Remember Lite Brite? That was fun.
It was a light bulb in the back of a little box, covered by a plastic screen full of holes. You’d put a black paper guide over the screen – it could feature awesome stuff like Transformers or ponies or Transformer Ponies – and then stick little colourful pegs through the paper to make a design that would get lit up by the bulb.
It was cool! And when I was a kid, one of my friends stuck one of the pegs up his nose. Like, way up. He had to go to the doctor to get it pulled out.
Now the Lite Brite pegs are bigger, and there’s probably a warning on there: “Caution: Do not stick up your schnoz.” It may seem like those warnings are unnecessary, but hey, tell that to Dr. Tweezers.
The point is, not all toys are perfectly safe the moment they are created. OK, Lite Brite wasn’t too bad, as long as you kept your nose clean. But do you remember lawn darts? Of course you remember lawn darts! Heavy, pointy chunks of metal that kids whipped across the backyard trying to land them in little targets on the grass. If you’ve heard of lawn darts, you’ve undoubtedly also heard that they didn’t always land inside the little circles. Sometimes they landed in the neighbour’s yard. And sometimes they landed in the neighbour.
It’s the existence of toys like lawn darts that hastened the creation of organizations like World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. a.k.a. W.A.T.C.H. Yes, that is a real organization, and yes, it is hard to hear about them and not think about the old Saturday Night Live sketch with a consumer affairs reporter grilling sleazy toy salesman Dan Aykroyd about his products such as Mr. Skin Grafter and Bag O’Glass.
“This is simply a bag of jagged, dangerous glass bits!” the reporter says incredulously.
“We put a label on every bag,” he replies. “It says ‘Kid, be careful. Broken glass.’”
That wouldn’t fly if W.A.T.C.H. were around. This very real organization recently sent me a real email unveiling its 50th annual list of the 10 Worst Toys this holiday season.
As a public service to all you parents out there, I checked out the list to see if W.A.T.C.H. were overreacting, or if all your children really are in grave danger. Let’s run through some highlights, paying close attention to the all-important warnings that come with them.
Disney Raya’s Action and Adventure Sword
This toy says it’s for ages 3+, with kids encouraged to “save the world.” But … it does look basically like a hard plastic sword. For three-year-olds. But there’s a warning! “CAUTION: Adult Supervision Suggested. Never swing at people, animals, or fragile objects.” You got that, three-year-old? Your sword is not for swinging!
Children as young as three are encouraged to “save the world” with this “Action & Adventure” sword made of rigid plastic, with potential for facial & other impact injuries. Learn more about how to shop safe this holiday season by visiting https://t.co/U331E2eJRG #50yearsofwatch pic.twitter.com/wOz0YGf8ld— W.A.T.C.H., Inc. (@WATCHsafety) November 18, 2022
Black Panther Wakanda Battle Claws
Now, don’t get me wrong – the Black Panther movies are both wildly entertaining and empowering at the same time, showing kids around the world that you don’t need to be a white guy dressed up as a bat or a spider or a Ryan Reynolds to be a superhero. But these Wakanda Battle Claws, targeted at five-year-olds, are pretty much just some good old punching gloves with sharp spikes on the knuckles. “CAUTION: Do not swing, poke or jab at people or animals,” reads the warning. “Hey, kid. You can put on your dagger claws, but no jabs, OK? Stick to uppercuts.”
Save the world against Wakanda’s enemies this #holidayseason by gearing up with these #BlackPanther Legacy #Wakanda Battle FXClaws! Kids can show off their fiercest Wakandan salute to activate the claws. 🤩 Shop them here ➡️ https://t.co/2j6GdK2NjA pic.twitter.com/NlJEF5Xnyl— Toys"R"Us (@ToysRUs) December 6, 2022
Dingray Musical Bath Toy
Ha, you said “Dingray.” Anyway, the Dingray is marketed for 12-month-old babies but contains a long, thin, rigid mallet roughly the size and shape of a 12-month-old’s throat. “Never allow child to put the mallet in their mouth,” says the warning.
“Honey, you’re watching the baby in the bathtub, right?”
“Don’t worry, she’s got the Dingray!”
WATCH OUT! The “ooze labs chemistry station” is marketed for children to do “slimy, fizzy, colorful, and bubbly experiments.” There are numerous warnings and cautions for the assorted chemicals and ingredients. #50yearsofwatch pic.twitter.com/0nH7pJ6AF8— W.A.T.C.H., Inc. (@WATCHsafety) November 22, 2022
Ooze Labs Chemistry Station
LOL. This is my favourite. It’s an educational toy aimed at six-year-olds, with the warnings: “Do not get in eyes, in mouth, or on clothing…. Do not ingest. Avoid breathing dust…. Keep out of reach of small children.” I dunno, though. I might be OK with this one. If you’re going to be the next Marie Curie, you’re going to have to handle a little radioactive material. That’s science.
So, yeah. Maybe the folks at W.A.T.C.H are on to something. If you want to see their whole list, you can check it out at toysafety.org. Happy holidays, and stay safe out there, you Dingrays!
Andy Prest is the assistant editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly. email@example.com
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