It's too late now to save money if you bought these toys for last Christmas, but at least consumers can keep from looking like a chump at birthday parties by staying away from the potential worst toys of the year.
The children's advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, or CCFC, is having a contest until Feb. 8 to vote for the Worst Toy of the Year award for 2008. The winner will be announced Feb. 12, days before the Toy Industry Association gathers Feb. 15 to present its Toy of the Year Awards.
CCFC is starting its TOADY Award, with TOADY standing for Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young Children, as a way to point out toys that promote violence or precocious sexuality to children, and push branded entertainment at the expense of children's play.
To make voting easier, the group is listing five candidates. Here they are, in no particular order, with some of what the group wrote about them.
1. Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade by Fisher-Price. Retails for $349.99, ages 36 months to 5 years.
Who needs to pedal? Now your 3-year-old can drive their own icon of excess at speeds up to 5 mph! With its $349.99 price tag, you can prove to your neighbors that you aren't affected by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
2. Baby Alive Learns to Potty by Hasbro. Retails for $59.99, ages 36 months to 5 years.
Want to stamp out your preschooler's pesky imagination? In addition to talking, gurgling, eating special Baby Alive food and drinking special Baby Alive juice, this is the only TOADY award nominee that actually poops. Baby Alive Learns to Potty comes with two packets of food and two diapers -- which aren't reusable when "messed." In addition to squelching your child's play, you'll get big bang out of adding Baby Alive's food and diaper costs to the family budget!
3. Smart Cycle by Fisher Price. Retails for $109.99, ages 36 months to 6 years.
Why ride a tricycle outside when you can stay inside and pedal in front of a screen? This combination stationary bike and video game system for preschoolers has it all: Monotonous exercise to replace those boring trips to the park, branded video games so your little one can get her Dora and Diego fix, and since Fisher Price claims the content is educational, Mom and Dad won't have to worry about brain-rotting screen time...or interacting with their preschoolers at all.
4. Barbie Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Doll by Mattel. Retails for $79.99, ages 5 and up.
What do you get when you combine two classic symbols of gendered stereotypes, Barbie and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders? A 2008 TOADY nominee demonstrating that Mattel won't let Bratz win the race to the bottom without a fight.
5. Lego Batman Video Game by Warner Bros. Retails for $29.99-$49.99, ages 10 and up.
How do you turn the ultimate creative toy into a symbol of commercialized childhood? Dispense with hands-on building altogether by turning your toy into a video game so that instead of deciding what to build next, children choose which cyber weapons to use to beat up their opponent. Finally, ignore the fact that it was rated suitable for ages 10 and up and partner with McDonald's for a Happy Meal toy giveaway to simultaneously promote the video game, junk food, and the violent Dark Knight movie series to preschoolers.
Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.aaroncrowe.net