Kid-friendly tech toys that won’t make their parents hate you

About Author


Hi, I’m Jo!

I have two small children, Ry and


Hi, I’m Jo!

I have two small children, Ry and Lily, only 19 months apart. It’s usually crazy around my house, but thankfully my wonderful husband is around a ton and helps keep the peace.

I also own my own business and work full-time. I’d love to list all these amazing hobbies I have, but honestly I can barely handle keeping the kids entertained, the house clean, and food on the table. Although on days I’m too tired to do housework, I love to pour a glass of wine and watch Supernatural or Murdoch Mysteries on Netflix.

My husband and I like to stay very busy and drag our kids everywhere with us. Weekends often include relaxing at wineries, festivals, exploring Washington D.C. and other short getaway trips.

Items That Require Solitary Play or Use

While it's tough for a child with autism to interact for long periods of time, it's far too easy for most to disappear into their own worlds.

Toys like hand-held video games, MP3 players and the like are specifically created to help people to disappear into their own worlds.

While they do have their place in the life of a child with autism, better options might be X-Box or Wii games that can easily involve several players; CD players that allow everyone to listen to and comment on musical selections; and so forth.


Toys That Are Too Big

“They take up square footage in my small city apartment!”

What’s too big? If you haven’t set foot in the house, you’re better off staying away from play tunnels, expansive train tracks, indoor jungle gyms, teepees, baby swings, rocking horses, dollhouses, ginormous stuffed animals….we can go on, but you get the picture. Assume your mom friend has a Tiny House and go from there.

Toys That Play Music

“Kids make enough noise as it is. They don’t need added help!”

It’s a tough call. Music can keep a young child entertained for a few minutes longer so Mom can switch that load of laundry/put that casserole in the oven/grab a few moments of sanity. But after hearing certain songs 52 times, that song can be annoying and even stressful (see above). You’re probably better off springing for blocks, or at least something that can be muted.

Toys That Are Age-Appropriate But Unwelcome

A teenager is probably “too old” for Thomas the Tank Engine, but children with autism may stick with favorites from their preschool years well into their teens or even beyond. This may seem problematic—but birthdays and holidays are the wrong time to insist on age-appropriate tastes. When your autistic niece unwraps that gift and finds not a favorite toy but an “age-appropriate” item that she never asked for, you’re in for a meltdown. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to help a child with autism to build age-appropriate interests, but it can take a long time and a great deal of patience.


The toys above are the most hated toys by parents. Consider when you decide to give parents some toys for their kids if you don’t want to be hated too. I hope the list can help you when choosing toys.

How to handle unwanted gifts

You can’t always avert unwanted gifts. Here are some options for when do you get them.

Pre-open gifts

If you have gifts mailed to you and are unsure of their contents, you may consider deftly and discretely opening them first to ensure they’re appropriate. If one isn’t, you can remove it before your child sees it and gets too attached.

“I open all the boxes before we give them to the kids,” Cindy says, “and their dad and I discuss if there’s a question.” 

Send it back — nicely

When an auntie or a grandma gives a gift with the potential to disrupt your home (think: anything messy or noisy), Jenkins suggests asking the gift-giver to take responsibility for it. Try, “This is such a cool gift for you and Grammy to do together. I would like you to keep this slime at Grammy’s house because she’s really good about where you can and can’t play with it.”

See if it can be altered in a way that makes you comfortable

Mom Priscilla from Denver, Colorado, found a way to make both her and her 4-year-old son happy: “[H]e was given a toy vehicle that had a gun attached. We yanked off the gun and threw it away.”

Many action figures, dolls and plastic toys can be easily altered to fit your tastes.

Put it out of sight, out of mind

Young kids, especially, may not even notice if a new toy suddenly goes missing.

“[My son] looked at it one day, and the next, we put it high up in the closet,” Priscilla says. “He wasn’t upset about it, mostly because it wasn’t one of his regular toys.”

Give thanks, then pay it forward

Many of us often find ourselves with way more toys and clothes than our kids will ever use. Think about donating them to a good cause and explaining to your child that they are helping others in need. Better yet, have them help select which toys and clothes they will give to another child, and involve them in the process.

Kathleen Porter Kristiansen, a minimalist parent to a 3-and-1/2-year-old and a 1-and-1/2-year old from London suggests showing appreciation for the gift before donating.

“For clothing, the children are photographed in an item for the giver,” Kristiansen says, “and then it’s donated.”

Exchange it

For kids who are reluctant to let the gift go, try getting them excited about something else they’ll love that they can exchange the unwanted gift for that you’re comfortable with.

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