting on your nerves lately and you want to deal a little payback. If that's the case, consider this list a buyer's guide. I got my cousin Mitchell's kid a Furby that I taught to say poop and barf. That'll really get his goat.
Catch Cory Byrom on HLN's "Evening Express" Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET