Talking to your child about toy safety recalls

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, who is annoyed by all the wrist burns from her fake McDonalds Fitbit, but who is feeling mighty healthy after her McNuggets and fries.

McDonalds, not typically known as a vanguard of healthy living, tried to capitalize the Olympics by putting a fitness-related toy in their Happy Meals. The toy, a “Step-It Activity Wristband,” amounted to what was essentially a kids’ version of a Fitbit. Last week, the toys were recalled due to causing “skin irritation or burns.” The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says there have been at least 70 reports of irritation, seven involving blisters. So much for the Golden Arches’ attempt at looking conscientious.

I’m not particularly ashamed to say that I give my daughter the occasional Happy Meal. I was never particularly phased by Morgan Spurlock’s experiment of eating nothing but super-sized McDonalds. No one should eat nothing but super-sized McDonalds. All things in moderation, you know. (Plus, he claims he threw up after eating a Double Quarter Pounder meal. What kind of baby can’t hold down a McDonalds meal? And a giant baby with hillbilly facial hair like him should really be able to stomach a hamburger.)

Even before Viva found out her “activity tracker” was going to burn her wrist off, she expressed dismay at these “toys.”

“They don’t do anything, Daddy! They aren’t fun!”

“They count your steps, Sweetie.”

“That’s not very fun.”

“Some of them blink to tell you if you are walking fast or slow.”

“Daaaaddy, I already know if I’m walking fast or slow.”

She had a point. The activity trackers were dull as dirt, and they also burn your arms off. Unsafe at any walking speed, you might say. Now you can return them for a yogurt tube or apple slices. My daughter would rather get wrist blisters than a yogurt tube or apple slices, so I think we’re just going to lose out on this one.

Still, the Step-It recall was a springboard for an important conversation about toy safety. I had to explain to my child that sometimes products aren’t safe, either due to negligence or an accident on the part of the manufacturer, and that caution should always be executed. Last week I taught her to exercise caution around street hustlers in our neighborhood, the place that scared away “Jaelin and Brianna White” (Don’t let the vagrant hit you on the way back to Arizona, Jaelin.), and this week I’m teaching her about consumer caution.

Caveat emptor

Let the buyer beware. We’re trained by Madison Avenue to trust in brands, but brands aren’t our friends. We all went crazy for Cabbage Patch Kids in the ‘80s, and that didn’t do us any good in the Christmas of ‘96 when the “Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kids” came for our children’s fingers and hair. We never would have expected it of Xavier Roberts’ beloved plastic babies, but if these dastardly chomping cherubs got hold of your child’s pigtail, it wouldn’t stop chewing until it got to her brain stem.

Tell your children that brands aren’t their friends. Stuff isn’t their friend. Toys are fun, but toys are manufactured to make money for corporations, and sometimes those toys try to eat you.

Stick with the intended use

Most toys are recalled because they pose a choking hazard. Doll noses on everything from Disney’s Woody and “Laugh and Learn Bunny” to “Molly Moo Moo” can detach and get swallowed. Pokeballs can end up down your windpipe or over your nose, instead of trapping imaginary creatures in a spherical hellscape as they were intended. Almost all toys were not meant to be eaten, but most victims of hazardous toys are too young to understand that. If your child is old enough to understand, though, tell them to keep the toys out of their mouth, because not only can toys choke you, magnets can pinch off your intestines and sometimes companies fill their craft toys with roofies. Capitalism can be rapacious.

Watch your children carefully

Remember Lawn Darts? If you don’t, it’s probably because one bonked you on the head. Lawn Darts are perfectly safe for adults. They are no different than horseshoes, really, but in the decade of latch key kids, they were raining down death from above because they got into the hands of children who shouldn’t have played with them. Tell your child to stay out of the grown up stuff, and lock up your firearms, booze and lawn darts.

Bonus advice: Kids and hammocks don’t mix

In researching recalled toys, the items that kept coming up were hammocks. Sure, it’s hilarious when Jack Tripper gets caught in one, but when your kid does, it can be deadly.

Hammocks seem to have been specifically designed to entangle and endanger the youth of America. If you want to nap, nap in a bed.

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