Photo Credit: Steve Shott and Trish Gant/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
Allowing your child to unwrap something potentially dangerous under the tree -- masquerading as a hot holiday toy -- might not be the best way to infuse your home with the holiday spirit. Or so say the folks at World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.), a Boston-based non-profit that recently released its annual list of 10 worst children’s toys. While none of the toys on the list have been recalled, W.A.T.C.H. claims that this year’s offenders have the potential to strangle, electrocute and puncture kids. Eek!
Sure, it’s a bummer to think that some holiday toys might cause kids to shoot their eyes out -- Ralphie’s mother was right! -- but it’s helpful to know about potentially hazardous toys in advance, especially considering that the Consumer Products Safety Commission has said that about 250,000 toy-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009, a number that’s been on the rise. (On the other hand, Stacy Leistner, a spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association, told Reuters that less than half of one percent of the estimated 3 billion toys sold each year in the United States are recalled and that “safety is our number one priority year round, not just at the holidays.”)
Read on for W.A.T.C.H.’s 2011 "10 Worst Toys" list:
Power Rangers Samurai Mega Blade
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "Young children are encouraged to pull a release and flip-open this rigid plastic Power Rangers Samurai “sword”, which “extends 2 feet!” according to the packaging. The blade has the potential to cause serious facial or other impact injuries."
Stepper “Low Rise” Stilts by JJI Toys
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "These colorful plastic platforms with attached, adjustable "hand ropes" are sold as "perfect 'low rise' stilts." The manufacturer provides no warnings or cautions. The instruction on the throw-away tag invites children, as young as five years old, to "[j]ust step on the platform, pull the ropes up tight, and begin to walk around" while balancing on top of the cups."
Sword Fighting Jack Sparrow
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "The Jack Sparrow action figure, from the popular Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, is sold for children as young as four years old. The pirate’s right hand is armed with a 4 ½”-long rigid, plastic sword, which activates in an upward motion at the push of a lever. No warnings are provided regarding the potential for eye or other impact injuries."
‘Gigan’ Godzilla Figure
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "This “12[-inch] Classic Godzilla Figure”, referenced on the packaging as the character “Gigan”, features rigid, pointed fins and wings, as well as sharp, dagger-like attachments on its arms. Such unforgiving, plastic protrusions present the potential for penetrating and impact injuries."
Twist 'n Sort by Guidecraft
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "This play set consisting of a “brightly colored geometric block and solid wood base” is sold to provide “years of developmental fun” with “problem solving challenges” and “fine motor practice.” On October 20, 2011, certain lots of these toys were recalled because “[t]he small pegs on three of the four posts can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children”. After issuance of the recall, a newly purchased Twist ‘n Sort toy exhibited the same “choking hazard” identified in the government’s recall notice."
The Incredible Shrinky Dinks Maker
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "This oven uses standard 120-volt house current and shrinks a “shrinky dink” in a “heating chamber” with a 60-watt light bulb. A parent or caregiver needs no further indication that this oven could be dangerous than the litany of warnings and cautions on the toy itself and the packaging, including:
“Caution -- Electric Toy:" As with all electric products, precautions shall be observed…to prevent electric shock.”
“Warning: Shock Hazard. Pull plug before changing light bulb.”
“Danger -- To prevent electric shock, do not immerse in water….”
“Caution -- Supervision Required -- Electric Toy -- Unplug When Not in Use.”
"A product with so many inherent hazards does not lend itself to use in a home environment with children."
Fold And Go Trampoline by The Original Toy Company
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "This trampoline is sold in the toy aisle for children as young as 3-years-old. Remarkably, the package insert instructs, in part, as follows:
“Never attempt any other functions or gymnastic functions or rough play on the trampoline, this trampoline is designed for young children only. The only function on this trampoline should be a controlled bounce (exercise), for young children. No other functions should occur other then [sic] controlled bounce.”
"The many hazards associated with trampoline use should make it apparent to manufacturers and retailers that such equipment should not be sold as a playtime activity for young children."
Pulling Animal Duck by Haba
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "This wooden duck, which “[w]addles amusingly when pulled”, is sold as a pull toy for 1-year-old babies. The duck’s cord is approximately 33” long, presenting a serious potential strangulation hazard. The industry’s standard limits strings on crib and playpen toys to 12” in length."
School Bus by Schylling
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "These miniature yellow school buses are sold with a “choking hazard” warning on a removable, stick-on label. The firm rubber tires, mounted on plastic wheels, can be removed, presenting the potential for a serious choking injury for oral age children."
Z-Curve Bow by Zing Toys
W.A.T.C.H. warning: "This “high-performance” bow and arrow set is sold with three “long-range” foam arrows, which are marketed as being able to fly “over 125 FEET!” Remarkably, among the many “warnings” for children is an instruction that arrows not be pulled back “more than half strength”, and that people nearby “should be alerted” prior to firing."