The what-were-they-thinking hall of fame.
I’ve made a list. I checked it twice. Everything on here is totally insane. Maybe you have fond memories of some of the items on this list, but remember: you were a kid, and your logic was impaired. Of course you thought watching metal roll down steps or spinning on a plastic disk until you threw up was a reasonable way to spend your time. But now that we’re parents, let’s look at these toys with a little more perspective . . . – Cole Gamble
33. The Hokkaido Poo Poo Bear
This is, simply stated, a poop-themed bear. Does it poop? Don’t know. Does it eat poop? That’s not clear. The only thing that is for sure is this bear is very enthusiastic about associating itself with fecal matter. Maybe poop means something different in Japan?
32. Aqua Dots
There wasn’t much to this toy, just a bunch of dots that weakly bonded when you sprayed a little water on them. The idea was to put them into patterns to create figures so crude they make a Lite Brite look like hi-def.
What is that? A frog with bleeding gums? E.T.’s lime-flavored friend? You know what it is? It’s a green square with some black, red, yellow and awful.
I wish this was all that’s wrong with the Aqua Dots. The manufacturers, however, took this already sucky toy and multiplied it with so much suckyness that the sheer sucktitude bends the very fabric of reality, allowing you to travel back in time and accidentally hit on your grandmother. What could they have done to make these dots worse, you might ask? Something so pointless must be harmless, right? Sure, unless you do the one thing most natural thing to a child and ingest one. That’s because Aqua Dots, when exposed to water, form the same chemical as found in date rape drugs. If you want to get your kid a safer and less offensive gift, get them the Hitler action figure that releases bees and malaria when you press its head.
Here’s an example of someone totally over-thinking what was a perfectly decent toy. Balloons are internationally recognized as fun. Too fun, some toy executive must have thought, and so came up with B’Loonies. I imagine that toy pitch went something like this:
Toy Executive: Sir, after six months and twenty-five million dollars, I think we’ve come up with our big fall toy.
Toy CEO: That’s a balloon.
Toy Exec: No, that’s a B’Loonie.
Toy CEO: So it’s like a balloon?
Toy Exec: Yes, sir.
Toy CEO: Does it bounce?
Toy Exec: Goodness no.
Toy CEO: Can you bat it around?
Toy Exec: I wouldn’t.
Toy CEO: What’s it made of?
Toy Exec: A highly toxic, unstable compound.
Toy CEO: So what are you supposed to do with it?
Toy Exec: Try not to anger it.
30. Airport X-ray Security Machine
Coming soon, The Kiddy FAA Cavity Search Kit, and My First Guantanamo Bay Playset with Habeas Corpus Removal Wand.
Does Barbie represent bad gender role modeling? I don’t know, but I do know this: that girl likes to get naked. No sooner than minutes after your daughter receives the gift of Barbie does this amoral little doll have her clothes off. And it is in this sinful state of nature that Barbie will stay, most likely writhing in a pile of similarly clothing-shy Barbies. It’s not the ’70s anymore, Barbie. Time to get some underwear.
28. Pet Rock
How about a Pet-I’ll-Chuck-This-Back-At-Your-Head-You-Cheapo-Dad?
27. The Vibrating Harry Potter Broom
This might have been a nice toy, but a lot of mommies never got around to giving it to their kids.
26. Sit and Spin
If you think about it, by giving a kid a toy, you the parent are saying, “Here, now go busy yourself with this and stay outta my hair for a while.” And what better way to keep your child busy than with non-stop vomiting? This little wonder comes from the “nausea = entertainment” class of toys. It’s like a mini version of the Gravitron ride at the fair, but without that familiar carny smell. Operation of this toy is simple: the child sits, they spin, they get up and stagger away like a drunken sailor on fleet week, and then they walk directly into a wall. That ought to keep them busy while mommy and daddy enjoy cocktail hour.
25. Rubber Band Gun
Happy birthday kid – here’s a gun, and while we’re at it, here’s your glass eye! With the potential for ocular injury associated with this toy, couldn’t they have just called it The Lil’ Cyclops Starter Kit?
24. Shirtless Sunburned Construction Worker Figure
The question is, is this a construction worker who just got hot, or is this a guy who spent too much time waiting on line for Village People reunion show tickets? I think the mustache says it all.
23. The Super Soaker Oozinator
A squirt gun that ejects ooze. Okay, that’s gross and the mess potential could be fatal to your upholstery, but what’s the big problem? Watch this commercial and you tell me.
22. EZ Bake Oven
Oh man, did I want one of these bad when I was a kid. I also really wanted diabetes, which this would have given me, too. You mean I can eat half-cooked brownie dough all day and call it “play?” Yes, please.
21. PRO Thumb Wrestling Playset
Hey kids! Check out this Pro Thumb Wrestling Playset. All you do is add thumbs. Or you could just thumb wrestle without binding yourself in this sadist’s sharp plastic prison.
20. Chia Pet
Chia Pet comes in every conceivable head-based shape and form, from a Scooby head to a Garfield head. Chia Pet, is there anything you can’t do? Oh that’s right: entertain.
19. Children’s ATM Machine
From the catalog description:
This electronic teller machine helps children learn money management as they maintain a savings account up to $999.99. The machine accepts real coin- and currency-deposits and gives up-to-date account information on its screen. Young depositors have their own ATM card and PIN for checking account balance, making deposits, or withdrawing funds.
That sounds a little dry, so let’s punch it up with all caps.
CHECK YOUR BALANCE!
I’m sure learning can be fun with this ATM toy, but the real learning fun begins after you take a mini-withdrawal from your mini-ATM and you get mini-mugged.
18. Swing Wing
What’s Swing Wing? It’s the whip-lash-inducing craze that’s sweeping the nation!
17. Lightning Reaction Extreme
What is the goal of this game? To not get electrocuted. What do you win? The right to not be electrocuted. Hope your kid doesn’t have a weak heart. This toy quasi-safely allows your kids to explore their urge to electrocute themselves. As your kid grows older, he or she is naturally going to want to experiment with electrocution; it’s perfectly natural. Wouldn’t you feel better providing it for them in the safety of your rumpus room rather than one day finding them attaching jumper cables to their friends in the garage?
16. Pogo Stick
Let’s do a little math: The additional height a pogo stick can help your child attain: 10%. The probability of your kid cracking their face open once launched from said pogo stick: 90%. Sounds like 100% fun to me!
15. Pee and Poo
Again with the scatological humor. Okay, Japan, we get it. You love bodily waste. Maybe these toys are meant to engender a friendly attitude between your child and potty training, but how affectionate do we want our kids getting with their excrement? And what if the plan backfires and your kids get the impression that gigantic creatures with eyeballs are going to come out of their orifices?
14. Gelli Baff
You add a packet of this powder to your child’s bath and it turns into goo. They already invented it. It’s called Jell-O and it’s delicious. Gelli Baff, on the other hand, is terrible. The above picture, incidentally, is one of the most disturbing I have seen in some time.
13. Chef Mario’s Bento Plate
Hey, eating plastic raw fish has got to be safer than eating real raw fish.
12. Lawn Darts
No one knows how to play lawn darts. I think if you remain unpunctured by the end of the game, you are a winner. Lawn darts, with their sharp metal projectile-ness, derive from a simpler time when only one out of three kids survived childhood and everybody was okay with that. You should never allow your child to play with a toy that you’d be wary to have drunk Uncle Frank play with.
11. Skip It
Hey kid, don’t have any friends to jump rope with? Let me introduce myself – I’m Skip It, the jumping game for outcasts like you. We’re going to have a lot of fun together. By the way, if you fail to jump over me, I will slap you hard in the leg.
10. Shrinky Dinks
A child meticulously colors a piece of art. Then said art gets incinerated, the result leaving their hard work “shrunk,” diminished, less significant and worse for wear. A fitting metaphor for the art world?
9. Slinky Dog
The Slinky: it walks downstairs. Wow. You know what else walks down stairs? Me. You don’t see Pennsylvania offering to make ME their official state toy. (By the way, I am still available for the position, Idaho.) Additional toys from the Slinky family just take pointlessness to new heights. For instance: the Slinky Dog. Slinky Dog takes away the Slinky’s one selling point, the whole walking-downstairs thing. So tell me, Slinky Dog, why do you exist?
Here’s how you play Jacks. Go to the park. Set your jacks on the ground and make like you are having fun (you won’t really be having fun, but play along). When another boy comes along with a much cooler toy, throw the little ninja-star jacks in his face and take his toy.
7. BB Gun
Let your little one learn about Second Amendment rights by killing all the neighborhood cats.
6. Beads, of any sort.
Toys makers certainly think kids like beads, and kids do too — at first. However, after five minutes and nine or ten swallowed, the novelty of beads wears and off and your kids dump them out onto the carpet, where they cease to be beads and become vacuum shrapnel. Run the vacuum over just one of these embedded rogues and your vacuum cleaner bag explodes into a cloud of noxious dust. You don’t remember the package saying “Contain 1,000,000 beads,” when your child opened the present from a sinister aunt, but somehow the beads have multiplied infinitely. You never really get rid of all the beads unless you move.
5. Bubble Wand
If you attended elementary school in the last twenty years, your school was probably visited by the Bubble Man. The Bubble Man was this wizard of all things bubble. With his magical wand he created incredible bubbles up to forty feet long. This, of course, completely mystified us third graders. We had no idea how far bubble technology had come. After the Bubble Man finished his performance, he rocked our worlds a second time: he offered to sell us kids bubble wands of our own. Apparently he had a few hundred extra and he entrusted us, and not those irresponsible little snots over at Bemiss Elementary, with the phenomenal power of the bubble wand – all for the friendly price of $15 (or $35,000 in kid money).
We took our mystical scepters of bubble home (with the $10 specialty bubble fluid) and set immediately to create bubble castles, bubble mountains and a kingdom full of bubble people who would never steal our lunch money or make fun of our collection of Alf T-shirts. But what we discovered in short order was: A) making a bubble was only achievable after an hour of jerking the wand back and forth; and B) once you got even a speck of dust on the bubble wand it would never make a bubble again. It was ruined, just like our bubble world dreams.
4. Ball and Cup
It’s a ball. It’s a cup. They are attached by a string. Try to put the ball in the cup. Who needs the Internet when you have fun like this?
3. The Star Wars Empty Box
No one knew how popular the movie Star Wars would be when it came out in 1977. Certainly Kenner, the maker of Star Wars toys, didn’t. Kenner had no intention of creating action figures for the film, instead going with cheap toys like puzzles and other lame junk that no one would want from a film Kenner must have assumed no one would see. Turns out a few people did see the flick and those few people wanted a Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader doll. Kenner didn’t have any, so they came up with this ingenious gambit: let people buy Early Bird certificates good for an action figure when they became available. This amounted to thousands of children ripping open their presents on Christmas morning to discover their parents’ bought them an empty box. And that is when George Lucas introduced bottomless disappointment to his fans, a gimmick he would later perfect with the Star Wars prequels.
2. Pogo Ball
Think we had this one covered with the Pogo Stick? Not so fast. This toy combined the pointless peril of a pogo stick with the demanding nature of a dominatrix. First, the pogo ball said, you must wrap your feet around the ball, which is pretty tough because it’s a round object. If you haven’t knocked out your two front teeth yet, squeeze your thighs together as hard as you can in the vain hope of keeping said ball in place. Now hop up and down a couple inches and try to remain balanced (oh, pogo stick, how you are looking better and better!).
1. Elmo Knows Your Name
What can’t Elmo do? You tickle him and he laughs. You wrong him, he’ll cut you. Did you forget Elmo grew up on the street? Yes, I do mean Sesame.
One imagines the people at Fisher Price didn’t mean to create a murderous toy based on a beloved children’s icon. But I didn’t mean for the park security guard to see me burying a hobo in a shallow grave the other night. These things just happen.
Originally the Elmo Knows Your Name toy was meant to learn your child’s name and regurgitate it back at the child in pat phrases like “Elmo loves you, Fabian.” For my money, you could have stopped right there. I have been looking forever for a robot to love my children in a way I am way too busy to. But unfortunately it doesn’t end there. A woman in Florida caught her son’s Elmo spouting this T-shirt ready catchphrase: “Kill James.”
Yes, James is her son’s name.
The Elmo doll started saying “Kill James” right after a battery switch. Maybe next time James’ mother won’t buy batteries from the Radio Shack of the Damned. At the very least, she could buy batteries from the Dollar Store of the Damned. Sure, they still possess your kid’s toys, but they don’t last very long.
Parents should have known this was a malicious toy just by the Name. Elmo Knows Your Name. When does it sound anything less than menacing when someone tells you they know your name? Here, let me try it:
I know your name.
See? Creepy. Especially if you imagine me saying that from a dark alley, and I have a huge scar running the entire length of my face, and I am wearing clown makeup, and I have a screwdriver in one hand and a cat in the other. And I am wearing nothing but a giant diaper. You get the point, and yet it’s still way creepier when a stuffed Elmo doll says it.