June 24, 2021

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What Is the Worst Toy Ever?

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Do you have any all-time favorite toys? A doll, a puzzle, an action figure, a game? What made it fun to play with?

Conversely, have you ever had any true clunkers? Toys that were impossible to assemble or too easily broken? Toys you found maddeningly boring, messy, annoying, confusing, frustrating, scary or even dangerous?

What makes a bad toy, in your opinion?

In “An Unofficial Ranking of the 10 Most Annoying Kids’ Toys,” Jessica Delfino writes:

Nobody told me that once I had a child, I’d be held hostage by a deranged assortment of countless toys, each with their own maddening varieties of terrible features. Some are too loud, others too sticky, some are depressing and still others are even potentially dangerous.

After chatting with more than 100 mothers in an online parenting group, I learned that I was not alone, and that many other parents had come to loathe some of the same playthings I had. To help you avoid falling into the same traps, here is a list of 10 toys that consistently came up as some of the most infuriating, ranked from most to least annoying. These, we all agreed, could distress even the most unflappable parents.

Here are four terrible toys from Ms. Delfino’s list:

2. Slime: Destructive

Every toy company seems to have their own branded blob of slime, but some go above and beyond by selling it in a three-pound tub. Why? Three pounds of slime is too much slime. My son’s favorite stuffy owl sat in a puddle of it overnight, and is now permanently disfigured. “I hate slime so much, and it’s in every ‘surprise’ toy and now it’s also all over my couch,” said Anna Lane, a comedy writer in Los Angeles. “It got all over the carpet and I banned it,” said Diana Metzger, a mom in Maryland. You can have nice things or you can have slime, but you can’t have both.

4. Play-Doh: Destroyer of nice things

Before I had a son, I gifted my niece a rainbow rack of Play-Doh. “Gee, thanks,” my sister said, sarcastically. I was confused. What kind of monster dislikes Play-Doh? Today, I’m that monster, infuriated by the dried crumbs that are encrusted onto the expensive things I’ve worked hard for. And Hasbro knows it — their website offers a long list of clean up tips. If traditional Play-Doh wasn’t bad enough, the company also makes putty, foam and even — hooray — at least three different versions of slime. Wonderful! Five more styles to also detest.

5. Glitter Shaker: Eternal

Those tiny, loose, hell flakes get stuck in floor cracks, between eyelashes, on fabric and, worst of all, in my photographer husband’s gear, so we’ve banished the stuff from our lives. One could theorize that glitter has been annoying parents since the beginning of time: Humans have been drawn to shiny things since the prehistoric period, when they would incorporate naturally lustrous substances like luminous gold, mirrored mica and beetle wing covers into artwork, textiles and more. Today, most glitter is made from plastic film, which can take about 1,000 years to biodegrade. “As an art teacher, I avoid glitter,” said Kelly Jones, who is also a mom and lives in Los Angeles. The sentiment is spreading; it’s used in my child’s school projects less and less. Good riddance.

10. Furby: Relentless

I thought my neighbor and I were friends, but then she handed her daughter’s Furby down to my son. It talks nonstop in a high-pitched, head-splitting voice; it screams, flatulates and has no “off” switch. It needs to be unscrewed to take the batteries out and make it stop. Of course, my son loves it and it must go everywhere with us. The best part? She gave us two.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What are your least favorite toys ever — either those you played with as a child, or those of siblings, younger relatives or the children you babysit? Tell us what would make your top 10 terrible toys list. Do you have any memorable experiences with a bad toy?

  • Ms. Delfino describes each entry on her list with biting wit. Of harmonicas, she warns: “To purchase one is self-torture.” On the glitter shaker she laments: “Those tiny, loose, hell flakes get stuck in floor cracks, between eyelashes, on fabric and, worst of all, in my photographer husband’s gear.” Vividly describe the qualities of at least one toy in your personal “Worst Toy Hall of Fame” that make it so awful — the appearance, texture, sound, overall concept or confusing lack of one, or anything else.

  • What is your reaction to Ms. Delfino’s list of most annoying kids’ toys? Did you nod enthusiastically along with any of her choices? Were you shocked to find one of your favorite toys making the cut?

  • If your parents were asked to make a list of their most hated and annoying toys from your childhood, what do you think would be in their top 10 and why? Ms. Delfino writes, “You can have nice things or you can have slime, but you can’t have both.” Have any of your toys disfigured your parents’ favorite items? Does reading the article make you rethink toys from a parent’s perspective?

  • If you were an executive of a toy company, how would you fix, remake or reboot any of the toys on your or Ms. Delfino’s list? What advice and recommendations would you make to stop toy makers from designing a terrible toy?


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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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