by Sean Chercover
When I was a sprout, we had many dangerous toys. Some of which (slingshots, BB guns, pogo sticks, skateboards) are still around today. Others are not. One of my favorites was the (ubiquitous in the 1970s) Lawn Darts.
Man, those were fun.
Lawn Darts were big, heavy, sharp ... well, darts. They came in a set, with plastic rings that you put on the lawn as targets, and you tossed the darts from a distance at the rings.
Simple enough, and fun ... until someone loses an eye.
And sadly, more than a few children did just that. In the late '80s, Lawn Darts were banned, after racking up three kills and almost 7,000 serious injuries.
The packaging clearly stated that the toy was "a skillful sport for adults" and I'm a big fan of personal responsibility, but I can't really get too worked up about Lawn Darts being removed from the market, much as I miss them.
Folks a couple decades older may remember a toy called the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab. This was one hell of a science kit. It included actual radioactive uranium samples, along with various instruments for measuring radioactivity and particle disintegration.
The toy was developed at M.I.T., with the blessing of the federal government, who thought it would help promote nuclear energy.
The kids just glowed with excitement on Christmas morning...
Today, we are somewhat more careful about the toys we give our kids (as long as you don't mind poisoning from the lead paint that China still insists on using for toys...) But a friend recently sent me a link to a toy that is, perhaps, even more dangerous than Lawn Darts.
Not physically dangerous, but dangerous in a more insidious way. The good people at Gizmodo.com wrote an amusing piece on it, called: Baby's First Cubicle: The Most Depressing Toy Ever?
The piece begins, "It's all about expectation management, you see. If you make your kid think he can be president, he will grow up disappointed. Tell him he's headed for a life as an office drone and at least he'll be mentally prepared."
It got me thinking, and searching for other toys in a similar vein. Here are just a few...
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing dishonorable about flipping burgers for a living, but is this the job you really want your child to fantasize about during play time?
The McDonald's Drive Thru Play Set boasts, "realistic looking and sounding play kitchen and restaurant toy cookware sets that have the look and feel of what the pros use..."
"What the pros use"? Really? The McDonald's pros??
At least it comes with a nifty visor.
It's depressing, if not surprising, that the majority of these set-the-bar-low career indoctrinating toys are aimed at girls.
My Cleaning Trolley is just such an example. With this gem, you can prepare your daughter for an exciting career as a maid at Super 8.
Not only is it pink, but the box clearly says "Girls Only".
I'll spare you the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Barbie, which won the Worst Toy of 2009 Toady Award, because I found something even worse...
Yup. It is a pole dancing doll. I kid you not.
Apparently, this is a popular toy for young girls. So popular, that there are at least three companies making competing models of the toy.
Of course, I use the word models reluctantly; if they could be models, they wouldn't be working in a strip club.
Am I nuts, or are these toys more dangerous than Lawn Darts?