ALL YOUR TOYS ARE BASE

826222pollypocketpostersAs if anyone needed confirmation that Polly Pocket toys are the most dangerous on the market, Mattel's 19-million-item, $30-million worldwide recall should settle any doubts. (Half the toys, which also include Batman and Cars tie-ins, were shipped to the U.S.; the rest are in other countries.) We find it ironic that Polly Pocket  toys are being recalled for possessing those killer micro-magnets, which have been giving us nightmares since they started perforating toddler intestines a year or so ago. We would have issued a recall of the entire Polly batch years ago because the pieces are so damned small that if a child under two ever happened into your home, he'd have a better-than-even chance of crawling home with a tiny plastic hair-dryer in his gut. Polly Pocket - which Tiny Girl loves, by the way (it appears we may have just one of the recalled play sets here) - has always struck us as such a fundamentally reckless toy to begin with that we're only surprised by the reason for its recall. (Mattel's complete recall list is here. The bad - worse? - news is that some of these risky magnetized sets have been in homes for several years.) Also, 18 million children's trinkets (charms, rings, bracelets, necklaces) have been pulled from the market since 2005 for unacceptable lead content. You can check the recall lists, or (our recommendation) just throw them all away.

Some conclusions being expressed everywhere else about the latest recalls, but which we've expressed here before:

* Those micro-magnets will inevitably have to be eliminated from toys in the U.S. market.

* Given that the country's biggest (and, arguably, most responsible) toymaker has now issued two huge recalls in a month, we'll reiterate: There is NO CHANCE that the cheap, made-in-China crap you buy for your birthday party goody bags is safe. Sorry, Oriental Trading Company, but the bottom is about to fall out of your market.

* Mattel to Wall Street: "The recall's costing us $30 million? So it goes. Still cheaper than paying health insurance for American union workers. We'll maintain our presence in China, thank you very much. We like it in China. Instead of going on strike, workers there just commit the occasional suicide."

In other news: BIBS, TOO?! Oh, come on! (Though we've always believed that any bib not made of terry cloth wasn't worth the trouble. . . )

Oh, and while you're up, here's another thought to keep you awake tonight: Lead-painted toys can gradually stunt your child's mental development, unless they're recalled in time. (The toys, not the kids.) But it's well nigh impossible to recall a house or apartment building, and the government estimates that kids live in 4 million homes with "deteriorated lead paint and lead-contaminated house dust."

IVY LEAGUE ACADEMIC TO PARENTS: IF YOU BUY TOYS BASED ON TV CHARACTERS, YOUR KIDS DESERVE LEAD POISONING

The Times talks to Howard Chudacoff, whose new book, "Children at Play: An American History," advocates that when it's time for play, parents deliver children to open fields, then stay the Hell out of the way—like their forefathers did. Which is not bad advice—unless one feels there's some benefit for parents playing with their children. But, moving on, Chudacoff also makes a case for the virtues of simple, old-fashioned toys:

Mr. Chudacoff led the way to a small, old-fashioned Providence toy store, Creatoyvity, which carries hardly any toys licensed from television and movies. Mr. Chudacoff looked over the figures of knights and kings, gorillas, giraffes, cows, monkeys, rhinos, chickens and dinosaurs, as well as the beads, blocks, paint, glitter, trucks, cranes, tractors and wooden toys imported from Germany.

“It’s a toy store rather than an entertainment center,” Mr. Chudacoff said, explaining that with so much commercial licensing, toys have become more of an offshoot of the television and film industries than elements of play. One result is that a toy comes with a prepackaged back story and ready-made fantasy life, he said, meaning that “some of the freedom is lost, and unstructured play is limited.”

Maybe. Maybe not. A knight and a king, and even a gorilla and a chicken, for that matter, come with built-in narratives—jousting, growling, crossing the road—as much as Batman and Pikachu do. We've observed kids playing with character tie-in figures and they don't always follow "the script." Just like the enlightened children who pit knights against monkeys, they can take the characters they've seen on TV and take off creatively from the archetype, coming up with scenarios that we'd never have imagined. To us, frankly, the argument that a youngster cannot possibly play creatively with a toy that comes with a back story really sells kids short.

SPEAKING OF COMMERCIALIZED CHILDREN'S CHARACTERS, THEY'LL SOON BE AVAILABLE 24 HOURS A DAY. WOO HOO!

Log132x071nogginIn what we see as indisputably the best news of the week, MTV Networks announced that it is—finally— breaking up Noggin and The N. Noggin is the commercial-free channel for preschoolers that broadcasts from 3 a.m. until 6 p.m., when it abruptly turns into "The N," exposing unsuspecting children to the rampaging hormones of DeGrassi High students, and the rampaging early-90s haircuts of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Now the company is announcing plans to split Noggin and the N into a pair of standalone, 24-hour cable channels at the end of the year, which is outstanding news for any work-at-home parents who rush to meet writing deadlines as their nannies leave work at 5:30, then try to complete tasks while the kids watch a little bit of Noggin, the only channel still airing preschool programming at that hour, only to have the children scream moments later when the channel's content ages 12 years. (Um, yeah, that's us. . .)

DON'T WORRY, THERE'S ALWAYS CASTOR OIL   

The FDA finally got around to issuing a public health advisory warning parents not to give over-the-counter cold and cough medicines to children under 2 without a doctor's instructions, even though the recently-discovered risks of giving cold medicines to toddlers have been widely reported for several months.

WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT US THAT AT SOME LEVEL WE SEE THIS AS BRINGING HIM CLOSER TO BEING ABLE TO RUN AWAY FROM HOME?

Please join us in congratulating Small Fellow for taking his first bicycle ride without training wheels last weekend. Along with learning to tie his shoes a few weeks ago, this makes two impressive accomplishments this summer, and, honestly? — Two more than we expected.

WHEN LIFE IMITATES CHILDREN'S BOOKS

51n21vp0f9l_bo2204203200_pisitbdp50A man smuggled a monkey onto an airplane Tuesday, stashing the furry fist-size primate under his hat until passengers spotted it perched on his ponytail, [said Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Alison Russell]. During the flight, people around the man noticed that the marmoset, which normally lives in forests and eats fruit and insects, had emerged from underneath his hat, Russell said. “Other passengers asked the man if he knew he had a monkey on him,” she said. The monkey spent the remainder of the flight in the man’s seat and behaved well, said Russell, who didn’t know how it skirted customs and security.

Wait, we know how the monkey and his pal evaded customs and security: It's a trick they learned from a bear, as in one of our favorite children's books, Milo's Hat Trick, by Jon Agee.

IT SOUNDS GREAT ON PAPER, BUT WE'LL WITHHOLD JUDGMENT UNTIL WE SEE WHAT IT DOES TO PROPERTY VALUES IN RIVERDALE

Archie Comics welcomes Raj Patel to Riverdale High, introducing the company's first South Asian character in a story titled—no, really—"Out-Raj-ous Behavior!" Apparently, Raj's attractive, "super-smart" sister Tina is being pitched as an "Indian Veronica," offering children an important lesson—no matter her race or religion, any girl can be a tease.

IF YOUR FAMILY TRAVEL PLANS WILL TAKE YOU TO THE SOUTHWEST THIS SUMMER, BE SURE TO BRING THE KIDS TO THE HOTTEST PLAYGROUND IN TEXAS

-- just be sure you identify all potential exits as you enter the playground, should it happen to spontaneously combust again, although that's unlikely because, as gloriously understated Arlington schools superintendent Mac Bernd told the Houston Chronicle, the first fire "was a very unusual occurrence."

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HANDING A NEW DAD A CIGAR?

Back in April, an off-duty police officer working security at a Houston hospital tasered a man attempting to take his newborn out of the maternity ward without proper authorization. The only (well, maybe not the only) problem: The man was holding the baby at the time, and instantly dropped her to the floor when he was hit by the stun gun.

WOMEN INCREASINGLY BRING HOME THE BACON, REFUSE TO FRY IT UP IN A PAN

EnjoliMore women than ever are working full time, putting in at least as many hours as their husbands for at least as much pay. But, according to the Times, some things never change—men continue to come home, ignore housework, and demand a hot dinner, while women—no matter their job or income—scramble to perform the daily household chores:

With two-income families now the norm, and both men and women working a record-breaking number of hours, the question has become how to accomplish what used to be a wife’s job, even as old-fashioned standards of household management and entertaining have been relaxed. Many men are sharing the work of chores and child care with their wives, and some do it all as single parents, but women still generally shoulder a greater burden of household business . . .

OH, MAN, WE'RE SCREWED: FELLOW'S BACKPACK ISN'T EVEN WATERPROOF

It's August in America, and everyone's talking about the must-have back-to-school item: Bulletproof backpacks. A pair of Massachusetts dads are marketing the $175 "ballistic bookbags" to parents who fear a school shooting in their town. According to MJ Safety Solutions:

Finally there is a product that will help you take an active step towards safeguarding yourself and the people you care about from shooting incidents. MJ Safety Solutions has developed, for the first time ever, a full size, lightweight ballistic protection back pack that is affordable and practical. Now you can provide on the spot protection against guns and knife violence!

Independently tested to the standards set by the National Institute for Justice to provide Level II ballistic protection, as found in most police body armor, at almost 1/10 the weight.

Depressingly, the inventors report that sales of the backpacks have been "phenomenal," aided by media reports from around the world. The co-owners claim to have rung up 1,000 sales on their Web site last weekend alone. Welcome to Hell.

RedcrossTHIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN JOHNSON & JOHNSON'S HEAD OF CORPORATE PR TAKES HIS FAMILY ON A MIDSUMMER SAFARI IN AFRICA, FAR FROM BLACKBERRY RANGE

Health care giant J & J has sued the American Red Cross over what it claims is the "commercializing" of the widely recognized symbol the company and the organization share, by allowing that symbol to be used on products it approves for use in emergencies. Yeah, this should definitely go to court. Let's see J & J convince a jury to take a few million dollars away from the Red Cross. . .

". . . AND THEN HE GETS DEPORTED BY THE INS."

Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna will write a children’s book for HarperCollins. The book, as yet untitled, to be published in English and Spanish in the spring, is set in a school where a mischievous little boy learns the fun of reading with the help of his teacher. . . 

August 16, 2007 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS

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