Unless you are specifically asked to get one of these things for your friend's kid, you might want to stay away from the following:

As a mom of two boys under the age of 12, here's my list of what to stay away from when shopping for my children, lol!:

1. Anything loud and/or repetitive. My boys were once given an Elmo guitar for Christmas. You pressed the button and Elmo (in THAT VOICE) speaks and laughs while this grating guitar plays in the background. There is no volume control. And there is no way to stop the song once it starts. After about 20 minutes of your child pressing the button, you want to throw the thing through a window. Fun for the kids, torture for the parents.

2. Anything with a million pieces. Every year my kids see a model of a Lego building or a Lego race car or a Lego Star Wars ship. And every year they want it. And every year someone buys it for them. And then they open the box and there are two million pieces of legos in baggies that are all smaller than my fingernail. The model never does get built correctly, but my feet end up cut and bruised from stepping on these small parts that end up scattered all over the floor (and a danger to small children and pets, I might add.)

3. Games with too many specific pieces. I can't tell you how many games of "Sorry", "Monopoly", etc. we have had to get rid of because at least one major piece gets lost. And it is no fun substituting. If you lose the rope or the knife from the Clue game, a homemade piece just won't do. If you're missing a piece from the Mario Bros. chess set, a penny as a replacement isn't any fun.

4. Toy musical instruments. My friends used to actually find it funny to get my kids a plastic flute and watch me plug my ears when the boys started blowing. Two equally horrible sounds (one from each kid) at once.... Then there's the cheap guitar where the plastic strings break in a day. And the harmonica which can actually sound the least grating, but when one boys puts it down, having filled it with spit, and then another chld picks it up, it is germ central!

5. Any water gun that's meant for outside. It's Christmas. Probably too cold to play with water toys outside. This means that my kids will immediately head to the bathroom, fill up the water gun (or whatever squirty thing they've been given) and not think twice before soaking every surface and the entire floor of our house. Save those toys as a summer gift, say on the 4th of July!

6. Candy. Believe it or not, some kids just don't like the stuff. Okay, maybe mine are the only ones. So if you think my child will light up from a basket full of candy, it will only disappoint them and they will immediately hand it to me. I, on the other hand, will proceed to eat it all. So......no candy gifts!!!!!

7. Do-it-yourself crafts. I have less than zero patience for mess-making. Please don't get my kids anything involving glue, glitter, scissors, clay or paint. I have had couches ruined, my once-beautiful kitchen table stained, and many nights of being on my hands and knees with the dust-buster trying to suck up every dot of glitter from my floor.

8. Anything that's alive. My boys were once was given one of those hobby shop gifts where you grow your own tadpoles. Sounded cute and educational. At first. But then we ended up with an ugly plastic container on our table with about a hundred tadpoles. And then I had to buy extra tubes and tanks so that the darn things could get some EXERCISE! And by the way, stop and think about what happens when you are 'done' with this 'live' gift. How do you get rid of it without being labeled a killer? It's not exactly something you can keep in the garage for you next yard sale.

And to those of you who DO buy gifts for my kids...thank you so much!!! It's so sweet and thoughtful...even if I have to vent about it in a post, lol!

(I got the idea for this post from a stay-at-home dad named Cory Byrom's article "What Not to Buy my Kids for Christmas".)