Author Lenore Skenazy says today’s holiday toys are so risk averse that there’s almost nothing left to warn about. But still, the warnings come every year from consumer groups.
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Are you sick of being warned about anything and everything when it comes to the holiday season?
Me too. That’s why I’m ready to throw an icicle at a group called World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH). Every year since 1973, they’ve published a paranoid list of the “10 Worst Toys” at Christmastime.
These warnings may have been necessary back in 1973 when companies were still selling toy ovens that could smelt ore and chemistry sets that could actually blow things up.
In fact, the toy world was littered with bad ideas—from the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls with mechanical jaws that chewed everything—including chunks of hair from kids’ heads—to lawn darts—sharp metal things you’d toss at your friends’ toes that caused over six thousand injuries.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission eventually banned those items—and it’s hard to disagree with them—but today’s toys are so risk averse, so super safe, that there’s almost nothing left to warn about. But still the warnings fall like cookie crumbs onto Santa’s beard.
It is this zero tolerance for “risk” that WATCH and other consumer groups exploit every Christmas. Among its top 10 dangers this year are the popular fidget spinners.
Also on this year’s list is the Wonder Woman Battle Action Sword, which, the WATCH team says, encourages young children “to bear arms”—as if you get a Wonder Woman toy and immediately deploy to Yemen. They also say that the “rigid plastic sword blade has the potential to cause facial or other impact injuries.” Yeah…and so does a fork. In fact, so does a candy cane, if you suck it to a sharp point.
Even an innocent looking Disney-themed plush toy did not escape WATCH’s nannying notice. The group warns that the toy could be dangerous due to “fabric hats and bows that can detach, posing a choking hazard.”
That’s a lot of coulds, especially considering the Consumer Product Safety Commission notes on its website that it has had ZERO reports of injuries.
The Toy Association, which is an industry trade group, says WATCH’s dangerous toys list is “full of false claims that needlessly frighten parents and caregivers.”
It’s obvious that toys that explode and toys that are just plain dumb—a boomerang made out of razor blades—are bad. But if they only worked a little harder, I’ll bet WATCH could stop kids from playing with toys. Any toys. Ever.
You want a really great gift for the kids? How about they wake up Christmas morning, unwrap the giant package under the tree to find their very own product liability lawyer? Wind him up and watch him sue all the other toys. Hours of fun!
And when the kids get bored, they lock him in the toy chest, and go play with a great toy. A stick.
Written by Lenore Skenazy. Produced by Alexis Garcia and Paul Detrick. Camera by Jim Epstein, Alex Manning, and Paul Detrick.