When Bad Toys Happen to Good Children. The 2011 W.A.T.C.H. List
That darned Santa. He apparently doesn’t know his Donner from his Blitzen when it comes to toy safety. You’d think he would have learned something from all the casualties that must have been incurred on the playing fields of Baby Boomer-ville, where we all grew up with toys that were absolutely designed to maim (you), kill (your brother or sister), and otherwise poke your eye out.
Truly, there were so many dangerous toys in the 1950’s and 1960’s – and these are just the ones that I remember – it’s amazing that so many of us are walking around whole.
But, no, Santa must be taking advice from bad elves. Or taking a bit of payola from unscrupulous sales people to make sure that their wares come down the chimney.
Seriously, folks, I do find it shocking that in this era of consumer awareness, and intense caution – perhaps, in some instances, too much – about everything that kids do, see, touch, ingest, read, or play with, it never fails to amaze me that so many out-and-out dangerous toys still seem to make it into the market.
Where they are purchased by harried and distracted toy-givers who may, in fact, have read what is often times an insufficient or misleading warning label.
So it’s good to have an outfit like W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc.) which each year chooses their “10 Worst Toys” in Toyland. Evenif some of the picks don’t seem all that horrible and dangerous. And, in fact, seem a tad bit namby-pamby. Anyway, This years “winners” are:
TWIST ‘N SORT Forget the choking hazard potential of those small wood pegs. I call BS on this toy’s providing “years of development fun” with “problem solving challenges”. Months maybe, but “years of development fun:? Unless you count learning to apply the Heimlich Maneuver. I say bring on the wooden blocks! Or dust off that Fisher Price rainbow ring toy: nothing detaches. Which I guess you’ll have to, given that this one has been recalled.
Then there’s the POWER RANGERS SAMURAI MEGA BLADE, which contains these instructions:
CAUTION: PLEASE READ BEFORE PLAYING WITH TOY. Do not: (1) aim toy at anyone, (2) hit anyone with toy, (3) poke anyone with toy, (4) swing toy at anyone….”
Let me hazard a guess here. The average 4 year old who finds this under the tree is not, I repeat not, going to follow these instructions. First off, he probably can’t read; and two, he probably wouldn’t follow them even if he could.
And this isn’t just some boring, standard plastic sword. It’s part of an elaborate weapon that has a 2 foot switch blade, which does seem to compound the potential for mayhem.
Buying for that special four year old someone? I’d recommend taking the $27 and buying a drum set.
Then there’s the $99.99 FOLD & GO TRAMPOLINE which comes with the warning:
“Misuse and abuse of this trampoline is dangerous and can cause injuries.”
Which, frankly, seems like the sort of CYA warning that could apply to any object – animal, vegetable, mineral, or plastic – that you can put in the hands of a kid. “Misuse and abuse of this Raggedy Annie doll is dangerous and can cause injuries.”
Then trampolines does have additional warning language about using this only for “controlled bounce” and not for any of the sorts of fun stunts that kids would naturally think of when you put kid and trampoline in the same room. Because, let’s face it, “controlled bounce” sounds pretty darned boring.
I don’t’ know. Once you get past the ‘who wants to spend a hundred bucks on this when a kid can just jump on his bed’ it’s hard for me to see why this toy is so awful. The W.A.T.C.H. folks maintain that no manufacturer shouldn’t make it. Maybe it should be that no parent (grandparent, aunt, uncle, doting friend) should buy it.
PULLING ANIMAL DUCK
Thirty bucks seems like a (duck) boat load to pay for a pull toy, even one as cute as this one. And it sure does look plenty innocuous, no? The problem is that the pull string is about 2 feet longer than it should be, which poses a strangulation hazard. Seems like the designer maybe should have thought of this. And it seems like anyone whose bought one may just want to get the scissors out. Problem is, the instructions say not to knot the string, which I guess would mean that cut string could fray, potentially causing a kid to ingest fine string strands. Sounds like this toy is far better suited to adults. (Wonder how my dog nephew Jack would like chasing around after this.)
There’s also the nifty Z-CURVE BOW
This “high-performance” bow and arrow set is sold with three “long-range” foam arrows, which are marketed as being able to fly “over 125 FEET!” Remarkably, among the many “warnings” for children is an instruction that arrows not be pulled back “more than half strength”, and that people nearby “should be alerted” prior to firing.
This “toy” is just asking for trouble. If your kid is interested in archery, that’s a sport, and the
weapons implements used in conjunction with this sport are sporting goods, not toys. And a sport like this – one with projectiles that can zip 125 feet plus – should come with instructors, not just instructions. (Sure hope no kid in my neighborhood gets one of these. “What say, Trip, let’s see if we can wing that old lady in the green parka.”)
On the other hand, going after the STEPPER “LOW RISE” STILTS seems a bit nanny-statish. The “stilts” appear to be maybe 9” high, and you hang on to them with ropes. Looks like fun and a good balancing act for kids. W.A.T.C.H.’s problem with this toy is that it doesn’t come with any warnings that your kid could fall off them. Well, duh!
Sorry, if you’re not bright enough to figure this out for yourself, maybe you shouldn’t be having kids to begin with?
W.A.T.C.H. doesn’t like the SWORD FIGHTING JACK SPARROW because the sword can be activated by pressing a button. Which, in truth, doesn’t seem like a particularly grand idea for something that a 4-year old is playing with. Then there’s the TOY SCHOOL BUS with the peel-off choking hazard label. (Why not just print the warning on the toy?) Plus the “GIGAN” GODZILLA FIGURE with those pointy wings that could cause a puncture wound.
And W.A.T.C.H. no like THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKY DINKS MAKER. As kids, we had a precursor to this one – a Creeple-Peeple maker which, I suspect, came with nary a warning. But unless I had a couple of siblings that I’ve forgotten about, I don’t recall any of us, say, taking this electric, “shock hazard” toy into the bathtub with us. (“Please, Mommy, just this once. I’ll be super careful.”) But, according to W.A.T.C.H.:
A product with so many inherent hazards does not lend itself to use in a home environment with children.
So just what environment might an Incredible Shrinky Dinks Maker lend itself to?
Maybe it’s just me throwing caution to the wind in my old age – next thing you know, I’ll be going over Niagara Falls in a barrel – but this year’s crop of “10 Worst Toys” doesn’t seem all that awful to me. Sure, toys with spikey-pointy-puncturing parts should be called out; and you’d think that toy manufacturers would have figured out chocking hazard by now. But a lot of the toys on the list just seem like toys that should be governed by common (adult) sense. The W.A.T.C.H. list, then, should stand as a reminder that bad toys can happen to good kids if those kids aren’t supervised, or if older-kid toys are put in the hands (and mouths) of younger kids.
My bottom line guess is that W.A.T.C.H. is doing a reasonably good job, and manufacturers are being more careful about the sorts of toys they’re bringing to market.
Which is a good thing. (As long as they never get rid of the Easy Bake Oven.)
Here’s a link to last year’s W.A.T.C.H. list: Misfit Toys? No Just Plain Dangerous.