Friday, November 17, 2017

You better W.A.T.C.H. out, I’m telling you why

You blog long enough – in my case, 11 years and counting – you have certain evergreens that you revisit again and again. For instance, I observe most holidays with a holiday-related post. And by the time the first Christmas tree has gone up outside Macy’s, I’ll have started doing a number of gift and/or toy-related posts. Thus, yesterday, I had a piece about this year’s inductees to the Toy Hall of Fame. Probably next week, I’ll be doing a piece on this year’s Neiman Marcus crazy-arse wishbook. And I typically watch out for the annual W.A.T.C.H. List, which each year calls out the most dangerous toys out there.

Like pretty much (but not quite) everyone in the world, I don’t want to hear about any kids getting killed by some spectacularly unsafe toy. A choking hazard. A mismarked age range.

Yet I always feel a bit nanny-state about some of the toys that end up on the annual list, especially when I compare and contrast them to the toys of my childhood. The toddler iron that plugged in and heated up. The stuffed poodle with the easily removable eye that corkscrewed in and out of the stuffed poodle’s eye socket. As for bicycle helmets. Huh?

I’m happy that I grew up in the era of free-range childhood. Folks (such as parents) didn’t spend a ton of time worrying themselves to death about whether their kids were playing themselves (and other kids) to death. Caveat, children, more of less.

I suspect that it’s thanks to organizations like W.A.T.C.H.  (World Against Toys Causing Harm) that those stuffed poodles no longer come equipped with beady little eyes attached to sharp-edge corkscrews. And that’s good…

But the net result is that it looks to me that dangerous toys ain’t what they used to be. Still, on general principles, it would be best to avoid these suckers (info taken from the W.A.T.C.H. list):

HALLMARK “ITTY BITTYS” BABY STACKING TOY:The knock on this toy is that it doesn’t come with any age warnings.Itty Bitty Of course, anyone who’s ever known a baby would know by taking just one look at this that it’s for a baby. Plus, it’s called a Baby Stacking Toy, so there’s that cue. But those little hats and bows can come loose, and, thus, become a choking hazard. So it’s really not the age warning so much as those chokables. That’s what caused the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall this product as of August 31, 2017. It’s a pretty cute toy. Everyone loves Disney. They need to figure out a way to secure Donald’s cap, and maybe embroider a bow on Daisy.

PULL ALONG PONY has a pull cord that measures 19 inches. That happens “despite the industry’s standard requiring strings on playpen and crib toys to be less than 12 inches in length.” There’s apparently a loophole that let’s a pull toy have a longer cord, which presents a strangulation hazard. I know that there are occasional stories about little ones being strangled by the cord of blinds, but a pull toy? Could that really happen with a 19 inch piece of string? Me? i wouldn’t want to chance it. Cut the cord to a shorter length to keep on the safe side. How long a pull cord does a one-year-old need?

WONDER WOMAN BATTLE-ACTION SWORD Sure, we had cowgirls like Annie Oakley and Dale Evans, but when it came to the toy weaponry of my childhood, it was all boy. So the girls final get a weapon of their own – a light sword – and, don’t you know, it gets put on the no-no list because it can cause blunt force injury. “The rigid plastic sword blade has the potential to cause facial or other impact injuries.” Would this not be true of any battle-action sword? You don’t have to be Braveheart to understand that when you wield a sword, you’re using a weapon. If Wonder Woman uses a sword – and I don’t know: does she? – why shouldn’t a little wannabe Wonder Woman get to use one? As for impact injuries, anything in the hand of an excited kid – say, a Barbie doll – can do the same.

HAND FIDGETZ SPINNERS The warning on this fidget spinner is that it’s “a novelty gift item. It is not intended to be used as a toys.” But some spinners come with “potential small parts hazards”", which can choke you up. But I wouldn’t worry that much about them. Sure, keep them out of the hands of anyone too young to need a fidget spinner to work out their anxiety and/or boredom, but wait until next year. Fidget spinners will likely have gone the way of the Pet Rock.

SPIDER-MAN SPIDER-DRONE OFFICIAL MOVIE EDITION This pricey toy is for kids over the age of 12, and comes with  a number of warnings: “Drone has rotating blades that move at high speed, posing danger of… injury…Keep spinning rotors away from fingers, hair, eyes, and other body parts”… and other cautions/warnings on package/package insert.” From my point of view, drones in general should be kept out of the hands of pretty much everyone not qualified to use one, let alone kids (even if they are over the age of 12).

NERF ZOMBIE STRIKE DEADBOLT CROSSBOW This is marketed for kids as young as 8. Who are “encouraged to load ‘arrows’ into Crossbowthe ‘deadbolt’ crossbow, pull back the ‘primary pressurized lever’ and fire the projectiles in order to ‘strike back’ at ‘zombies.’ The force of the arrow launch presents the potential for eye and facial injuries.” Who in their right mind would give an 8 year old a crossbow, even if it’s firing Nerf projectiles?

SLACKERS SLACKLINE CLASSIC SERIES KIT “The manufacturer warns of the potential for ‘severe injury’, including ‘a strangulation hazard, especially with children.’” Strangulation? Not to mention fall-related injuries. Fun for all ages, alrighty.

OVAL XYLOPHONE I love the idea of a baby plonking away on a xylophone. But the drumstick used for plonking away “has the potential to be mouthed and occlude a child’s airway.” Guess this one could use a warning that this one requires adult supervision.

JETTS HEEL WHEELS This toy comes with these warnings: “USING HEEL WHEELS CAN BE A DANGEROUS ACTIVITY AND MAY RESULT IN INJURY OR DEATH. … USE AT YOUR OWN RISK….” Can you imagine picking up a toy for your kid, reading “may result in death” and casually tossing it in your shopping cart? And yet there are so many toys that can result in death. Maybe all of them. That’s a kind of a problem inherent in toys: they can be stupid and dangerous. And inherent in kids: they do stupid and dangerous things, with or without toys. Still, best not to encourage them. Especially when those Heel Wheels have the special feature that they throw off sparks. And “sparks can burn.”

BRIANNA BABYDOLL The final item on the non-shopping list for responsible toy buyers is this baby doll, that comes with removable ponytail holders, creating a choking hazard. Seriously? A manufacturer can’t figure out how to sew threads on to doll hair. Come on. Even I could figure that one out.

Anyway, this is the W.A.T.C.H. List for this year. With so many toys out there, why would you spend on ones that are known to be hazardous? Even if there probably isn’t any such thing as a non-hazardous toy, especially if they get into the wrong little hands.

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