As a recent survivor of child’s birthday, I must tell you that the strength of our friendship relies of one thing. No, it’s not how much you call. Or text. Not whether you invited me to your wedding.  And feel free to critique my parenting. I don’t mind. But do not buy my child birthday gifts that torture me.

Case in point: Play-Doh. I have romantic feelings about Play-Doh because I had it as a child. Those feelings quickly vaporized, however, when people started giving my children Play-Doh as a gift.

First, my sense-of-the-order-of-all-things was severely tested when my children mixed the colors. It’s perfectly acceptable to let a piece of green Play-Doh *touch* a piece of pink Play-Doh in instances such as when you are making a flower. But you MUST. NOT. SQUISH. THEM. TOGETHER. NO!

I wanted my kids to have fun with the Play-Doh, not have to go to therapy later in life, so eventually I decided to stop yelling at them about this and silently seethed as I repaired their mixing infractions.

Second, I hate the way it gets broken it up into teeny, tiny pieces that fall all over the floor and get stuck to the bottom of everyone’s shoes and to the dog, which can then be scraped off on the rug in the living room. Because this happens every time, and I hate cleaning it up, I usually just tiptoe around until the Play-Doh is dry enough that it can be vacuumed up.

Now anytime someone gives us Play-Doh, I let the kids play with it once, and oooops! leave the lid off so it dries out and I have to (have to!) throw it away. So now you know.

This isn’t the only bad birthday gift. There are others. And to help you in this pursuit of the perfect gift for my child, I’ve created this flow chart to follow. Please print this page and bring it with you the next time you go shopping. 



Sarah writes with sarcasm about science, gender, feminism and fertility issues on her blog She is writing a memoir about her experience becoming a parent. Sarah lives in Denver with her wife, two girls and an ungrateful dog. If she had more free time, she would spend it lobbying the state government to make down vests and flip-flops the official uniform of Colorado. You can talk to her on Twitter @sarahanngilbert.


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