Monday, November 25, 2013

You better W.A.T.C.H. Out. (Bad toy, bad toy.)

‘Tis the season to go toy shopping, which also makes it the season for the annual W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) list of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad toys. The W.A.T.C.H. list has been around for over forty years, so it must have come about just as the first wave of Baby Boomer’s were having their kids, and took a minute to ponder the toys of their childhoods – and all the electroshocks, poked out eyes, blown off fingers, and blocked windpipes that resulted from the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad toys we grew up with. And, mostly, survived.

Decent survival rate aside, it’s well worth being on the lookout for toys that are harmful.

Not surprisingly, toy weapons top the list.

Realistic looking toy guns, slingshots, boomerangs and projectiles have the potential to lead to tragic, sometimes deadly, consequences. These toys, with the potential to seriously harm or kill children, continue to be found on store shelves, in catalogues, and on e-retailers’ websites. These toys, that resemble real weaponry, have no place in the hands of children. Evidence of the potential for tragedy is the recent death of a thirteen-year-old boy in Santa Rosa, CA, who was fatally shot by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real weapon.  (Source: W.A.T.C.H./Toy

I completely agree that, in the trigger-happy world we live in, no one in their right mind should give their child a realistic looking gun.

When I was a kid, a policeman would have thought a kid pointing an air rifle or a six-shooter at him was holding a toy. He would have kicked the kid’s ass, but wouldn’t have blown him away. These days, you can’t be too careful.

In a world where it’s Hello Kitty gunincreasingly shoot now, ask questions later, parents should definitely avoid giving their kids realistic looking weapons.

But what to do about the girlie guns – like Hello, Kitty pistols and rifles?

Hello, Kitty, meet Lethal Weapon.

Talk about mixed messages…

Anyway, the Hello, Kitty/Make My Day line doesn’t mtoy gunake the list because they’re real guns, not toys. But the Army Force Automatic Rifle from Chuangfa Toys is a toy.  And if you saw a kid pointing this one at you, or at someone else, and you were armed, you might not be able to process the distinction between kicking a kid’s ass, shooting to wound and shooting to kill.

No, these days, toys like this are a must avoid.

On the other hand, the Big Rock & Roll Ball Pit looksball pit like a big rock and roll pit of fun, doesn’t it?

We used to roll down hills in big old baby buggies, or – if the incline was steep enough that you didn’t need wheels to propel forward motion – to tumble down embankments in old appliance boxes. What we wouldn’t have done for one of these babies!

But W.A.T.C.H. no like:

The manufacturer cautions that “competent adult supervision is required….,” however the box portrays unsupervised children at play.

Personally, I’m just as glad that I was a kid in era when there was no such thing as competent adult supervision, beyond the parental warning to come back home by dark, and/or if you were bleeding profusely.

W.A.T.C.H. also wants to put the kibosh on the “Max Steel Interactive Steel with Turbo Sword”, which could cause impact injuries.

Since anything you put in the hands of a kid, especially – to be a bit gender-specific here – a little boy can cause an impact injury, I suppose it makes sense not to encourage bad behavior by giving a kid a turbofied sword.Disney Fishing Kit

The Disney Princess Backpack Fishing Kit made the list because it contains lead. I agree with W.A.T.C.H.:

Toxic chemicals should not be in children’s products.

On the other hand, this is such a goofy product, I can’t imagine they’re going to sell all that many of them. Plus the kid who gets one is no doubt more likely to be interested in princesses than baiting a hook, so I suspect everything gets set aside other than those cool sunglasses. Which I suppose a kid could chew on the earpiece of – I sure would have – and thus ingesting toxic chemicals.

Come on, Disney, stop lending  your brand to toxic toy manufacturers.

The Black Widow Folding Slingshot is on the list.

Black Widow? Slingshot?

‘Nuf said. (Other than to add that it’s illegal to sell a slingshot in Massachusetts.)

A number of toys make the list because they’re choking hazards and/or the age recommendation is wrong/inconsistent. (E.g., it may say online that it’s for 3 and over only, while on the box it may say 12 M+ Big difference there…)

Then it’s back to the arms race, with the N-Strike Jolt Blaster, which comes with the warning:

“CAUTION: Do not aim at eyes or face. TO AVOID
INJURY: Use only darts designed for this product. Do
not modify darts or dart blaster”

To which W.A.T.C.H. adds:

The manufacturer of this “jolt blaster” which packs a “powerful punch,” encourages children to “[h]ide it in your pocket to get the drop on your unsuspecting target!”
The dart provided can shoot with enough force to potentially cause eye injuries.

Unsuspecting target? Nice one! Let’s arm all those little bullies out there!

The final item on the W.A.T.C.H. list is the Spooner Freestyle, a wheel-less skateboard that riders are waned to “ride at your own risk.”

In W.A.T.C.H.’s view, the warnings should include mentions of safety gear.

Are we nearing the points where helmets will be required for use of all toys?

I’m not trying to make (too much) fun here. Nobody wants to put the children they care about at risk from unsafe toys.

Still, it’s good to remember that you can’t protect children from every possible hazard. And that, left to their own devices, kids will come up with their own dangerous and foolhardy things to do.

How else to account for Gregory H – who would have been 7 or 8 at the time – shoving pistachio nuts up his nostrils while our patrol line was snaking its way up Main Street from Our Lady of the Angels one fine spring afternoon.

What if Mr. Saracen, the mailman, hadn’t happened by to save Gregory? After all, any kid dumb enough to shove pistachio nuts up his nose may not have been bright enough to open his mouth to breathe!

Anyway, I have already completed my kiddy shopping for the year, and my focus, as usual, is on boring and harmless. (I’m sure that N will just love the sweater with the toy soldier on it!) Even if the kids would have preferred that Rock and Roll Ball Pit.

Here’s last year’s post on the list. I have to remember that including pictures without downloading them first just plain old doesn’t work. Sorry about that!

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