Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How much lead is safe in your toys?

Well, obviously, none would be nice but none is a tricky concept. 600 parts per million is the current US legal limit. That sure doesn't sound like much, does it? 600 out of a million?

According to an article in today's Baltimore Sun, Maryland is one of 25 states that is currently considering tainted toy measures in response to the 2007 recallpalooza of tainted toys. According to the article, the manufacturing, processing, packaging, storing or selling of such toys can result in a fine of no more $1,000 per day for each violation.

The bill lumps everyone who is involved in the production and sale of such products as potentially liable entities. While I'm as big a fan of making safer toys as anyone, this troubles me. With each of these states considering their own legislation to combat tainted toys, it would make it very difficult for toy manufacturers to meet the demands of each separate bill passed in the various states. Toys that are perfectly legal in states that have not adopted new legislation would be illegal across the border in the next state. As a toy buyer, I can certainly look at the histories of companies we deal with to determine how safe their toys have been in the past, but until companies catalogs or websites list the lead content of each toy, how am I supposed to know whether a toy is going to pass my state's laws?

Also interesting is how these laws will apply to the secondary market for toys. What about buying stuff off ebay? What about old antique toys?

What we really need are new federal laws that address the issue - make a standard law that manufacturers can deal with and retailers can depend upon when making buying decisions.

You can download the entire text of the bill on it's website here.

Is a green wave coming? AKA "What's all the hub bub, bub?"

I've written about green toys before here and here, and certainly with all the recalls last year and the awareness of lead paint, there's been a new crop of toys coming out that, at the least, stress their safety and, at most, have gone above and beyond by making their toys from recycled material and natural finishes. But, is it a trend? Is it backlash against the safety issues from last year. OR will people demand safer toys until they see the pricetag on something completely safe then sneak back to Walmart to buy their $6.72 Barbie and figure "eh, I ate toy paint when I was a kid and feel OK?"

Consider the lastest in all natural toys. The Swedish company Playsam has introduced their latest to their line of 'executive toys,' the 'miljöbil' (above) - a 'green' wooden toy car that will set you back $50. If you're not aware of Playsam's products, they are absolutely gorgeous wooden toys made in Sweden and aimed squarely at the adult market. I've always had a dilemma about this kind of stuff. It looks cool, but will people really part with $50 for a wooden toy car?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Green Toys

I have to say, these toys look pretty cool. They're from a company called Green Toys, Inc. The main ingredient in the production of these toys are recycled milk jugs. They're also made entirely in the United States.

According to their website, each pound of recycled milk jugs saves energy of the equivalent of 3000 AA batteries, saves enough electricity to power your TV set for three weeks or saves enough electricity to power your laptop for a month.

And they don't forget the packaging. The packaging is made of 100% recycled cardboard with no plastic and no annoying twist ties.

Are we ready for green toys? Members of ASTRA (The American Specialty Toy Retailer Association - we're a member!) voted the tea set (above) one of the top 20 toys at Toy Fair. My only hesitation is the price tag - the tea set will retail for about $35. Otherwise, I'm sold...

There Will Be (Lego) Blood

Were you ever using your Lego figures playing that scene in The Matrix where Neo and Trinity are going through the lobby of that building shooting, oh, about a billion rounds into the guards, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the light fixtures, the elevator and everything and anything around? Did you ever feel kinda empty cause your lego dudes had to make do with that little piece that kinda, sorta looks like a gun, but was actually designed to be a light fixture?

Well, my friends, your worries are over! Thanks to the folks over at BrickArms, your Lego dude will never go into a gun fight armed with a knife. You can choose from all sorts of mayhem inducing choices - pistols (with or without silencers), sawed off shotguns, sniper rifles, military weapons, hand grenades and even a rocket propelled grenade launcher for the little kid playing terrorist vs Humvee in your family.

They even have armed-to-the-teeth mini figures available for your search and destroy missions.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Four billion and counting...

Everyone had a pile of Hot Wheels when they were a kid. I know I did. I'd play with them on our oval shaped carpet in our family room. It was a braided rug, with different color 'lanes' on it, so it lent itself to car playing. A race would start out and would, inevitably, end up in a tragic 53 car pile-up with one car limping to the finish line. Ah....good times...

Anyhoo, Hot Wheels celebrated it's four billionth car at Toy Fair with the car seen on the left. What is it? Oh, just an 18-karat white gold car that's covered in blue, white and black diamonds. There are rubies for tail lights. The case for the car is covered with 40 diamonds!

The car is valued at around $140,000 and will be auctioned off for charity later this year.

"Since its introduction, Hot Wheels has revolutionized boys' toys and inspired automotive trends,” said Tim Kilpin, general manager and senior vice president, Boys and Entertainment, Mattel Brands.

"The historic activities we have planned are a fitting tribute to the brand's heritage and will allow us, and our fans, to celebrate this milestone year in true Hot Wheels style."

For a photo gallery of the making of a $140,000 Hot Wheel car, click here.

The First Game of the First State

If you're a Delawarean, you're quite familiar with the sense of how small we are. We're the only state in the US that does not have a major television network. We're the lowest state, with an average altitude of 60ft above sea level. We're the second smallest state (ha-ha Rhode Island) and we have the fewest counties of any state (3).

So, when something breaks out of Delaware, we're pretty darn proud of it. In the 15 or so prior years I've gone to Toy Fair, I remember exactly one company that was from Delaware exhibiting there. So, it was cool this year to see the second one this year.

You've Been Sentenced, from McNeil Designs here in Delaware, is a game that we've carried now for years. We were the first store ever to carry the game, and, for the past two years, it's been our best-selling game. Plus, it's educational! Plus, it's fun! It's local, educational and fun! What more can you ask for?

The general idea is that you get ten five-sided cards - each side features a word. Turn the cards to match the words to form a sentence. Generally, the sentences formed tend to go to the silly side, but as long as they're grammatically correct, they count. The fun, of course, comes from the wacky sentences that are formed by the players.

If you haven't played the game, you can check it out online here (it's in beta mode). You can also read a brand new article about the game at the Delaware Today website.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This toy was a real snoozer at Toy Fair...

Coming out from a company named Cloud b is the Twilight Turtle, an impossibly cute plus turtle that projects a starry night sky onto the ceiling through his plastic shell. It actually projects real constellations (like the Big Dipper) onto the ceiling. It has three different color light options and automatically shuts off after 45 minutes.

Worst. Toys. Ever. #1

The final day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. To reveal my source of shameless plagiarism, it's Radar Magazine - a funky magazine about "pop, politics, scandal and style." Check em out!

And the worst. Toy. Ever? Why, something we've already talked about. Ladies and gentlemen, for the bizzilionth time ever, it's Aqua Dots.


Beloved children's toys of old have oft allowed youngsters to ape questionable adult behavior. (See candy cigarettes and those lovably trampy Bratz dolls) but the most recent addition to pantheon of dangerous toys—Aqua Dots from the Spin Master corporation—took it to the next level. The beads were part of a craft kit that was intended to let children created "multidimensional designs." But when water was added to the plastic balls, the outside coating actually became toxic. The result: Curious tykes who licked the balls enjoyed the effects of date-rape drug GHB, long before their college years. Sure, it sounds cool. But victims of Aqua Dots could become "comatose, develop respiratory depression, or have seizures." The toxic dots, which were labeled as appropriate for kids ages 4 and up, were recalled earlier this month, halting many untoward games of "doctor," but robbing a generation of young artisans the chemical enhancement they so richly deserve.

Do the robot!

Robots were all over the place at Toy Fair this year, ranging from the Elmo robot-like doll, to Lego Mindstorms to Robotis (left) and more. Check out this article on ABC's news site about the robotization of toys.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Healthy Toys tests 17 new toys

Back in December, I told you about, a website that is going to test toys for unsafe toxins. They just released a list of 17 toys they've tested. You can see the entire list here. Of the 17, none came out as high levels - with seven showing up as medium risks. Interestingly, it has been rumored that the impossible to find Webkinz charms were impossible to find due to the lead paint scare - but both charms tested by Healthy Toys came out 'low.'

Best Toy at Toy Fair

I had to post about the worst toy at Toy Fair first, well, because it was so awful!
This leads me into the best toy I saw at Toy Fair. Sprig Toys is a new Colorado based company that showed it's line of toys at Toy Fair. Their toys are made out of 'Sprigwood™' - which, according to their website is "a durable, child-safe, bio-composite material made from recycled wood and reclaimed plastic. No decorative paint is used in the production process." They're also battery free, but feature lights, sounds and speech - they're kid powered! Kids power the vehicles. And, they're cute to boot! They're slated to ship in the fall of 2008, and they promise to be a popular item come this Holiday season.

Lego at Toy Fair

Our Lego experience at Toy Fair consisted of a breezy 20-minute tour through the booth. We asked to be brief, and our rep complied.
What was most impressive about our Lego experience at Toy Fair were all the life-sized Lego people that were in New York City. Sunday night we attended the ASTRA Party with the Stars event at FAO Schwartz. FAO had multiple life-sized Lego people - including four Harry Potter figures (see Ron to the left with Scabbers/Peter Pettigrew), Sponge-Bob and R2-D2. They also had a huge Lego city set up. The Lego booth at Toy Fair had Indiana Jones, C3PO and a Star Wars clone figure.
Lego's new offerings this year include new Star Wars sets from the Clone Wars television show coming later this year, new license Speed Racer, updated sets in the City Line. Click here for some pics of the sets from Gearlog.

Toy Of The Year Awards

The Toy Industry of America Association handed out their annual Toy Of The Year Awards on the Saturday night prior to the official start of the American International Toy Fair in New York. The winners:

Toy of the Year – Air Hogs Havoc Heli Laser Battle, Spin Master, Ltd

Most Innovative Toy of the Year – Smart Cycle™ Physical Learning, Fisher-Price

Infant/Preschool Toy of the Year – Moon Sand Adventure Island, Spin Master Ltd.

Electronic Entertainment Toy of the Year – Power Tour Electric Guitar, Tiger Electronics

Educational Toy of the Year – Smart Cycle™ Physical Learning, Fisher-Price

Activity Toy of the Year – LEGO City, LEGO Systems, Inc.

Game of the Year – Rubik’s Revolution, Techno Source

Specialty Toy of the Year – Snap Circuits, Elenco (pic above)

Outdoor Toy of the Year – RipStik® Caster Board, RipStik USA

Girl Toy of the Year – Littlest Pet Shop: Display & Play Round & Round Pet Town Playset, Hasbro, Inc. and Troop Groovy Girls, Manhattan Toy

Boy Toy of the Year – Transformers Movie Deluxe Figures, Hasbro, Inc.

Property of the Year – Hannah Montana, Disney Consumer Products

Bindi Irwin for Sale!

I write this post with conflicting feelings. On one hand, like millions of others, I was shocked and dismayed at the sudden death of Steve Irwin, the Croc Hunter. Sure, he was over the top, but he was fun and you could tell he was into what he did for a living. After his death last year, Wild Republic launched the Steve Irwin line of toys, which seemed a little hinky.
This year, Wild Republic launched, with tons of publicity (bags handed out at Toy Fair, buses painted with ads), the Bindi Irwin doll. The launch, which was not without controversy, ended up kinda split between Toy Fair and FAO Schwartz. The official launch was to take place at Toy Fair, with Bindi being billed as in attendance both Sunday and Monday. However, Toy Fair is a trade show, and is off-limits to children under 18. Since Bindi is nine, she was technically not allowed inside the Fair. (oh, by the way, I saw at least three people under 18 in the fair - including a baby in a booth that featured baby-dolls). The Toy Fair people offered them an exception to allow Bindi to go, but her mother said (according to the New York Post) "No, thank you. I don't want Bindi to grow up being the exception.", she hosts a show on TV, makes appearances all over the world (and sings?) and now you decide that making an exception to allow her to launch her own doll at Toy Fair is over the top?
Now, like I said, I'm conflicted about this, because the point of all seems to help the Australia Zoo and raise awareness of wildlife protection, but I'm worried about the affect all this will have on a nine year old girl who lost her father doing the same thing. Plus, her mom mentioned at the launch of her doll (mom filled in for Bindi) that Bindi's four year old brother, Robert, was recently bitten by a baby boa constrictor.

Worst Toy at Toy Fair

Last year, I decided that the over hyped Rubik's Revolution was the worst toy at Toy Fair. Keep in mind, it's impossible to see everything at this gargantuan event - so, undoubtedly there were worse toys hidden somewhere in The Javits Center.
This year, however, I have absolutely no doubt I saw the worst toy at Toy Fair. There was one booth, in the downstairs area that featured this goodie. The Carmen Electra Professional Pole kit. It's a pole dancing kit. At Toy Fair. Which isn't THAT kind of Toy Fair, it's a trade show intended for buyers of toys to sell to kids. SO, unless I'm sorely mistaken, someone was thinking this was a good choice of an item for toy stores to stock. As the immortal Chris Rock said about being the father of a girl, his job was simply to "keep his daughter 'off the pole.'" Yet, here is someone who is, apparently, marketing them specifically for kids. Yikes! Now, in fairness, I didn't stop at the booth, and I didn't talk to the people there, so I have no idea why this item was there, but it was there. So, it wins my prize this year for the "Worst Toy at Toy Fair."

Toy Fair wrap up

Three days, thousands of booths, countless numbers of toys, the shameless er, 'marketing' of a little girl, karaoke singing, a two-hour YoYoRadio show, humongous plates of pasta and more were some of the experiences we had at Toy Fair 2008. Sketchy internet access and time limitations ended up preventing me from updating while at Toy Fair, but now that I'm back, I'll start posting about what we saw at Toy Fair 2008.

Worst. Toys. Ever. #2

Another day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next couple days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism.

2. Lawn Darts

Removable parts? Suffocation risk? Lead paint? Wimpy hazards compared to the granddaddy of them all. Lawn Darts, or "Jarts," as they were marketed, would never fly in our current ultraparanoid, safety-helmeted, Dr. Phil toy culture. Lawn darts were massive weighted spears. You threw them. They stuck where they landed. If they happened to land in your skull, well, then you should have moved. During their brief (and generally awesome) reign in 1980s suburbia, Jarts racked up 6,700 injuries and four deaths.

The best part about Jarts was that they eliminated all speculation from true outdoor fun. (Is this dangerous? Hell yes, now chuck it!) And they were equal opportunity: All it took to play lawn darts was a sweaty grip. For good measure, it was also nice to have a small sibling around to stand on the other side of the house and tell you how your throw looked (and by how much you cleared the chimney). The actual rules of lawn darts, as laid out by the manufacturer, were never important. No one is known to have used Jarts for their intended purpose. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that an accident involving a wayward spear and the semipermeable head of a 7-year-old resulted in the toys being banned from the market in 1988. Sadly, today's underage boys will never know the primal excitement of a summer's evening spent impaling friends before suppertime.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Toy Fair 2008

Well, I head off to Toy Fair later today. I promise to take lots of pictures, and I will post updates each night if my not so trust iBook laptop behaves. As I mentioned back here, the talk at Toy Fair this year promises to be dominated by the devastating recalls of 2007 and what's being done to make sure our children's toys are safe for 2008.

Here's a couple articles that talk about safety in toys being the talk of Toy Fair:

CNN Money

Elmo just flew in from Sesame Street yesterday...

...and boy, are his arms tired. Bad da dump.

Fisher Price introduced the newest in the line of their Elmo dolls, and this one is the grandmonster of em all. Check out this YouTube video of Elmo.

Worst. Toys. Ever. #3

Another day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next couple days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism.


Easy-Bake Ovens have been around since the 1950s. But the "New Easy-Bake Oven," much like The New Leave It to Beaver and Saved by the Bell: The New Class, had horrible shortcomings. The oven's bright-pink front opening lured future homemakers in, promising them the joy and whimsy of consequence-free pastry making. But for 77 master bakers, the New Easy-Bake Oven actually become an incinerator of woe. According to the CSPC, the oven received 249 reports of children who thrust their eager hands into the toy's front-loading oven, only to find their mitts were stuck. Casualties include "77 reports of burns, 16 of which were reported as second- and third-degree burns," and "one report of a serious burn that required a partial finger amputation to a 5-year-old girl." For those easy-bakers who ended up in the burn unit, the secret ingredient was not love, but a skin graft.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Toy Fair-A-Palooza!

Toy Fair officially starts on Sunday. I'm headed up Sunday morning to check out the piles and piles of toys that someone will try to convince me are not chock full of lead or PVC or some other toxic cocktail of danger. Should be swell. I can see it now, "hey, this red looks awfully red, are you sure there's not lead in it?"

We're headed to the official ASTRA Party with the Stars event on Sunday night at FAO Schwartz, what used to be the greatest toy store in the world (until some ultra high brows took it over and made it the most expensive toy store in the world). Then, Monday night is our annual attempt to broadcast live at Toy Fair from the YoYoNation reception at PS450. We've attempted to broadcast live via each of the last two years and have been foiled each time. Things don't look too promising this year as my official YoYoRadio laptop was at the shop and only got back today in worse shape than it went in. Nevertheless, we'll tape the show and broadcast it when we get back if we can't do it live.

Worst. Toys. Ever. #4

Another day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next 3 days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism.

4. Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab

Honey, why is your face glowing? In 1951, A.C. Gilbert introduced his U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, a radioactive learning set we can only assume was fun for the whole math club. Gilbert, who American Memorabilia claims was "often compared to Walt Disney for his creative genius," had a dream that nuclear power could capture the imaginations of children everywhere. For a mere $49.50, the kit came complete with three "very low-level" radioactive sources, a Geiger-Mueller radiation counter, a Wilson cloud chamber (to see paths of alpha particles), a spinthariscope (to see "live" radioactive disintegration), four samples of uranium-bearing ores, and an electroscope to measure radioactivity.

And what nuclear lab for kids would be complete without an Atomic Energy Manual and Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom comic book? (The latter was written with the help of General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project.) Kids do the darndest things, but not, apparently, nuclear physics. The toy was only sold for one year. It's unclear what effects the uranium-bearing ores might have had on those few lucky children who received the set, but exposure to the same isotope—U-238—has been linked to Gulf War syndrome, cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma, among other serious ailments. Even more uncertain is the long-term impact of being raised by the kind of nerds who would give their kid an Atomic Energy Lab.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Nothing says Happy Valentine's Day better than an Ugly Doll.

Well, actually, there's probably a lot of things that say Happy Valentine's Day better than an Ugly Doll. A trip around the world, for starters, would probably be a better gift. That said, a soft, cushy, plushy, smushy Ugly Doll can fill in for a trip around the world, for those of us who cannot yet afford such an extravagance. Plus, the Ugly Doll will only set you back about $20.

You say you don't have a Valentine? Well, according to a survey, eight million American's admit to getting themselves a Valentine's Day gift - so why shouldn't it be an Ugly Doll?

In other Ugly News, Ugly Dolls new website went live today. It's Flashtastic. Check it out here.

Pinewood Derby Project - Final Update

Pinewood Derby is one of the highlights of each Cub Scout's year. Each Scout starts from a block of pine and is to create a car (within specifications) that will compete against all the other Scouts in his Pack. The three top finishing cars in my son's pack move on to the next level of competition.

The idea behind the Pinewood Derby is that the Scout and his parent (typically his father) will work together to create their design. It involves planning their car, working with tools, working with paint and glues - you know, guy stuff.

Now, Pinewood Derby is famous for the amount of work some kids (or more correctly, some kids fathers) put in on their cars. It can be very competitive and there is an entire industry that has sprung up - offering speed upgrades, books on how to make your car faster, and more. You can even find on ebay people who are selling cars they have designed that have clocked extremely fast times for upwards of $100! There is even a movie based on Pinewood Derby experiences available ("Down and Derby")

My son, always with an alternative view of the competition, had become famous for both his original designs and his ability to finish behind all other competitors. Last year he boldly announced at the start of the race that he intended to finish last, and, by gum, he did. As such, he was given an impromptu award. This year, they formalized the award (which should be named after my son) and had a trophy for the last place finisher. Despite our talking about flattening one tire or 'accidently' using super-glue as a lubricant, we have never done anything to intentionally slow his car down (we also didn't do anything to speed the car up). Design has always taken precedence over speed and a by-product of that is that his cars were slow.

Now might be a good time to run down his past projects. His first year in Cub Scouts, he went with the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile design. It looked great, but rolled slow. His second year, it was his school bus, the third year he went with a 'Lego car' (easiest by far, btw, just cut the block and glued a Lego base on it and he built it up from there), and last year he went with an ice cream truck. The Weinermobile, school bus and ice cream truck all needed two blocks to make the design and all needed extensive excavation of the blocks to get under the 5 ounce limit. The two block design also was a great way to increase the resistance on the air flow - adding precious seconds to his time down the track.

This year, it was an easier (one block) design - but, for the first time - he included lights and sound on his car. It was a 'Disco car' - featuring working disco lights on the dance floor (thanks to a couple contributing donations from Schylling's Disco Ducks), sound from a Hallmark card with Earth, Wind & Fire's 'Boogie Wonderland' on it's sound chip, and a little disco ball hanging from a wire. Glue a couple Lego people on there in full disco mode and you have a party on a pine block. We never bothered weighing the car, and it weighed in at barely above 3.8 ounces.

His heat came, and our pack allows four runs for each heat - letting each car run down each lane once to allow for lane issues. My son's car came in third on the first heat, and it wasn't even close. He clocked just above 3 seconds and the last place car limped to a 3.2 second finish. The second heat was similar. If my son's car can't even lose his heat, how could he possibly finish last? We crossed our fingers and hoped for a wheel to bust off. The third heat again found my son's car crossing the line in third place. All our hopes rested upon a disastrous finish - perhaps the electronics soldering could spontaneously combust and our little pine car could burst into flames. We watched, hoping, praying, but our fears were confirmed. His car again cruised into third place in the final run. All hope was lost. His mantle as 'Pack's biggest loser' was usurped.

The awards were handed out and the trophy for last place was given to someone else. A trophy to some kid who actually wanted his car to go fast. The kid lofted the award above his head halfheartedly and seemed a bit confused about why he got a trophy. My son was disappointed that his car did not come in last (much in the same way as the other kids were disappointed that their cars did not do better). It felt odd to console a kid for his car not doing worse, but we reminded him that the award given for the last place finish would undoubtedly not exist were it not for his casual attitude towards winning and losing.

If you had told me before my son was born that our Pinewood Derby experiences would end up bringing home a dejected son after a disappointing finish - that I would have believed. But, if you had told me his disappointment would be due to a finish HIGHER than expected...well, I doubt you could have persuaded me that this would be the case. I am very proud of my son's attitude towards his Pinewood Derby cars - it's not every kid who can take losing as a badge of honor. I can't help but feel sorry for the poor kids who have to go on and compete at the next level.

Worst. Toys. Ever. #5

Another day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next 4 days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism.

5. Mini-Hammocks from EZ Sales

Mini-hammocks seemed innocuous enough. No projectiles, no lead paint, no sharp edges, and no explicit danger (except sloth). But between the years of 1984 and 1995, the EZ Sales Mini-Hammock, oft marketed under the name Hang Ten, managed to hang 12.

CPSC reported in August 1996 that the product had resulted in the fatal and near-fatal asphyxiation of dozens of kids ages 5 to 17 and recalled three million of them. Among the banned EZ products were Hangouts Baby Hammocks, or "Baby's First Death Cocoon," woven from thin cotton and nylon strings. The culprit was a missing set of "spreader bars," supports meant to keep the hammock open when it was "at ease." Unfortunately, children seeking to spend an afternoon like Gilligan became entangled in the net and strangled to death. That's what happens when you spend $4 on a hammock.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Worst. Toys. Ever. #6

Another day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next 5 days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism.

6. Snacktime Cabbage Patch Dolls

"Feed Me!" begged the packaging for 1996's Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kid. And much like the carnivorous Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, the adorable lineup of Cabbage Patch snack-dolls appeared at first to be harmless. They merely wanted a nibble—a carrot perhaps, or maybe some yummy pudding. They would stop chewing when snack time was done—they promised. Then they chomped your child's finger off.

In creating this innovative new toy, the great minds at Mattel devised a motorized mouth that sensed neither pleasure nor pain. It chewed for chewing's sake. With no mechanism to turn off the munching should trouble arise, it was only a matter of time before some cherub's long blond hair got caught in the doll's rabid jaws. After 35 fingers and ponytails fell victim, the Snacktime Kids were removed from retail shelves forever, and 500,000 customers were offered a full $40 refund.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Worst. Toys. Ever. #7

Another day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next 6 days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism.

7. Sky Dancers

Executives at Galoob Toys predicted big sales for Christmas 1994. With their new Sky Dancer, they would be the first toy company to combine the sparkly femininity of Barbie with the firepower of a bottle rocket
In December of that same year, a New York Times article predicted that if Galoob met its goals, Sky Dancer would "be all the rage, the sort of product that engenders black markets, toy-related bribes, and giddy newspaper stories invoking the word 'phenomenon.'" The writer, giddy himself over the "sprite's powerful launch," added, "For every parent who doubts Sky Dancer's safety ... there are 10 who feel the foam wings and take their softness as an assurance of safety." But six years later, the Sky Dancer was grounded. When spun aloft, the wings—which felt so soft and cushy in the aisles of Toys "R" Us—turned into steely-hard child manglers. In 2000, the CPSC announced that more than 150 children fell prey to Sky Dancer's helicopter-blade arms and erratic "Oh-crap-it's-chasing-me!" flying patterns. Injuries included scratched corneas and temporary blindness, mild concussions, broken ribs and teeth, and facial lacerations that required stitches. Nearly nine million Sky Dancers were eventually recalled, leaving aspiring ballerinas to earn their battle scars the old fashioned way—with an eating disorder.

Extreme Home Makeover Madness!

If you live in or around Wilmington, Delaware, you're probably aware of the houses that are being built by the Extreme Makeover crew in Wilmington, Delaware. They started the project last Tuesday and the day of completion is listed as tomorrow.

We got a call from someone from the show last week looking for some toy donations to help fill out the rooms for the kids involved. So, we are donating some games and toys to the kids. It was certainly hard to pick out stuff for kids who I've never met, but the guy who called mentioned that one room was a 'shark room,' and that one of the boys liked sharks. So, we are donating one of the Melissa & Doug Sharks to the room.

Also of interest (at least to me) is that I volunteered at the site this morning. And, by morning I mean 2 am - 9 am. And it was friggin cold. As in around 10 degrees. And it was windy. So, I got a chance to go into the shark room and sneak a quick picture. I didn't see any stars. I wasn't filmed. I cut my finger while moving closet cabinets. (BTW, apparently no one has band-aids at these things - I shoved my bloody hand into my work gloves so the blood didn't get on the cabinets) Did I mention it was friggin cold?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Worst. Toys. Ever. #8

8. Bat Masterson Derringer Belt Gun

Some kids had belt buckles. Others had cap guns. Only the lucky ones had the Bat Masterson Derringer Belt Gun, a two-in-one combo that took care of all your pants-securing needs with the option every 10-year-old dreams of: the ability to shoot caps at groin level.

One Bat Masterson enthusiast, identified as "Tim from Shoreview, Maine" on nostalgia website, remembers, "When you stuck out your stomach, putting pressure on the buckle, a small gun would pop out and fire a cap." A gut-busting meal, in that case, could lead to a serious friendly-fire mishap.

According to SafeKids USA, "Caps can be ignited by friction and cause serious burns." Every young boy needs to learn the valuable lesson of always protecting his nether regions, with force if necessary, but given the positioning of the Derringer, the owner's greatest enemy might have actually been puberty.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Say it ain't so. German toy maker Simba has debuted their new line of Paris Hilton dolls at the 2008 Nuremberg Toy Fair. The dolls, which apparently are not modeled to look like Paris, have outfits and accessories picked by the ultra rich socialite.

The dolls, which apparently will be available only in Europe, will sell for the equivalent of $13. They come out later this year.

Just what we need, a doll modeled after someone that girls around the world can really look up to. Someone who's made their way in this world. Who's sacrificed to get ahead....ugh...

Zero emission toys...

OK, if you recall my earlier post about how my guess as to what's gonna be the big thing at Toy Fair would be safe toys and organic about a zero emission radio controlled car? Well, Corgi is debuting one this week at the German Toy Fair in Nuremberg where it won the 2008 ToyAward in the Electronics & Technology category, according to a Corgi press release.

The H2Go is a hydrogen powered vehicle. It has no batteries, it is made of wheat-based plastics. It's solar panels both power the vehicle and help create electricity.

"We are delighted about the great trust placed in our H2Go. The H2Go is not just a radio-controlled car featuring new technology but also a symbol of the toy industry's impending adjustment to a future powered by clean energy," said Michael Cookson, CEO of Corgi International.

Hopefully, this will be available to check out at the New York Toy Fair, cause it sounds realy cool!

Check out this video from YouTube:

Pinewood Derby Project - Update 2

T-minus tomorrow! The 'car' is nearly there. It's certainly coming into form. All it needs are wheels and dancers!

Worst. Toys. Ever. #9

Fourth day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next 8 days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism.

THE FRYING GAME Horse around with the Thingmaker and you'll get the third degree

9. Creepy Crawlers

Nothing says safety like an open hot plate. And nothing says fun like using that open hot plate to create molten, rubbery insects you can throw at your sister while narrowly avoiding setting the house ablaze. The 1964 Creepy Crawler Thingmaker from Mattel, a distant cousin of today's Creepy Crawler toys, came with a series of molds, tubes of "plastigoop," and an open-faced fryer, which could heat up to a nerve-searing 310 degrees.

The molds came in many different varieties, but rarely in the shape of your little brother's hand

The plastigoop was poured over an extremely hot surface and then cast into the molds of various multicolored critters. The results? Fingerprint removal. At least those who dodged serious injury or disfigurement could safely eat their creation. Oh wait, the critters were toxic, too. But this was the '60s, and though there was an outcry from the singed and sickened masses, Mattel went right on marketing their electric ovens to children.

Wanna buy one?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Worst. Toys. Ever. #10

10. Johnny Reb Cannon

WHISTLING DIXIE Through the new hole in your head

The South did rise again, at least during playtime for the owners of the Johnny Reb, a 30-inch "authentic Civil War" cannon draped in the Confederate flag. The Reb fired hard plastic cannonballs with a spring mechanism—the aspiring secessionist need only pull a lanyard. No word on exactly how fast the cannonballs flew, but they traveled up to 35 feet and seemed perfectly sized to lodge into an eye socket, down an open mouth, or through a slave's window.

For only $11.98, young rebels got a cannon, six cannonballs, a ramrod, and a rebel flag. What better way to permanently maim your little brother while spreading valuable lessons about states' rights? Check out the ultra dated commercial for it below.

Pinewood Derby Project - Update 1

So, it's t-minus two days and we've made a bit of progress on our Pinewood Derby project. We cut the block, drilled a couple big holes, carved out two cavities, did some soldering and painted it. Check out the current status picture and see if you can venture a guess as to what my son, Ethan, has planned for his car.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Worst. Toys. Ever. #11

Second day of me shamelessly stealing from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next 11 days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism. Without further ado, here is #11:

11. Battlestar Galactica Missile Launche

Battlestar Galactica was everyone's favorite television Star Wars rip-off in 1978. Especially cool among the Battlestar offerings was a series of missile launchers known individually as the Viper, the Cylon Raider, the Scarab, and the Stellar Probe. Young boys routinely forgot they actually asked for the Millennium Falcon for Christmas once they saw the sweet, sweet projectile action.

It takes just a few jabbed eyes, some torn intestines, and the death of a child to bring down a party, and that's just what happened in January 1979, when the battle cruiser missiles were finally recalled. Most of the accidents were caused by salvos that went tragically off target. Mattel, working with the CPSC, announced that the fatality occurred when a young boy in Atlanta fired one of the missiles into his mouth. The missiles, at one-and-a-quarter inches, were just about the ideal size to land in one's esophagus and stay there. The boy's parents thought so, too. They sued Mattel for $14 million.

A spokesperson from the CPSC explained that "the barrel shape of the toy seemed to invite children to put it in their mouths." Something you could apparently say in 1979 without too much snickering. After the injuries, Mattel called for consumers to participate in a "Missile Mail-In," which promised a free Hot Wheels car—a fair trade to anyone who disarmed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pinewood Derby Project

So, my son's Pinewood Derby race is on Saturday. It's now Tuesday. We're far from completing the project, which is a secret to the kids in his Pack. (I'm gonna go out on a limb to say that none of the kids from my son's Pack are going to log onto my blog in the next 4 days). See if you can guess what his car will end up being based on the raw materials shown here.

Worst. Toys. Ever. #12

I'm gonna shamelessly steal from another website for a list of the 12 worst toys ever. I'll post them over the next 12 days (or when I get around to it). Some of them are pretty darn funny, all of them have major flaws (some fatal flaws). At the end of the list, I will attribute the source of my plagiarism. Without further ado, here is #12:

12. Fisher-Price Power Wheels Motorcycle

QUEASY RIDER From zero to broken arm in 39 seconds
The Fisher-Price Power Wheels Motorcycle is one of those toys kids salivate over for years. Even adults can barely contain their jealousy when the little brat from down the block whizzes by on that shiny plastic hog. But the ride wasn't always so smooth. In fact, on some models, there was a rather serious glitch.

Eager youngsters who gunned the throttle found that it often stayed gunned, stuck in a petrifying state of perma-acceleration. Presumably, the child on the motorcycle was then taken on a hellish, intestine-twisting scream ride. At one point, he or she would face choices unthinkable except in an Evel Knievel-meets-Knight Rider crossover episode: Do I jump? Or do I ride it out and see if I can clear the gully? Is it sentient? Can it be reasoned with?

In August 2000, Fisher-Price recalled 218,000 of the Power Wheels motorcycles, warning: "Children can be injured when the motorcycle ride-ons fail to stop and strike other objects." Stunt children everywhere observed a moment of silence.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What's the big deal with lead, anyway?

I mean, come on, when I was a kid, lead was in everything! What's the big deal?

Er....well, OK, maybe there is more to this.

According the WebMD site, lead "preferentially enters the growing bones and brain and other organs, where it can cause significant disruptions and damage, such as learning problems and ADHD at relatively low levels; seizures, brain damage and even death at high levels."

Oh...that sounds bad, right?

Check out the full article here, it also has an interesting history of evolution of thinking on lead

Toy Recalls - What Do Kids Think?

With all the media coverage of the toy recalls, no one has taken the time to find out what the kids think of all this. I mean, they are THEIR toys, right? Shouldn't we be curious to find out what the end user thinks about this?

Well, Funosophy, a company that helps design and markets toys, did a survey of 300 kids boys and girls aged 9-11 to find out.

Turns out, 70% knew something about the recalls, of those, 40% of the kids surveyed knew that the issue was with "lead paint, toxins, poisons or magnets.

What do they think about it?

Here's a quote from an eleven year old girl "“I think that it is good for them to ask for the toys
to come back because it isn't safe to play with. I wouldn’t want to play with something that could make me sick. Hopefully they will fix the problem and then kids won’t have to send their toys back. It is kind of scary that you could have been playing with something that isn’t safe.”
—Girl, 11"

Check out the report here at Funosophy website.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A New Record!

So, we send out mailings from time to time - you know, direct mail. And we always get a bunch of them returned to us - people move, we enter a typo on the mailing list, whatever. Most come within several days of the mailing. The vast majority of them get where they're going on time. But, we always get some back later than that. Sometimes weeks, even several months go by. Today, we got one in from a mailing we did last March. Yup, check the postmark - March 20th, 2007. We got it back today, February 1st, 2008 - over 10 months later! (don't believe me, check the yellow label the post office popped on the postcard - dated 1/30/08!)
I really don't like to be a Postal Service basher, and 99.9% of our mail gets where it's supposed to go, but, 10 months?


I just got the new Insect Lore catalog yesterday, and one of their new items for this year is the "Earthworm Nursery." Insect Lore makes the really cool Butterfly Garden we sell each year, so I'm sure it's a good quality item. You raise the earthworms from Earthworm cocoons (who knew?) and once they grow up, you can release them into your yard! You get certificate good for 15-20 Earthworm cocoons and the growth soil. It should retail for around $25.
Check out this really cool webpage, which is for Advanced Prarie - the company that provides the cocoons for Insect Lore. It has everything you ever wanted to know (even if you didn't know you did) about their patented technique to reintroduce earthworms into farm fields during the planting process.