Misfit toys? No, just plain dangerous. The 2010 WATCH list.
It’s that time of year.
Last week, the WATCH – the World Against Toys Causing Harm- published their list of the year’s worst toys.
First on the hit parade is the annual “you could poke someone’s eye out” selection, the Spy Gear Split Blaster, which promotes its dual action capabilities, letting kids blast two targets simultaneously for double-barrel fun. So, this isn’t just a “you could poke someone’s eye out” kind of toy. It’s a bona fide “you could poke someone’s eyes out.” Probably not a good idea for a 6 year old, but the perfect age to want one. (And to unwittingly poke someone’s eyes out with.) This, I guess, is the plastic gun version of the double-fingered, Moe Howard-to-Curly-Howard eye poke. Unfortunately, it’s almost as cheap as a Stooge poke: only $9.98. May not be a good idea to give kids weapons for what they’re going to do anyway with whatever they have on hand (including their fingers).
At least the Supasplat Splatblaster comes with the warning that ‘Glasses should be worn at all times.” But there’s a caveat there: “Glasses can not provide an actual protection.” So, while this is supposed to provide family fun, it sounds like you need to provide your own industrial safety goggles in order to enjoy family fun firing splatballs at each other. Better to stick to Monopoly. Unless you ingest one of the hotels or houses, nobody gets hurt.
I was sorry to see Buzz Magnets – those shiny, cylindrical, high-powered magnets that will work right through your coffee table – on the list. They’re a lot of fun. And I ought to know, because we’ve had a few of these over the years for show and tell. But you really need to keep them away from little guys. It’s not just the choking hazard. If a child swallows two, the magnets are strong enough to cause intestinal perforation and other potentially fatal problems. These magnets are great fun for older kids, but I wouldn’t even show them to really little ones. Earlier this year, my husband’s cousin visited with her 2-year old. Jim showed the magnets to George, and he was entranced. He also proceeded to grab one and start putting it in his mouth. Fortunately, we were all eyes on George. If you have these magnets around: don’t do show and tell with toddlers.
One interesting toy on the list is the Balizillion Tug Boat Play Center. This certainly looks like fun, but it’s not, I repeat, NOT, a flotation device. It’s inflatable. It’s a boat. And kids are invited to “sail into fun.” But you’re not supposed to put it in water? Sure. Maybe a better idea would be to make this a Choo-choo train play center. Or an airplane play center. Or something that you might not automatically associate with “let’s put this in water.”
The Animal Alley Pony is aimed at infants, yet is has “long,
fiber-like hair that is not adequately rooted and is easily removable, presenting the potential for ingestion or aspiration injuries. This hazard is not referenced anywhere on the product or product tag.” Which is the problem with a lot of these toys. If someone sees “ages 0 and up” on the packaging, they’re probably going to make the assumption that someone has vetted it for “ages 0 and up.” Plus it’s not as creepy as My Little Pony, so I can actually see someone buying this. (Note to cousin Rob K: don’t worry. It’s not that creepy, but it’s also not something I’d ever buy for your new little one.)
If there are any number of toys that can poke your eye out, the Big Bang Rocket gives equal time to the ear. “Do not use close to the ear! Misuse may cause damage to hearing.” Bad enough that blasting iPods are making kids deaf…
One of my favorite warnings comes with the Walkaroo II Aluminum Stilts.
… children attempting to balance on the toy must
“[a]lways remain in control of [their] motions.”
Excellent advice for stilt walkers, but I’m just guessing that the first time that a 5 year old gets up on stilts, he or she is probably not going to be in “control of [their] motions” (or their emotions, for that matter). Yet this does seem like an okay toy, if there’s supervision for younger kids. For older kids, hey, life is not without risks. At least with stilts, you’re not apt to poke your eye out.
I grew up in the era of the unsafe toy, and I do think we can go overboard with the protection racket angle. Still, you’d think that manufacturers would make sure that their instructions are clear; that their packaging doesn’t conflict with their warnings (explicitly or implicitly); that they wouldn’t be encouraging kids to poke two eyes out at once; and that they wouldn’t put “ages 0 and up” on a hairy toy that has hair that pulls off so easily.
The bottom line: if you want to buy safe toys, don’t go by what’s on the package. Really look at what you’re buying, and really think about whether you want the poked-out eyes on you.