We haven’t even made it through Thanksgiving yet and already parents are blowing the whistle on what is expected to be one of this season’s hottest Christmas toys. They’re called Bunchems, although most parents are calling them a headache after spending hours trying to pull these little suckers out of their children’s hair.
With an adorable name like Bunchems, these cute and colorful toys seem impossible for kids to resist. The toy is made up of small squishy balls with spikes that allow them to connect together to create different shapes. After being listed on Target’s annual Top Toys list for 2015, Bunchems are flying off the shelves and selling like hotcakes on sites like Amazon for $24.
Spin Master designer Paul Reynolds first created Bunchems as a fun craft toy for young kids when he saw how burs stuck to his socks while hiking with his daughter. Used to create animals and characters with a similar sticky effect, Bunchems come with a few warnings. “Caution: Keep away from hair. May become entangled,” is written on the box, with a similar warning listed in the Amazon description.
But take a quick second to scroll through the Amazon reviews or check out #bunchems on Facebook and Twitter, and you’ll see why parents are losing their minds. A fun toy that is advertised to squish, connect, and create, can quickly turn into a rat’s nest when one or more of the balls get stuck in long hair. Parents are reporting harrowing tales of “slumber parties gone wrong,” during which hours are spent at the end of the night trying to comb these colorful balls out of a group of little girls’ hair.
In an Amazon review titled “A Toy Spawned from the Darkest Depths of Hell,” one frustrated dad says:
“Horrible, horrible, horrible toy for kids. I just spent the last two-and-a-half hours (absolutely, 100 percent not an exaggeration) attempting to remove 14 of these balls out of my daughter’s hair. Buy this toy for someone if you hate them or their child.”
The Internet has spoken, and Bunchems has listened. In response to hundreds of parent complaints, Bunchems released an official help video to its YouTube channel:
The rundown is this: If you turn around to find your child with dozens of little balls stuck in their hair, don’t book a hair appointment just yet. Bunchems says the balls can be removed with a moisturizing substance, like hair conditioner or vegetable oil. Apply the conditioner to the hair stuck around the Bunchems ball and comb until all knots are removed. Once the hair has been un-snarled, pull the Bunchems until it slides off the end of the hair.
But even with the help of vegetable oil, combing tools, and a few sets of hands, some parents estimate that Bunchems removal (we’re talking 45 balls or more) could take up to four hours. Many times, at least a little cutting is needed to get hair freed from the balls completely. In another Amazon review, hairstylist Jessica Wade wrote that it took her nine hours to get the balls out of her niece’s waist-length hair that she eventually had to cut chin-length.
There’s nothing like a Christmas toy’s fall from grace to remind us just how unpredictable the latest viral toy can be. Way back in 2000, it was the Sky Dancer recall, once parents complained that the popular fairy-helicopter doll of the ’90s was giving concussions to their kids. In 2002, a pregnant and seemingly single Midge was pulled from Walmart shelves after parents said she promoted teen pregnancy. And earlier this year, Breaking Bad figurines were removed from Toys “R” Us when parents didn’t find “meth themes” totally appropriate for young children.
Bunchems may be shaping up to be every parent’s worst nightmare, but you can count on the fact that there will still be plenty of kids asking Santa for these squishy balls this year. If your child is one of the many begging for Bunchems, there is good news — the toy hasn’t been recalled, so it’s still safe for use. Save yourself a matted holiday mess and remind your kids that they can squish and create, as long as they keep the Bunchems out of their hair.