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15 Aug 2011

10 Astonishingly Annoying Toys

This post was written by John Cave Osborne. Image:nicolasnova/Creative Commons
Ah, toys. They can go either way, no? I mean, a good toy can buy a busy parent some much needed peace and quiet. But an annoying toy? Well, let’s just say that it can somehow make the incredibly taxing job of parenting harder still.

With five kids, I’ve developed a reasonably high tolerance for annoying toys. But recently, I ran across one that was so bad, I momentarily contemplated leaving my family. Instead, I vented my frustrations via a Facebook post, asking parents to chime in with the toy that they despised most. The end result is this list of 10 astonishingly annoying toys.

1. Sing A Ma Jigs
These guys seem innocuous on the surface. Just a bunch of little furry fellows that harmonize when you press their bellies at the same time. Kinda like a stuffed animal version of a barber shop quartet. But if you really stop and think about it, barber shop quartets are entertaining for like three minutes before they start to grate on you a bit. Especially if their melodic tones are in pitches reminiscent of the Chipmunks. By the way, don’t get the one that sings successive words of Peter Cottontail each time you press his belly. Seriously. Don't.

2. Zhu Zhu Pets
If you ask me, battery operated hamsters don’t even look good on paper. Nor do all of the various accompanying parts which comprise entire cities in which they dwell. According to one friend, these plastic rodents are prone to getting caught under your furniture. Not good. Did I mention they make shrill noises each time you walk by said furniture thanks to built-in motion sensors? Didn’t think so. 

3. Polly Pockets
Speaking of annoying things that have a ton of parts, let's shift our focus to Polly Pockets, shall we? In case you don’t know, they’re a line of dolls which originally came in little cases that could fit in your child’s pocket. There exists a wide array of clothing you can purchase for your Polly Pocket dolls if you’re into that kinda thing. And those hard plastic blouses, shoes and hats will most certainly be abandoned in various and unforeseen places much to the chagrin of your feet. And vacuum cleaner. Well, your vacuum cleaner won't care, but you will when your child has a DEFCON 1 meltdown when Polly's favorite top is stuck inside it. 

4. Fisher Price Corn Popper Push Along
Lest we start thinking that annoying toys are a new invention, it’s only appropriate to remind you that the friendly folks at Fisher Price have been manufacturing annoying toys for over 50 years now. You know how unpleasant it gets when your kids start popping bubble wrap, right? The Fisher Price Corn Popper Push Along is like that but only worse. (The name is even horrendous.) I know because I had one when I was a kid. But I never played with it. It bothered me too much.

5. Alphie the Robot
Speaking of vintage toys, do any of y’all remember Playskool Alphie, the little robot who came on the scene in the late 70s or so? The one who taught kids the basics, like colors, letters and shapes — all with the help of those little plastic cards you slid down the front of his body? Yep. Educational. He was like flash cards. Well, except squeakier, blinkier and able to play a dreadfully awful version of London Bridge is Falling Down. Over and over. And over. Again. The original apparently wasn't obnoxious enough, however, because they just came out with a new one a couple of years ago. Seriously, folks. How can we expect this thing to educate our kids if it’s hellbent on repeating the same mistakes of its own annoying history? 

6. Toy Lawnmowers
You know what’s cool? When your kids are finally old enough to mow the lawn. You know what’s not cool? When they’re young enough to crank out the ol’ John Deer toy mower (complete with fake engine noise) and do a couple dozen laps around your bed at 6:30 on a random Saturday morning. And the sing-songy encouragement of Great job. The lawn looks great! bellowing from mower does nothing but add salt to a very sleepy wound. 

7. Finger Paint
So are arts and crafts considered a toy? I vote yes. Hence the inclusion of finger paints on this list of astonishingly annoying toys. Double yes if your wife is a neat freak bordering on pathological extremes. (In a cute way, honey.) Triple yes if you have toddlers. So I don’t really need to go into why finger paint is annoying, do I? Suffice it to say that if you’re dead set on releasing your child’s inner Picasso, you'd better be ready to release your inner janitor. 

8. Toy Microphones
Ah yes. The toy microphone. The very thing that inspired my initial Facebook post. See, every kid delights in hearing the sound of his or her own voice. And when you amplify that voice, you amplify the delight. Which means if you have more than one child, there’s bound to be fighting. You know, because delightful experiences are highly desirable and all. And while the fighting is enough to drive you crazy, it’s nothing compared to the high-pitched screeches that come out of the speaker, poorly disguised as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. 

9. Recorders
And speaking of high-pitched screeches, the recorder emits plenty of those. If only they were a couple of octaves higher a la a dog whistle, parents wouldn't be able to hear such atrocities. But high pitches aren’t the only similarity between recorders and toy microphones. For both are wildly entertaining only to the little person who currently possesses it. 

10. Chicken Dance Elmo
The triplets love Elmo. Me? Not so much. Truth be told all the exposure to his videos rubbed me the wrong way. (I think it’s the third-person talk. Puppets who constantly refer to themselves in the third person bug John Cave Osborne.) But pet peeves aside, how could I ever dislike a creature who brings my children such joy? Turns out the answer is by hearing his chicken-dance song 5,413 times. Elmo wants to be a chicken, Elmo wants to be a duck. Quack, quack, quack, quack. Well which is it? Does he wanna be a duck or chicken? He’s quacking, so I assume he wants to be a duck, yet he’s also dressed in a chicken costume which would indicate a poultry preference. So why the duck is he quacking?
Wow. A little ranty to end on, but such is my ire for that little red monster. And we all know how that is, right? That unbridled loathing we have one of our kid's toys? Hence my little list. 
So tell me, which ones do you agree with? And more importantly, which ones did I miss? Because as much as I wanna avoid annoying toys in the future, I can promise you I'll be taking notes on whatever it is you come up with. 
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