It’s almost New Years, and that means everyone and their dog is trotting out their end of year lists. We’ve talked about toys to look forward to for 2011 and cool new toys from 2010, but I feel I would be terribly remiss if I let the year go by without remarking on its dark side.
Toy design is a challenging art at best. How to get kids interested and motivated and give them ways to burn off all that natural energy without maiming each other or themselves in the process is a perpetual issue, and many things that are intended to be simple fun (with proper adult supervision!) sometimes get turned into bigger issues than they really are. For every “You’ll shoot your eye out, Ralphie!” mom, there’s a dad going “Naw, he’s fine, a few scrapes build character!” And for every zealous consumer watchdog group overreacting to even the slightest whiff of the potential possibility of danger, there are people wondering why lawn darts are such a big deal and mourning the days when kids flung themselves headlong into traffic on rollerskates with no brakes – hey, we did it and we turned out fine!
So I’m always sort of amused and wary of ‘worst toy lists’, but there are honestly some toys where you just look at them and go “Okay, really, what were you thinking?”
Here’s a few from this year that rightfully raised eyebrows.
Pretty much everything Geospace makes seems to fall under the ‘shoot your eye out’ category, but a special shout-out should be given to their Walkaroo II Aluminum Stilts. “As kids gain balancing skills, they can move the footrests higher for more challenge.” I’m inclined to wonder if they also have an adjustable setting to convert them straight into the crutches kids will inevitably need when they fold up and crumple (being made of likely cheap aluminum) and send the poor kid pitching face-first into a low-dangling hive of bees. (Admittedly unlikely, but that’s the mental image I had and I’m running with it!) A spectacularly bad idea all around, bestseller or not!
HARMED: None – so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this pop up on a recall list later.
You’re pushing your kid around in a nice, soft, sturdy-looking plastic wagon-thing. You take the kid out to the park for some fresh air. Maybe there’s a little bit of a hill around that one corner. And you’re walking along, talking the way you talk to your kid when you do this kind of thing, and you’re on the hill, and… oops! The handle just plain drops off.
You can imagine how much fun that isn’t.
HARMED: An unfortunate 28 accidents; two bad enough to require doctor intervention.
Hey, little girls like pretty things that smell good, right? And this might be a fun way to get them leaning toward basic chemistry, too, right? Sure, and let’s make all the containers really pretty and give them lots of nice sharp molded edges, so that when they fly to pieces because of our inability to keep our basic chemistry facts straight it can also teach them about basic first aid and eye flushing decontamination procedures!
This toy was already recalled once in 2009 because it has a tendency to explode. The manufacturer helpfully included plastic, sharp edged, ventless lids to be used with bath bombs containing carbon dioxide. For even more fun, some of the combinations create citric acid that really adds some extra sparkle to the flying debris! The toy was recalled for the second time in 2010 and the manufacturer is now offering free exchangeable lids that have air holes in them.
HARMED: 26 kids have been hurt by this thing blowing up in their faces.
It looks so harmless, doesn’t it? It’s an innocent looking little yellow submarine with a smiley Pikachu face; perhaps bringing back fond memories to grownup moms and dads of the Beatles and their Yellow Submarine. But nature designated yellow and black as warning colors for a reason – the CPSC reports the sub’s intake valve sucks in skin along with water and, well, that’s just not the kind of fun most people want to be having in the bathtub.
HARMED: 19, with one hospitalization, lacerations to little boys’ genitalia. Ugh.
There was some news coverage about this one a few months back, so you might remember it. Several kids were seriously injured and a few more hurt less seriously by a jutting ‘key’ in the trike’s design, which was unfortunately placed so that they could fall against it while riding or attempting to dismount the vehicle. The original design of the jutting key was unfortunately rather sharp-edged, and Fisher Price had to retract several million trikes. The trikes have been redesigned, but the original shape and position of the key was such a no-brainer for potential problems that you wonder how it made it past initial safety tests at the prototype phase.
HARMED: 6 girls seriously injured, a few more dinged, strangely all seeming to be little girls in the genitals. Ugh again.
Toys injuring kids is always a nightmare scenario – enough that the idea’s entered the cultural zeitgeist in the form of horror movies about killer toys, masks, and funhouse rides-gone-wrong. There’s just no good answer for it when playtime goes south, and I definitely feel for any kids who get hurt just trying to have a good time. Sure, a few scrapes build character, but nobody should end up in the hospital just from trying to be a kid.
Let’s hope the toys of 2011 are a little less dangerous!
Cassandra writes about music, media and randomness at her blog, cassandrapoe.com.
Want more articles about toy news? Check out some of last year’s big lists: