Category Archives: Scary Kids’ Toys

Oh my, these toys.

Playmobil Gets In on the Security Action

What the hell, people? Who went and told all of the toy companies that the nation’s kids were clamoring for security-themed toys? Misty just showed me the Playmobil Security Check Point.

Playmobil Security Check Point

I think this is even creepier than Scan-It because it’s Playmobil. Look at everyone’s blankly happy faces. I guess to make this more realistic you’ll also need to buy the 100-pack of Playmobil people to form a line. I wonder if they will all be dressed like mimes who are trying to disguise themselves via sky-blue sweaters tied around their necks.

The best part — assuming there is only one best part and not a continuing buffet of bestest parts — is that, as of right now, Amazon’s list of “Customers Who Bought Items Like This Also Bought” are, in order, Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought, Self Analysis, and Clear Body, Clear Mind, all by L. Ron Hubbard. Does the Church of Scientology have a controlling interest in Playmobil?

(Hat tip to Shiny Shiny, who got it from CrunchGear)

Next Up: Toy Cavity Searches

Here at the Granade household, we’re down with the educational toys. If our kids happen to learn things while playing, that’s all fine and dandy. Still, I’m not sure I want them playing with a Scan-It, from OPERATION CHECKPOINT: Jr. Airport Security Education Center.

It’s a toy airport x-ray machine! As the ad copy tells us, “This unique toy/teaching aid provides ample amounts of healthy fun along with education and awareness of the security measures that people face in real life.” And just look at the box cover!

Scan-It Box Cover

Two kids play happily while, in the background, a line of people badly rendered using Poser wander through the airport of the future as envisioned in 1977. I guess some kids are willing to play “Airport and Public Security”, though that ranks right up there with playing “Accountant” in my mind. But having seen this, think of the other TSA-themed toys we could come up with. We’ll be rich!

Thanks, if that’s the proper word to use, to Aaron for the pointer.

So It Should Take Eli and Me 31 Turns to Play Candy Land

Yesterday, in one of my brief respites from feeling terrible, I came across a mathematical analysis of Candy Land. He does an analytic analysis which assumes independent draws (i.e. you draw a card and then put it back in and reshuffle the deck) and a Monte Carlo analysis that’s much more realistic. According to Lou Scheffer, a two-person game has a mode of 31 turns.

But wait! There are other analyses! This one is an analytical solution using Maple, while this one uses MATLAB to compare Cootie, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders to decide which is the least painful to play. I’ve said that Candy Land is a deeply stupid and annoying game, and the last link backs me up on that — according to his analysis, of the three games, Candy Land is likely to take the longest time to play.

As Barry Wise, author of the final article, says, “This article demonstrates how Monte Carlo simulation can be used to solve a real-world, every day problem: Of these three games, which one will provide entertainment for my four-year-old yet let me retain my sanity?” And people say you can’t do anything useful with math!

Review: Hyper Dash

Way back in October, I posted about Eli playing with Legos in his room. Then a nice man named Devin Kingdon offered to send Eli a game called Hyper Dash to play with. I said yes and that we’d review it here.

Bad Misty.

It’s nearly February and still no review.

So here it is! And it’s in no way more positive than it should be because of the delay!

hyper_dash_product_lo.jpg

I’ve had a lot of fun with Hyper Dash. One game included is called Micro Dash and puts me in mind of a modern day Simon, which I had and loved as a child. (Side note: How sad is it that when I went to search for Simon, Google sent me to www.handheldmuseum.com?) In Hyper Dash there are multiple levels of difficulty, so it scales great for different age groups and level of ability, and at the highest level of difficulty even calls for simple computational ability. Also, I need the math practice.

We played with it with Eli some; however, he is a bit on the young side for it still. It’s rated ages 6-12 and I’d say that’s about right. He wants to play with it but at 3 1/2 – 4, he just doesn’t have the coordination to do it easily, so he gets frustrated.

I do like the dash part of the game. Eli needs more activities that call for movement and this game provides that. The further you spread the targets the more exercise the kids can get. I’m envisioning spreading them to the four corners of our 1/2 acre lot and the extra sleeping that will ensue from the exercise!

So we’ll definitely be hanging on to it until Eli is old enough to use it properly. Until then, don’t mind me, I’m off for another round of Micro Dash!

Thanks to Devin at Wild Planet for sending out Hyper Dash for us to play with. Also, check out the company’s senior management team. Those folks look they are having a blast at Wild Planet.

Rule of Toys

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but with two kids comes about 12 times the number of toys. When Eli was Liza’s age, all his toys would fit into this nice little wicker basket. I bought the basket because I thought it would be handy to carry his toys from room to room in it. That basket sits in Liza’s room now and it holds about four smallish toys and those ring hooks (used to attach toys to the stroller) and a couple of baby spoons she chews on. There are toys in the kitchen again. Toys in the master bathroom again. Toys in my bedroom again. Toys in the living room again. There’s enough toys here for nine kids–and no, that’s not a personal goal.

Believe it or not I have sort of a hard line about the kid’s toys. Here are my guidelines:

1.) The bulk of the toy population must fit in their rooms. I relax this slightly when they are babies just because it’s easy to have them spread out around the house for when you move from room to room. And also, Liza can’t really carry her toys back to her room. We do have a chest in the living room that holds toys. I do this because there are a few big things Eli plays with that are easier to spread out in the living room. To accomplish rule 1 I have rule 2…

2.) Toys must be regularly purged. This usually happens after Christmas and birthdays, and I am ruthless. I purge at other times too. Like, if we can’t reach Eli’s bed for bedtime, then I’ll see if I can clean out the cruft. If the toy is now too young for Eli, I put it away for Liza. If it’s still good and we aren’t saving it for Liza, the Eli’s preschool gets first crack at it. If they don’t want it, it goes off to a thrift store. If it’s broken, it goes in the trash. These first two rules used in combination allow rule 3…

3.) There will be no toy/play room in my house. I understand that some people feel it’s a must. If that works for them, great. If I’m going to have another room in my house, please let it be a guest room so my friends and family can close the door when they sleep, not a room for sad, old toys to accumulate. Now you might say, “Misty, why do you get a toy room (office) and the kids don’t?” My answer might sound a bit juvenile, but here it is anyway. It’s mine and Stephen’s house and we get to say what the rooms are used for.

4.) All toys must be put away at bedtime. This rule, I’ll admit, can be exhausting. At the end of the day, trying to pick up, get Eli to do his part, and get the kids to bed taxes me to the limit. However, in my mind, it’s a short slide from leaving toys out to anarchy. So no matter how tired I feel, the toys go away. This actually serves a couple of good purposes. After the kids are in bed, it’s adult living space again and I can relax for 15 minutes before I fall asleep myself. When I get up in the morning I don’t have to face a disaster. Mornings are hard enough for me. Having to get going while battling toys everywhere would probably cause me to have to be medicated. This is also why I never leave dinner dishes in the sink.

5.) I prefer toys to be battery free. With 3 sets of grandparents this is impossible and I know it. When my sister-in-law made this rule for her son I thought it was a bit silly. There are such fun things out there with lights! and bells! and talking cows! But it turns out, most of those toys are passing fancies for my kids. They use a lot of batteries and are freaking loud.

Side note: Why do toy manufacturers make toys so loud? Do they think children are deaf and if they only make the toy loud enough they might break through the deafness? Some toys are now, finally!, coming with volume control. If it doesn’t have a switch, I tape over the speaker so that it’s not so noisy.

Eli got tinker toys and Lincoln Logs for Christmas and he’d sleep with the tinker toys if I’d let him. Those are the first toys out in the morning and the last toys put away. They are better for him creatively and they take up less space than a lot of mechanical/battery-powered toys. Also, I don’t ever have to purchase a battery for Lincoln Logs.

I have one exception to this rule and that’s activity tables for when kids are learning to pull themselves to standing. We had three when Eli was little. I know, I know that’s more than some daycare centers, so sue me. For Liza we have two. They are very useful to have in different rooms so she can pull up and not be pulling books off shelves and onto her head. Also, Eli is still amazed by them. The two of them will sit for several fives of minutes playing together.

6.) At birthdays and Christmas, only three toys per child from anyone in the family. Three from us, three from my mom, three from my dad and step-mom, and three from Stephen’s parents. That’s 12 toys, way more than enough for any one kid to play with and enjoy at one time. There are several reasons I put this rule in place. It makes it more fair to less affluent family members. Hopefully, it will keep my kids from getting spoiled by stuff. And it does help keep the explosion of stuff under control.

7.) Books don’t count as toys. We’re bibliophiles; why shouldn’t our kids be too? I know this is going to cause no end of trouble later but I’d rather move to a bigger house on account of books than toys. Priorities, people!

That’s pretty much my rule set. What do you guys do to keep the toy population under control, or do you even bother? I can’t wait to hear how you guys keep the tsunami from overwhelming you.

The Frightening Piggy Bank

It’s been a while since we’ve done a post about scary kids’ toys, long enough that you probably let your guard down.

FOOL.

Let me introduce you to Pig E Bank, from The Learning Company.

Picture of the purple scary pig

No matter how big he looks in that picture, in real life he’s twice as big. But his preternatural cheerfulness isn’t what makes him so scary. It’s his electronic voice and motorized movements.

And they brag about this in the ad copy!

This pleasantly plump pig helps your young financial planner identify coin values. Watch him shake, rattle and ask for more money. Just drop pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into the slot, and Pig E Bank vibrates while identifying the coin denominations. Pig E Bank comes with many electronic voice responses to keep your child engaged. Features rubberized non-skid feet and a backside coin release – simply press his snout to cash out.

Eli calls this his “scary piggy bank”. That he will touch it at all is a testament to his nerves of steel. Really, the only way for you to fully grasp its amazingness, short of you coming to my house, playing with it, and then smashing it to bits with a hammer, is to watch this video.

RUN! HE’S COMING RIGHT AT YOU!

Guitar Hero v Kidz Beats

Earlier we mentioned that we bought Eli a toy guitar to carry for Halloween as part of his Guitar Hero costume. In the picture below you can see a Guitar Hero guitar/controller for the PS2 game on the left and Eli’s Kidz Beats guitar on the right.

Two toy guitars

They resemble each other, yes? But a closer look turns up some notable discrepancies.

Guitar Hero Controller Kidz Beats Guitar
5 fret buttons 8 fret buttons
No built-in songs Many built-in songs
Chords must be manually played Auto-chording mode
Annoying cord Cordless
Black-and-white body Rockin’ colors
$30 $10

I had no idea Harmonix and Red Octane were ripping me off like this.

When I say Giant, I Mean Giant House of Cards

IMG_6966.jpg
A few weeks ago, Rachel and I got the bright idea to go to a few thrift stores to find some new-to-her furnishings for her new apartment. So at our last stop I found a box that said, “Giant House of Cards.” It looked cool so I bought it for 54ยข. Turns out it is a reprint of a set designed by Charles Eames. It was made by Neenah Paper, one of my favorite paper companies that I can’t afford to buy paper from. Also, turns out that Stephen’s dad played with a set just like it when he was a kid.

Big Head Dog and the Monsters

Time to take a break from my science ranting and bring you another example of how children’s toys scare me. Today’s exhibit: Big Head Dog.

Big Head Dog

Big Head Dog fits snugly in the palm of your hand. His oversized head will nuzzle you lovingly as you stroke between his tiny nub ears, marvelling at how large his head is. He loves to run and jump and play with you.

Big Head Dog from the side

The only problem is, his big head keeps his front paws from touching the ground. Oh, he can make his front paws touch. But then he has to shove with all the power in his stubby legs to push his over-sized head about, leaving wet slobbering trails across the floor.

Big Head Dog comes to us courtesy of Eli’s one and only Happy Meal to date. Many people have concerns about genome splicing and the like. Why has no one confronted McDonald’s about this moose/terrier chimera?

In other scary toy news, I have discovered a new biological method of reproduction.

One Peep, Two Peep, Yellow Peep, Yellow Peep

Peepenogenesis!