Monday, April 30, 2012

The Top 5 Most Annoying Toys

I discovered early on in my career as a mother that the word "learning," as used in "learning toys," is a synonym for "battery" or "unnecessarily loud." I also discovered quickly that learning toys tended to cause unwanted stress for little Bug and me (we're unusually sensitive to excessive noise).

One of my early mistakes as a mom was to try to gently steer (i.e. control) the types of toys family members bought for my kids. The month leading up to Bug's first Christmas, I sent a carefully and tactfully composed email to all the relatives with an outline of my philosophy on toys and play (toys that "do" things squelch the imagination)--with a list of suggested items, gently trying to deter everyone from purchasing "learning" toys. And you know what happened? That Christmas, and every gift-giving occasion since, bigger and louder battery toys made their way into our home (I think some family members are probably doing it on purpose, but we'll talk about that another day).

Don't get me wrong: I have discovered a few battery toys in the past five years that I actually do consider educational and even cool for the boys. I like their handheld games and Fridge Phonics.

But...some of the toys brought into my house over the past four-and-a-half years have caused some migraines, blood-pressure spikes, and screaming fits (by me, that is). And so I give you...

The Top 5 Most Annoying Toys in Recent Memory

5. I thought my head was going to explode when Bug got the two-foot-tall, creepy mechanical Elmo Live for his birthday a couple years ago. It was loud, and Elmo's classic grating voice and tendency to refer to himself in the third person didn't help matters. At the time, this toy cost about $60 new, which also made me mad (I suppose because I knew it was going to get "lost" pretty quickly). I remember thinking, it was totally unnecessary to make this toy! It has no long-term play value! (Added bonus: the kids were scared of it. Mommy scores!)

4. In addition to loud battery toys, I don't particularly like product tie-ins (I know, I'm living in the wrong era. I want to go back to the time when you could buy your kid a beige toy and a plain white pair of underpants). Enter the Vtech Lightning McQueen Learn and Go, which purportedly teachers letters, numbers, and typing skills, and is "perfect for on-the-go toddlers" (except mine, apparently). Our experience: it had two volume settings ("loud" and "louder"), a tiny, low-quality black-and-gray LCD screen, and such small buttons even I had a hard time using it. A few days in, after many screaming fits (by the boys this time) trying to figure out how to play the games, I yanked it out of Pie's hands and hurled it down the basement steps onto the concrete floor, hoping to see it smashed to bits. (To Vtech's credit, it survived. Impressive.)

3. Pie actually still plays with Chompin' [Freakin'] Mike the Mower--but it's much more tolerable since it's moved outside and the batteries have died. When it was brand new the boys wanted to play with it inside (preferably as close to me as possible) as it made both ear-splitting mechanical sounds and spewed phrases like "KA-CHUGA" in an annoying Larry the Cable Guy voice. The stupid lawn mower didn't even make bubbles. I literally had fantasies of taking it out on the patio, setting up the camcorder, busting it to pieces with a sledgehammer and posting the whole thing on YouTube.

2. Why, why, why do toy companies have to put batteries in everything? Okay, I get the concept of Crayola's Color Me a Song drawing board: the faster you scribble, the faster the frenetic beat of the music. But does it really need four different tunes to stack upon one another to create more, more, and more noise? Wouldn't one button with one tune make the point? And again, why don't any of these toys have a "low" volume setting? I did like the design of the had a handy built-in drawer to store crayons, but any positives were automatically canceled out by the excessive noise.

1.And now for the number one most annoying toy in recent memory: the Sesame Street Giggle Camera! Now, let's just assume it's a given that it has the "loud" and "louder" volume settings (it does). Let's examine some other unique minuses: first, in this day and age, kids as young as two are using Mommy and Daddy's real digital camera, so why in the world would they need a pretend one? Second, it talks. It barks at you in Elmo's shrill, irksome voice. But that's not the best part: Elmo spews highly inappropriate phrases at your kids like "ooh, c'mon, work it, baby!" What?!? I had no idea Elmo was such a little red pervert. As you can imagine, this gem found the top shelf of the cabinet pretty quick.

What are some of your kids' most annoying toys? Please share!

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