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January 04, 2011



My 2 and a half year old daughter recieved an entire makeup kit for Christmas from my mother. I understood the idea of the gift was because my daughter has recently started to play dress-up, but she is only 2 and has no use for nail polish, eye shadow, or lipsticks! My husband immediately hid the gift as soon as it was opened but our daughter kept asking for it. I let her pick out one of the chapstick style lip glosses and told her the rest was going to be put away. She was fine with that. I'll probably paint her nails with the polish, but overall I don't think it was age-appropriate.


Hey, you aren't kidding!! Dealing with kids getting plastic guns is small potatoes. Imagine my horror when a good friend of my son's (my son is 17) gave him a REAL BB gun for his birthday. The kid's parents own some property in the country and sometimes the father takes his boys to shoot soda cans with BB guns. But my reaction to the gift was NO, NO, NO AND NO. I made clear to the friend that if David was with him in a supervised situation (with kid's father) he would be allowed for the friend's father to teach him how to use the BB gun (IF AND ONLY IF HE FIRST REVIEWED GUN SAFETY WITH MY CHILD) BUT I would have to be notified in advance, speak with the father, etc. But NO GUNS IN THE HOUSE, PERIOD. We support gun control, although we do not object to shooting as a sport, particularly if it is at designated centers with qualified instructors. It was an awkward situation because we like this boy and value his friendship. But I explained to my son how many accidents happen with guns every year that result in injury, critical injury, and death. It would be far safer to keep a supply of drugs in the house! (Of course, I don't.) Fortunately, my son is reasonable and naturally cautious, so it ended up not being an issue.



What a judgmental article.

My son got an air rifle and a bow and arrows for Christmas. They were from us. He plays Call of Duty and I'm fine with it.

There is no "Uncle Ted" (and of course a gun would be from a man - that you imply has nefarious intentions).

I am far more concerned about raising my son to be a moral, compassionate young man than I am about his playing with gun toys. And his having gun toys or playing "shooter" games in no way interferes with that. Boys in particular - though also girls - need to explore and learn to work with their aggression, not have it stifled. They need to have fantasy play that is an outlet for and exploration of their aggression, not be told that it's bad or shameful.

My son has always been allowed gun toys. I have allowed him to play video games according to what I feel is appropriate for his age, in terms of violence or gore. Aggression isn't a consideration. He knows it's fantasy.

My son has never been in a fight in real life. He has on several occasions been engaged by other boys and has simply walked away laughing.

He is loving, "huggy," unbelievably sweet with his younger sister and listens to NPR (voluntarily) and is dismayed about the *real* violence in the world. He is concerned for people who are suffering, both around him and in the larger sense.

Having gun toys does not change any of this.

My son will benefit from my good example, from my discussions with him about the media he consumes, from my guiding him to follow his own good instincts. He will benefit from not being put into a box that teaches him that his positive outlets for aggression and how he sorts out his world in fantasy play is wrong.

My son will be a strong, empowered boy and will grow into a strong, empowered and confident man.

I respect that the culture of your family is not one of gun play but please respect the culture of our family.

Maybe this article could be rewritten to not denigrate those parents whose priorities and views are different than your own.

Thank you

Kate B.

Dan Lewis


Thanks for this post. I realize you are making a broader point, and I don't want it to be lost in a firestorm of gun rights hate mail. So let me be the first to point out that it would certainly not be unheard of, at least here in the midwest, for a 12 or 13-year old boy (or girl!) to receive an heirloom rifle or shotgun from a grandfather or older relative with the intent to take him/her out on his/her first hunt. For many this could be seen as a priceless coming of age gift.

Of course the responsible parent WILL control access to the weapon via trigger safety lock and or safe. If the parent is unfamiliar with firearms, there are numerous safety resources available. Start with NRA's own page:

Respectfully yours,
NRA Lifetime Member


P.S.-- I strongly disagree with the advice to 'let the child enjoy the gift until the relative leaves.' This teaches your child (by example) dishonesty. If you have not already (since pregnancy) made your extended family aware that YOUR HOUSEHOLD WILL NEVER INCLUDE GUNS OF ANY SORT, PLAY OR OTHERWISE, you need to get busy and share your core values with your family. When it comes to friends, it's a little tricker...but if your child knows in advance that your home is a safe place and part of being safe means that you do not have guns, then it is not too hard to explain to your child that a particular gift is unacceptable in your home and toss the toy into the garbage, then go out for ice cream to celebrate your family's commitment to safety and peace.

In any case, I always tell my son that in most cases, LYING about a mistake (or broken rule) is almost always WORSE than the rule that was broken. If you value honesty, you've got to walk the walk. Kids see right through "values" that are just talk.

E. Hicks

It is a parents responsibility to decide what is appropriate and not appropriate for their individual child. I do not have children at home any longer, but I have grandchildren. Even what is appropriate at their home with their own parents, I may not deem appropriate at my house. From toys, video games, and programs on television. I do discuss it with their parents, and so far, we have been able to agree on almost everything. We try to discuss gifts with family and friends way in advance to avoid what we deem "inappropriate", but if it happens it just has to be discussed.


My 7 year old son received a BB gun from a family friend while on a camping vacation. I sent the friend a thank you note that read "Thaaaaaanks???? This will be fun to hide from our son until he's old enough to handle it safely." Our friend had a good laugh about it but also got the point.


When my oldest child was 3, my uncle gave him a toy gun for Christmas. We have a "nothing with triggers" rule about toys, but he didn't know that. My mother, however, did know. I thanked my uncle for the gift and put it aside to return later. My son barely noticed the gift amidst all the hubub of the holiday--until my mother dug the gun out of the pile, opened the package, and gave it to my son, encouraging him to play with it. I ended up having to intervene, take the gun away, and explain to my uncle that we didn't allow toy guns. Fortunately, one of my cousins was there and her child had already fallen in love with the gun, so she offered to pay us for it. We took the money she paid us and let my son pick out another toy, then sent my uncle a thank you note for it. My mother was furious with me for "hurting my uncle's feelings." Sometimes there's no winning with crazy.


I wonder how many children are harmed from choking on small legos and toys rather than shooting themselves or others with bb guns.


Why are all these comments focused on the guns?

Guns are not the only inappropriate toy. My children have received many inappropriate toys/clothes for many reasons. From family members who KNOW my values and choose to ignore them. My 6 year old daughter has received strapless dresses, halter tops, belly shirts etc. My 2 year old son received toys with hundreds of small parts to get lost or eaten. It's my job as their mother to be gracious, and then tuck the toys away as the next toy is opened. If I can't return or exchange I simply donate it to the local charity and get the tax credit. My kids don't need the "lesson" at 6 and 2. Save that for when they're 10 and can comprehend it. If something is inappropriate, DON'T GIVE IT TO YOUR KID!


Great comments Kate B. and Dan Lewis.

As parents, we should not be passing on our irrational fears to our children in the guise of "values".


Many years before I had children, I lost a 15 year old nephew who was playing with a gun, unsupervised, at the home of a friend. The funeral had to be closed casket because this child's face was gone. My children all know this story, and that is the MAIN (although not the only) reason we do not play with guns.

Having said that, it's obvious that the subject of guns and children strikes a nerve with many families - but the article only used guns and Bratz dolls as an example of toys that you might deem inappropriate for your children. Let's not be judgmental about the example, but rather focus on the TOPIC of inappropriate toys, and how you would handle that. The main point is that you establish YOUR rules early on, and hold your ground. Children can learn to respect that, and adults should, too.

P.S. - my 11 year old son came home yesterday with a $100 dollar bill that he said was a gift from another child, and that the child had given out three others. My son told me about this right away because he KNOWS, that for our family, this is not something we would consider an appropriate gift (although a very generous thought on the part of the friend). He took it so as not to hurt the friend's feelings, and trusts that his parents will address the matter appropriately.


Kate B. wrote: "Maybe this article could be rewritten to not denigrate those parents whose priorities and views are different than your own."

The article was not judgmental. It merely mentioned several examples of gifts that many parents would not necessarily want their child to receive. It was intended to be helpful to people who have received one unwelcome item or another, and offer suggestions on how to deal with it. It did not state anything negative or insulting about the people who actually buy these items, it was only written to help the people who may not want them. I'm sure their is something you may find inappropriate for you child, even in it was not one of the listed examples. No need to be so defensive.


Really? A toy gun? Little boys have been playing with toy guns since the gun was first invented, prior to that, it was swords or spears--it's part of being a little boy. Playing with toy guns doesn't teach little boys to be violent, it teaches them to use their imagination. When I was a child, we played "Army" or "Cops and Robbers," and we turned out fine (most of us, at any rate). I grew up around guns, REAL guns--not just BB "guns" either. I knew where the ammunition and guns were. The presence of these guns did not lend me to ideas that would have manifest themselves had the guns not been present. I knew they were tools. I also knew that if I messed with these guns, I would be in big trouble. My father would have punished me severely if I even thought about messing with the guns, including the .22 and shotgun I kept in my closet. If you weak-minded ninnies want your sons to grow up to be effeminate little sissies, by all means, don't let them touch anything that looks like a gun. If you want your children to be men, teach them the proper handling and respect of firearms. Your overly patronizing attitude towards your children is far more likely to do them permanent damage than the presence of a gun in their lives.

Aidel--you might want to check those statistics. After car accidents, more children are killed by ingesting adult medications every year than are killed by gun accidents. Gun accidents are not a statistically significant cause of child death.


You have to be kidding me. When talking about toy guns, toy swords, toy archery sets, etc., the operative word is TOY. These toys are not going to hurt anybody. They are an outlet for little boys to role play. Playing with these types of toys is not teaching them to be violent sociopaths. What a bunch of liberal nonsense. Both of my boys from the time they started to crawl enjoyed crashing toy trucks and cars together and defeating evil aliens with their toy swords, etc. It's no different then when I was little watching westerns on TV while shooting my cap guns and pretending to shoot the evil Indians. I grew up to obtain a Ph.D. in science and I'm sure my boys will turn out fine, too. The accidents that happen when children hurt themselves or others with real weapons are a result of extremely poor parenting not some loose liberal correlation between the use of toy weapons and real ones. My father had a gun rack with real shotguns, rifles, and pistols in the house and I was taught that they were not toys, that I could kill someone including myself playing with any of them, and that I would get the punishment of my life if I ever went near that area. I was smart enough to know the difference as are most kids. When I was old enough to get a real gun, I was taught responsible gun ownership. I am so sick of the liberal nuts of the world finding fault with behavior that has gone on for eons and will continue to go on for eons.

Andrew Reyes

Love those Dolls, a Different Threat!

My oldest daughter when she was young girl loved her dolls but I was bothered that all her Dolls that she received from the family and friends on her third birthday party were all blond, skinny, busty and white.

My daughter is half filipina and white so it was important for us to have a more integrated doll collection and to our surprise when we visited the local toy store the only doll she wanted was the blond dolls...now most manufacturer do have an assortment of ethnic dolls that ranged from Latina to Asian although in the 50's she was only white and blond. Although our daughter insisted that we buy a the same type of doll, her collection of dolls became integrated with Asian, Filipina, Latina, African-American and other manufacturer's dolls.

It's amazing how appearances in dolls, commercials,television shows and movies have influenced 8 to 12-Year-Old Girls. Dolls became the the first image of beauty among young girls. How does that image influence young girls? Magazine articles, Dr. Phil and research studies have shown that nearly half of all preadolescent girls wish to be thinner and on diets and even requesting plastic surgeries as high school graduation presents. A MTV reality television star had 10 plastic surgeries done on her in one day...although she was considered a beautiful,thin, blond woman by her peers...but in her eyes she wasn't. Parents, be careful what type of toys your children are playing with whether it's a gun, a video game or a doll....CaregiverGuy



When the title of an article is "A Gun? What to do when kids get BAD [emphasis sic] gifts," the equation gun=bad is clear.

For those of us who have no problem giving our children toy guns (or toy bows and arrows or toy ballistae or toy lasers - have you looked at the weaponry in a Lego set recently?), it is absolutely a judgment.

The trick in writing an article that discusses these issues is to speak in general terms about undesirable gifts, without getting into specifics that are going to alienate people. Certainly you don't put Guns and BAD with just that emphasis in the title.

I am very sorry for the loss of Louise's nephew. Children - like it or not - will see guns around them all the time, as well as guns being handled - cartoons have gun violence. Movies have gun violence. They will emulate this. The problem in this scenario is absolutely, categorically not toy guns. The problem in this scenario is a total failure in gun safety. Why would a 15 year old EVER be operating a loaded weapon unsupervised?

I'm a liberal democrat.

I am very much in favor of gun safety. I'm also in favor of parents making their own choices about what constitutes a BAD gift.

There are ways to discuss gifts that run contrary to family culture without making judgment. I don't think the article succeeds at all in this, however well intentioned.


mom2boys wrote: "The article was not judgmental... No need to be defensive."

Respectfully, I agree that the article's author probably did not INTEND for it to be judgmental, as it isn't directly so, but it did seem judgmental. It was judgmental through context (i.e. how the message was delivered, the examples used). Although I'm sure the author meant well, I can understand how people can find it offensive, and so, react defensively.

A professional editor with solid experience would not have passed it as is. The article's good message has been overshadowed by poor judgment. I apologize to the author for being harsh, but it pays to learn what works, to not only know about caregiving skills, but also writing and communication skills. Frankly, the author comes across as young, naive, and unaware of the powerful and multifaceted effects of published ideas.

I especially like Roan's comment "...we should not be passing on our irrational fears to our children in the guise of 'values'." I think that's really the point being made by commentors above.

I found the substantive content of the article to be good material. But it's delivery was in really poor taste. The publisher could insitute more demanding standards for editorial and writing skills for this site. It would benefit everyone, especially their bottom line.


I guess I am an Uncle Ted. I gave my son a BB gun when he was 6. We practice together, have fun together, and are safe together. He has earned his shooting award in scouts, and I know that what he has learned will be a benefit to him when I am gone.

You parents will not always be around to protect your children, but you can educate them and prepare them for when you are not there.


Firstly, I agree with a lot of the people who "tuck the gift away and have a quiet discussion with the gift giver. However, if you are put in a situation such as Carmen, and a relative intentionally ignores your wishes as the parent, then you are forced to confront the issue. This can be used as a learning moment for the child (if they are old enough to comprehend). Be gracious to the gift giver, do not angrily accuse (even though it was intentional), and handle it with tact. The child will learn a lot from that example. I think Carmen did the right thing.

The list approach:
My husband and I ask for a list from the parents before we buy any children gifts. If we find something not on that list, we call and check to see if it is approved of. Currently, we also make a list for our 2 year old daughter. When she is old enough to make her own list, we will review it before it gets sent out to relatives and any questionable items will be discussed. If she does not want to remove any inappropriate items from the list, then as soon as the list goes out, so does a phone call to everyone receiving it, imploring them to "forget" to buy the item. I do not see this as deceitful, it is simply "choosing my battles" with my daughter. There are too many more important things then toys, for us to argue about later. You can ask people not to deviate from your list or you can ask everyone to run all the gifts past you first.

No matter what, that is a sticky situation for any parent. Good Luck!


Thank you for all the comments to my blog post this morning. We hear from families everyday about difficult issues, including this one. Dr. Robi Ludwig and I are hoping to provide guidance to families who receive gifts that the parents may find inappropriate for any reason. While we have used several examples of toys that some parents may object to, we also recognize that every family is different – and that’s okay! Personally, I’m not one to judge what parents decide is appropriate for their children. Both our boys play with toy guns and also have video games with shooting in them. Not all families may agree with that and I’ve had friends share that with me. I value all of your comments – and valid points about other toys that may be inappropriate for safety purposes, too.


I'm publicly pointing a finger back at myself. My apologies to Sheila for criticizing your hard work, on your own website, regarding your journalistic skills. Had I realized that I was sending my comments directly to the author, who is probably not a journalist, then I would have chosen to do so in a private email, not in a public forum, and I would have been more constructive. I apologize if you felt disrespected by my comments. I'm very sorry. I think it's clear that you're attempting to help us be more skillful parents. For that I thank you.

Michelle V.

I also have issues with family members buying toys with really tiny parts. While my daughter is almost 4 and plays nice with her toys my son is only 2. And they share a bedroom so it's impossible to keep the little toys away from him while she is playing. I explained this to my mother last year when she bought a very expensive doll house with little pieces that it lasted a week before most of the parts were lost or broken. This year. She did it again. I put them up until they can have their own rooms and space to play.

Michelle V.

I also wish I would have had a no toy gun rule in the house. My husband and I are young parents and I didn't realize how much influence toys and movies have on toddlers. My son puts his spiderman movie on and starts to fight. I'm weening him off because he is really into those movies but I wish I would have known about this website while I was planning my family. I have so much respect for the parents that already have these values and rules instilled in their children. It's not easy.


I have 2 daughters. The oldest is 2 1/2, the younger is 8 months. My husband's parents go way overboard for Christmas, and buy toys that are completely age inappropriate. Last year, they got our (then 1 year old) a bicycle, among many MANY other things. She wasn't even tall enough for her feet to touch the pedals, but she loved it and would get frustrated when she couldn't make it go anywhere on her own. If it was a 3-wheeler, or a ride-on toy, that would have been different. This year they got her a FOUR STORY BARBIE HOUSE...? We had decided that she wasn't going to have barbies until she was 4. My in-laws didn't tell me about it until right before she opened it, and we ended up leaving it at their house, hoping our girl would forget about it. Along with the house (which, by the way has 55 pieces), she got a suitcase full of bratz dolls and all of their tiny accesories. About a week after presents were opened the grandparents showed up at our home and had brought the house with. My mother-in-law walked into the girls' bedroom and assembled the house by herself. Not only did she leave a mess, but she had to completely rearrange the baby's things to fit it. I am not worried about our older daughter puting things in her mouth, because she is quite grown up for her age and knows that only food goes in our mouth. I am, however, worried about the baby, who is starting to crawl, and picking up anything she can get her hands on, and then chewing on it. Our older daughter fell in love with the house and wants to play with it ALL the time. I feel bad telling her that she can't, because she doesn't understand. I am already not looking forward to next Christmas' toys because it ends up being more hassle than anything. I always try to talk to mine and my husbands' parents about what they are getting to make sure they are appropriate, but I was never told about this item. Not only am I worried about the small parts, but also in 5, 10 years that the presents will be even more inappropriate. Any suggestions?


Whatever happened to humility... To manners? While part of good manners is putting up with other people's bad manners, I think an issue is showing up here. When someone gives you gift, you graciously accept it. Be humble. If you must return it, do so in descretion. Discretion is NOT the same as dishonesty. There sure are a lot of folks into BRUTAL honesty. There will be other opportunities to announce your family moral system. Must it be during a generous moment of gift-giving?

Rick Custard


Just because your child has a nerf gun doesn't mean he is going to turn into some murderer, what a joke. I have bought many plastic guns for my 9yr old son, I also bought him his first BB gun and he really enjoys target practice.

My son also plays Black Ops. Just educate your child about firearms and you'll be fine. I am a certified firearms instructor and I have educated my son about gun safety. I have always had firearms in our house long before our son was born. Guns don't kill PEOPLE..PEOPLE do. It takes a person with mental health issues to kill the innocent, whether they use a gun or knife or bat or their bear hands.

Let kids be kids be kids, we seem to take that away from them now a days. I used to use a stick as a rifle when I was a boy, now they have plastic fake rifles and pistols and I play army with my son all the time. Teach your child good morals and stop worrying about toy guns. The problem is people listen to the media and how they make guns look so evil.

Guns can be a super fun sport as far as target shooting, hunting and of course self defense...

Our country was founded on God Guns and Guts. Thats they way I see it and my kids will always be free because of it...



NO MORE MARBLES, PLEASE! Ugh. We just have too many small children and animals to keep getting these crazy marble tracks that I have to hide or throw away.


Thank you, BH for being willing to humble yourself by making your apology as public as the thing you are apologizing for, was. That is something that I aspire to do, but "can never find the right words until it is too late", which, to me, means that I need to push myself to gain the courage so that I can speak up rather than just hoping nobody noticed my original offense. I am inspired by your example.

That seems to be what this blog is about: how to stand up for your values as a parent (or reader), while still honoring the intentions of the gift giver (or writer) and treating them with respect in the process, whether or not you feel upset with them at the moment.

I do not yet have children, but I am certain that this issue will come up once I do, and I appreciate being able to read the many perspectives on this topic as I begin to think about how I will handle such situations at that time. Thank you Sheila for inviting discussion on this topic.


What about stuffed animals? Those things are dangerous because they might give our kids cause to trust wild animals. I shudder at the thought of my kid walking up and trying to hug a real bear because he had a teddy bear to play with when he was a child. We should make all toys illegal because of all the different ways that they can cause injury to our children.

Just kidding. I wanted to exaggerate the point. I totally agree with Mr. Custard.


When I saw the title of the article, I immediately thought that it was going to be focused on guns being an inappropriate toy. Since I do not have a problem with my son having a toy gun and have taught him the important safety rules that apply, the article caught my interest. However, I was not offended by the article, nor felt like it was passing judgement on toy guns.

No need for parents to be so quick to defend their decision to allow or not allow their child to own a toy gun.

The point of the article was to guide parents on how to handle the situation of their child receiving a gift that they believe is inappropriate. Most people have that relative that gives their child some gift that is totally out of line with their rules/values/morals at some point.

For instance, my dad gave my 4 yr-old the infamous Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas. I don't have a problem with my son having a toy gun, but a Red Rider BB Gun is clearly marked 'ages 10 and up.' He's 4! We gave him a foam dart Nerf gun, which is the closest thing to a gun that he needs at age 4! I nicely told my dad that it was a nice thought, but a bit premature, and we will be storing the BB gun in our gun safe for the next 6 years. He was fine with that.

My son is the youngest of my four kids and I've received many inappropriate gifts through the years. I've learned to just say thanks for the gift and then explain to the person (and your child) why you would prefer for your child not to have the gift. Leave it at that. Everyone is going to differ in their views and its better to just stick to what you believe and enforce it with your own children than to try to change someone else's beliefs.



I am amazed by the people that are completely off the mark here. This article is about parenting tips for gifts you may find inappropriate for YOUR family. If you have no issue with guns, or black ops then thats great! Lets all try to stay on topic here! I noticed no one pounced to defend bratz dolls when the article mentioned them as an example of a possibly inappropriate toy. They are all JUST EXAMPLES. Can we all just get along? :o)

high school graduation gifts

It's up to the parents to decide what they want their children is allow to expose to. If you raise your child right, there should not be any concern about whether a toy is right or wrong for the individual. Again, only the child's parents have the rights to decide what is best for their children.

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