Passive-aggressive gifts that kids will love and their parents will hate

Your sister gave your kid a drum kit? Exact sweet revenge with one of these passive-aggressive gifts—there’s a perfectly obnoxious gift for every occasion.

Photo: Stocksy

Whether you’re trying to get someone back for the super-annoying gift they bought your kid (hello, singing remote control car) or it’s a long-standing grudge (maybe your next-door neighbours have been renovating their house for six years), this list will help you exact sweet revenge. Some of these gifts are more aggressive than others (I’ve provided a handy five-point rating system so that you can select a perfectly obnoxious gift for every occasion), but all are guaranteed to send your message loud and clear. Best of all, you’ll make an innocent child very, very happy.

FANCY SAND
There are a lot of different types of super-cool, fancy sand. Whether it’s magic, kinetic or apparently harvested from the moon, all of these specially engineered substances are marketed as mess-free fun (as the grains supposedly stick together). What this means in real terms, though, is that it’s too soft and sticky to be swept or vacuumed—you have to crawl around on the floor and roll it up into little balls. It will cling to your wood floors and every item of clothing your child is wearing until she sits down on a piece of furniture, and then the sand will stick to that. Also, while this hasn’t been proven, I’m convinced that this stuff reproduces.

YOUR PITCH: “I know how much you value your beautiful, clean house, and this is special sand that doesn’t make a mess!”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 4

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
A friend once asked if my daughter had a ukulele right before her birthday. I promptly emailed her the picture of the drum set I was going to buy her son if this gift passed the threshold of my house. In sum, there is nothing subtle about buying your friend’s kid a musical instrument. You are declaring war. From the simple harmonica and the dastardly recorder to the obnoxious miniature piano and the mighty drum set, there are many ways to say “Bite me,” and these are among them.

YOUR PITCH: “My sweet little nephew is so musical! I want to nurture his talent. Also, remember that time you stole my boyfriend in eighth grade? So do I.”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 4.5

CANDY
I recently went to a birthday party where a mom had filled an eight-litre glass jar full of jellybeans and hid a gift card inside. I don’t know what the birthday girl’s mom had done to provoke this malicious act, but I was both impressed and terrified by the giver. On the passive-aggressive scale, a giant jar full of candy is brilliant. It looks pretty, the kid will love it (and certainly won’t let their parents throw it out), and everyone knows that no one wants that in their house. Make sure to fill it with candy that adults don’t generally enjoy but kids love—the chewier the better.

YOUR PITCH: “I wanted to celebrate little Caleb getting his braces off. I hope he likes super-sour jellybeans!”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 3.5

GAMES THAT REQUIRE A TON OF SETUP AND COME WITH A MILLION TINY PIECES
The genius with this idea is that you can claim complete ignorance. The longer the setup, the worse the game is going to be—in large part because everyone is too tired to play by the time you get it up and running. Plus, tiny pieces are great because of how easy they are to lose and how much they hurt when they’re stepped on.

YOUR PITCH: “I had this game in the ’80s! I remember loving it so much—even though my parents never wanted to play it. I am so excited for your sweet Sophia to experience the joy that I so wanted to experience as a child.”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 3

WATER-PLAY GAMES
Whether it involves a Russian roulette squirt gun, a wet sponge that gets thrown around, a squirting whale or taking turns wearing and pulling rods out of a water-filled hat, games that involve water play are loved by children and loathed by moms (particularly during the winter months). It’s sure to be a favourite with the kids while evoking feelings of resentment and sadness in their parents.

YOUR PITCH: “My kids are dying for this game. Their friends tell them it’s so much fun!”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 4 (October through March); 3.5 (April through September)

Illustrated image parents dumping toys over cliff
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NON-WASHABLE MARKERS/PAINT
Be warned, this will not make you popular. Unless you don’t have any children of your own, you can’t pretend that you didn’t notice that the markers you bought your friend’s toddler are not washable. This is as aggressive a move as the musical instruments but more budget-friendly.

YOUR PITCH: “I know how much you guys love art. This set is what the professionals use.”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 4.5

MICROPHONES
Microphones are amazing because of how annoying they are and how much kids love them. Look for the ones that play music, have sound effects and have the voices of cartoon characters set to do backup. Make sure to read the reviews. Some tend to give terrible feedback—buy those ones.

YOUR PITCH: “Little Graham has the most beautiful singing voice. I wanted you to be able to hear it from anywhere in your house.”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 4

REMOTE CONTROL CARS/AIRPLANES/DRONES
These are annoying for so many reasons. They require batteries, they run into things, they are noisy, they are potentially dangerous, and some even play music. On a positive note, they are pretty common, so it’s a nice passive way to make a point while not permanently damaging your friendship.

YOUR PITCH: “Kids love this stuff! Happy birthday!”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 3

MEGAPHONE
There is nothing about this that is a good idea, though kids are guaranteed to love it. Recommended as a classic revenge gift.

YOUR PITCH: “Remember that time you bought my kid a drum set?”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 4.5

 LIVE THINGS
What is more thoughtful than buying a pet for your little son’s friend? Everything. Everything is more thoughtful, including taxidermy. Whether it’s a goldfish, a hamster or an iguana, no parents like a live pet unless they’ve made the decision to buy it themselves. Think long and hard before you give this one.

YOUR PITCH: “I know little Jenny loves animals, so we bought her a Russian dwarf hamster. Oh, and also I don’t care that you hate me. I hate you, too!”

NUMBER OF MIDDLE FINGERS: 5

Read more:
Birthday parties: No gifts, please!
Debate: Do you ban presents at birthday parties?
Study: Think twice before giving your kids random little gifts

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