Toys. They’re meant to be happy, fun, safe things to have around the house. And, for the most part, they are. But just occasionally, your child’s precious belongings fight back in ways that can be painful, frustrating, time-consuming or even scary. Here we look at seven ways that toys sometimes get the better of parents.
The Lego Argghh
We’ve all done it. Few things in regular life are as painful as treading on Lego. It seems to have been designed with parental agony in mind. Most of the bricks have eight corners. Whichever way up they land, a sharp plastic nexus awaits your heel. This is one of the unsung benefits of starting with Duplo. The kids get a simpler toy to practice with, while we can get used to stepping between the blocks before the smaller, sharper version takes over.
The Haunted Toy
We have one of those Fisher Price Puppy dolls - the ones that sing a nursery rhyme or dispense some other wisdom whenever you squeeze their soft bits. It worked fine for the first year or two, a cheerful and arguably educational addition to the toybox. Then, one day, something broke.
“My ear is blue… blue… blue… My ear is… My ear… blue… blue. Ear. Blue.” These fractured proclamations would play across the bedroom without warning. Nobody had squeezed Puppy. Nobody was near him. Yet there he was, barking about his ear. Was it a broken wire, a damaged connection, or had Puppy’s advanced programming developed self-awareness?
Every household with kids has a similar toy that mysteriously cries out when least expected. You need to worry if it carries on after the batteries have been removed.
The Encrusted Plaything
Small kids do some frankly disgusting things with toys. We all know how the teething tot likes to place anything and everything into their mouth. Sure, you can wipe surfaces clean now and then, but who has time to clean every toy after every play? The entire nursery bedroom is probably coated in a fine film of dried spittle and an army of bacteria who can’t believe their luck. Some toys get more begrimed than others. Mushed up corn snacks find their way into the underside of Lego bricks; My Little Pony has couscous particles in her increasingly tangled hair; we have a doll who smells like an abandoned picnic. And bogies? Let’s not go there.
Missing In Action
Of course, the most troublesome toy is the missing toy. And it happens every single day, doesn’t it?
“Mum… I can’t find teddy? Where’s teddy””
“Dad… where’s Barbie’s construction worker helmet. I left it with her high-vis vest but now it’s gone”.
Or most annoyingly...
“But Mum… I can’t go out until I’ve found that tiny missing bead,” (or some other almost-microscopic item that got mislaid four months ago, could be anywhere, and is most probably at the bottom of landfill right now having been vacuumed up… but you still have to pretend to look).
Missing toys also have a habit of asserting themselves precisely two minutes after lights-out, just as you think junior is going to sleep quietly. “Argggh! Dad! I don’t have Willow! Find him!” They always want the teddy or toy that you haven’t seen for weeks.
And then there’s that other class of missing object - the final piece of the jigsaw that prevents completion, or the missing game piece that renders it unplayable. Pixar will probably make a film about all these fugitive playthings one day.
Sheer Weight of Numbers
The other great problem with toys is when they become too numerous. Everyone wants to buy something sweet for the newborn, then shower it with gifts on the first birthday. After that come the annual parties, when presents from a dozen friends (or the parents thereof) swell your collection. The problem is exacerbated if you have a second or third child. They’re happy with hand-me-downs for the first year or two, but soon start demanding their own playthings. Before long, the bedroom looks like this:
Argh, THE NOISE!!
When did toys get so loud? When I was a kid, and the world was all new, toys would only make a noise if you bashed them against something. Nowadays, every plastic frog and grinning play doll has a song to sing, a blaster to fire or a Siri-like voice with which to misunderstand you. Many accompany their outbursts with a hail of flashing lights, too. Please make it stop.
Out Of Bounds
“Mister, can we have our ball back please?” So went the traditional cry of the young footballer who’d accidentally kicked their ball into a neighbour’s yard. I’m sure some of that still goes on, but these days it’s more likely to be a crashed drone or an errant Nerf dart that’s sitting on top of Mr Jones’s shed. Toys have become increasingly mobile, with the development of lightweight flight rotors and foam pellet guns. And that means they’re causing more grief by straying out of bounds. Perhaps we should just stick to Lego after all.
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