Earlier this week, I was introduced to the watchdog organization known as W.A.T.C.H., which stands for “world against toys causing harm.” (More like W.A.F., “world against fun.” Right?!) Their founder states the organization’s purpose on their website:
My introduction to the frightening world of dangerous toys came about in the course of my work as a lawyer. In my investigations of the toy industry on behalf of Congress and clients, I became painfully conscious of the risks to our children when their playthings unreasonably expose them to grave physical and psychological harm. Their toy boxes are secret havens for death traps.
(Death Traps™, coincidentally, is what I named my prototype of a children’s toy I invented. It was a game made for two or more players where one child left the room and the other child put something into a box. Then the other child came back into the room and had to eat whatever the first player put into the box. If it was something toxic, all the players would should “Death Trap!” and giggle.)
Anyway, W.A.T.C.H. puts out an annual list of the ten most dangerous toys of the year. In theory, this is a helpful list. If I had a child, I would want to know if their “Pure Lead Cannonball Shooter™” toy was unsafe. Or if their “Mostly Edible Knife Collection™” was maybe teaching them some sort of unforeseeable bad habit. But in perusing the list for 2007, I couldn’t help but think, “Our kids are fucked.” And not because they’re going to choke on Harry Potter’s quiddich ball, but because we’re raising them to be pussies. It’s the same reason I won’t allow my future children to use anti-bacterial soap – the best anti-bacterial soap is a strong immune system.
Besides, when I was growing up we never had anti-bacterial soap. We had regular soap. If you wanted something sterilized you sprayed Lysol on it. For example, when my sister and I were sick, my mom would follow us around spraying Lysol on everything we touched. (The only thing stopping her from spraying us with Lysol was the warning label on he bottle, which she surreptitiously called “merely a suggested usage.”)
What’s more, our toys were 10 times as dangerous as the ones on this list. I mean, I may not be remembering this properly, but I’m pretty sure that I had a toy that used actual gun powder. And look at me – I turned out fine. I have a blog for Christ’s sake.
So I decided to make a list comparing the so-called “dangerous” toys of today with the most dangerous toys of my youth, to show these W.A.T.C.H. people what danger actually is and to hopefully persuade parents everywhere to put their children in harms way a little more often. It’s called “natural selection,” and it’s worked well-enough so far. Don’t stop now.
Go, Diego, Go Animal Rescue Boat vs. Disc Shooter
Go, Diego, Go Animal Rescue Boat: Apparently the boat’s orange and yellow paint has excessive amounts of lead in the paint. So if the child was left alone with it for days on end and used its barely formed baby teeth to gnaw away at the surface, eventually the kid might be a little dimmer than the other kids.
Disc Shooter: How about a gun that shot coin-sized, plastic disks at a high velocity with minimal predictability? This wasn’t just a hazard to me, this was a hazard to my mom, my sister, the dog and, as I imagined it in my head, the monster in my attic, which is why I sometimes slept with it at the foot of my bed. Bitch monster never messed with me. (Note to Monster: If you somehow come across this, you know I’m just kidding about the bitch thing, right?)
Sticky Stones vs. Sponge Capsules
Sticky Stones: These small stones with magnetized centers could be ingested and easily passed, unless you eat so many that they become magnetized into a giant cluster in your small intestine.
Sponge Capsules: I see your magnet cluster and raise you my sponge capsules – colorful pills that looked exactly like Mike & Ikes that, when put in liquid, would blow up into big sponge creatures. In other words, ingest one of these seemingly delectable capsules and suddenly there’s a Brontosaurus in your stomach. But hey, at least he’s not a big scary magnet.
Jack Sparrow's Spinning Dagger vs. Slip ‘N Slide
Jack Sparrow's Spinning Dagger: This dagger, which the child can strap to its wrist, spins with the push of a button making it a potential hazard if the kid sticks his wrist in his eye.
Slip ‘N Slide: Here’s a more plausible scenario: You go running down a wet lawn, jump belly first onto a thin sheet of plastic and slide uncontrollably for 25 yards. But it’s cool, you definitely cleared out all the rocks from the lawn first, right? And you moved the swing set? And there aren’t any trees in your back yard, right? I mean, come on, kids are responsible; they take the proper time necessary to ensure safety when setting up toys. Otherwise you run the risk of breaking your wrist and poking your eye out with the protruding bone.
Dora the Explorer Lamp vs. Lamb Chop Sing-a-Long Talking Book
Dora the Explorer Lamp: The exact wording from the W.A.T.C.H. website: “This product is not marketed as a toy. It is marketed as a lamp and it even says that it is an electronic device. However, when in a child's room, it looks like a toy. A colorful Dora sits atop a light. A child may want to play with Dora and there are risks of fire and burns.” OoooK.
Lamb Chop Sing-a-Long Talking Book: Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a picture for this one. I searched for this thing so deep into Google that I got to the sexual results. Like this:
Oh and maybe I should note this wasn’t my toy. It was my little sister’s. And it wasn’t inherently dangerous, but my friends and I made it dangerous. It was a talking book where you created the story. You would press one button for the subject of the sentence, one for the predicate and one for the direct object, and when you were done the book would read it back to you in Lamb Chop’s voice. So you could make lines like, “Lamb Chop . . . stuck a paw into . . . a bucket!” My friends and I thought it was funny to make up lines like, “Hush Puppy . . . stuck a paw into . . . Charlie Horse!” We would stand the book on a table and video tape it, and at the end of each sentence we would knock it over in some way, be it with a punch from off screen or a bowling ball or a golf club. (The thing was amazingly resilient.)
Anyway, the dangerous part came when we got so excited about it that we took it out in the driveway and programmed it to speak and then hit it with our car. We laughed and laughed and laughed, but the truth is someone could have really gotten hurt.
(Ed. Note: One of my dreams that I will never follow through on is to find that videotape, wherever it may be, and convert it to DVD so I can upload it to YouTube. It’s times like these where I wish I had follow thro–
Lil "Giddy Up" Horse vs. Easy Bake Oven
Lil "Giddy Up" Horse: The toy comes with a "Pet Sak" that, when securely placed over a child’s head, can restrict their air flow. Ironically, this sort of unnecessary overprotection is sometimes referred to as “suffocating” your child.
Easy Bake Oven: THIS WAS A GODDAMN OVEN, PEOPLE. You’re talking about a Pet Sak over here meanwhile kids were playing with OVENS. I’m 28 years old and I’m still not allowed to play with the oven.
Spider Man 3 New Goblin Sword vs. Hot Wheels Slot Cars
Spider Man 3 New Goblin Sword: With a push of a button, the blade expands to over 3 feet long. Sounds pretty cool, I actually want one.
Hot Wheels Slot Cars: So with your Goblin sword, you’ve got what, a 3 foot radius of danger? Try a 10 FOOT RADIUS OF DEATH. These cars zipped around the track so fast that on sharp turns they would literally fly (like birds of prey) through the air, regardless of how many babies’ underdeveloped craniums were standing in the way. I once saw one of these go through a Sheetrock wall. I’m only half kidding.
Hip Hoppa vs. Hungry, Hungry Hippos
Hip Hoppa: This is a modern day pogo stick, which is clearly thousands of times more dangerous than the pogo sticks children have been playing with for centuries. (Yes, centuries.) Next year’s list will probably include “Jumping: Jumping has been determined to cause damage to the knees, and it is possible that children may lose control of their emotions and squeal with delight, which could damage their vocal chords.”
Hungy, Hungry Hippos: Innocent game of hippos gobbling up marbles? Or fucking crazy winner-takes-all slamfest of kids punching plastic levers as fast as their little hearts can beat? Have you ever seen the look in a child’s eye when they are playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos? It’s deranged. Like at any moment they could snap and just start shoving the marbles into their own mouth.
B'loonies Party Pack vs. Castle Grayskull
B'loonies Party Pack: Because of its bright colors, this toy may seem edible, when in reality it is not. (Quick toy idea: Edible toys. How much of a mind-fuck would that be to kids. Like a transformer that is normal in every way except that you can eat it.)
Castle Grayskull: Sure, the slime that came with this may not have been too appetizing, but it was dangerous in a totally different way. I mean, this toy was fucking scary. I had nightmares about Skeletor raining slime down upon He-Man. What was the slime? Where did it come from? Did it burn? How could He-Man, with all his strength, escape from a substance which can’t be fought?! Plus, the castle snapped shut real tight and you could totally get your sister’s hair caught in there. Trust me.
My Little Baby Born vs. Slap Bracelets
My Little Baby Born: There is a pink pacifier that is attached to the doll with a ribbon, meaning that a child could remove the pacifier and choke on it. My simple solution? Make the pacifier the size of an actual friggin pacifier. You know, the kind that are made to go in kids’ mouths. OR, stop buying your babies toys of themselves. It’s creepy.
Slap Bracelets: It’s kind of the same danger really, a little pink pacifier and a sharp fabric-coated bracelet of doom. The entire point of these things was to do exactly what was most dangerous – to slap them hard against your flesh. Honestly, it’s like marketing a saber as a “Tag-You’re-It Rod.” (Hmm . . .) And they were the coolest thing around. I’ll never forget the time Jennifer Cappiobianco let me slap bracelet her. (I’ll leave it at that.)
Rubber Band Shooter vs. Sky Dancers
Rubber Band Shooter: Actually, this one is pretty hard to beat. My dad made me a rubber band gun when I was young and it was one of my favorite things. Granted, if it misfired and you were holding the gun up to your face to aim it at something, the rubber band snapped back square into your eye. But I fought through the adversity – there were plastic cups that needed to be knocked down, and I was the man that had to do it.
Sky Dancers: Perhaps the most dangerous toy ever. (Again, not my toy. I had two sisters. I could only play with the plastic cups for so long.) Basically, you loaded the Sky Dancer into the base and then you shot her spinning into the air. Her wings were made of hard plastic and I swear she spun at something like 2000rpm. Of course, being a boy, instead of shooting it up into the air I liked to shoot it at people. Luckily, I never actually hit anyone. Except those plastic cups, who had it coming.