The 'Worst Toy of the Year' and Why It's So Bad

Asian baby using tablet
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An app for infants that gets them to use on iPad while watching TV on Monday was branded the Worst Toy of the Year by the children's advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

The group awards its dubious TOADY (Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young children) to toys and gizmos seen as harmful to babies and young children.
The winner (loser?) this year: the AT&T U-verse app by BabyFirst.

"The BabyFirst U-verse app definitely deserves a TOADY," Executive Director Susan Linn said. "While there's no evidence that even one screen benefits babies, training them to split their attention between two screens is absurd-and potentially harmful."

Here's a description of the app from AT&T (T):

The app features a wide array of animals, shapes, colors and objects from which babies and toddlers can select. With one simple touch, they can see their masterpiece instantly appear on the TV screen while tuned to BabyFirst.

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood put forward a slate of nominees for the prize and then put it to a vote. The BabyFirst app got 33 percent of the vote, beating out the Barbie Loves Girl Scouts doll, the miWorld Mini Mall, the Anything app by Cartoon Network and LeapBand by LeapFrog.

The issue of screen time for small children has become increasingly heated as more and more devices become part of our lives. It is common today, for instance, to see toddlers and even infants holding smartphones and tablets.

But the influential American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the littlest kids should be kept from screens and devices, not encouraged to use them

"Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2," the group said in its policy statement on the issue. "A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens."

In comments by those voting, it was clear that the idea the app was marketed to those who have infants was particularly disturbing.

Other voters indicated they were irked with the Girl Scouts taking a $2 million payment to license a Barbie doll given the issues some people have had with Barbie dolls creating an unrealistic view of what a woman should look like.

A Chicago woman commented: "This horrifying toy is letting girls down in two ways: promoting body image problems, and showing that their beloved Girl Scouts could be sold to the highest bidder!"

The winner of the TOADY last year was the iPotty, a training toilet with a built-in screen.

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The 'Worst Toy of the Year' and Why It's So Bad
The Apple Watch doesn't come out until 2015, and it's going to cost you at least $350. The VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch is out now and only costs $60. It's clear which smartwatch is going to wind up dominating the market.

Fun idea: When you give this to your kid, perform Christopher Walken's monologue from "Pulp Fiction."
When Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird wrote a comic book in the mid-'80 about giant mutated turtles who were also teenage ninjas, they probably didn't think they were launching a multimedia franchise that would still be selling movies and toys 30 years later. But here we are in 2014, and the turtles are coming off a blockbuster movie -- and they're once again expected to be a top-selling Christmas toy.

Toys R Us thinks your kids will want this "Stretch 'N' Shout Leonardo," which takes the Turtles' stoic, katana-wielding leader and gives him the ability to. .. stretch his arms and scream really loud? OK. Meanwhile, Kmart has the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lil' Dune Racer, which is basically just a powered kid's bike with some Ninja Turtle stickers slapped on. It costs $162 and has a top speed of 3.5 mph.

Really, these are some weak offerings on the Ninja Turtles front. When I was a kid, I had a little tank that launched pizza discs. Now that was a toy.
Here's another late-'80s/early-'90s toy franchise that's seeing a second life thanks to Michael Bay. The "Transformers" movie franchise is now in its fourth film, swapping out America's Sidekick Shia Laboeuf for America's Knucklehead Drinking Buddy Mark Wahlberg. But more importantly, the fourth film finally got around to introducing Grimlock ("me Grimlock!"), the Transformers' truculent dinosaur robot.

We've got two Tranformers: Grimlock! toys appearing on this year's lists. Toy R Us has the Stomp and Chomp Grimlock ($70), which transforms between dinosaur and robot and comes with a bonus Optimus Prime toy to ride Grimlock into battle. Kmart's Grimlock toy is only $20, but you get what you pay for: It's just Grimlock in robot form, with a button that lets it make some noises. What good is a Dinobot that can't transform into dinosaur form? If you get this for your son, he'll spend three minutes trying to get it to turn into a dinosaur and then throw it aside.
Doc McStuffins –- who, you may recall, provides medical care to stuffed animals –- appeared on the list last year, with a tricked-out check-up center. But this year the good doctor is really stepping up her game, making house calls with the Doc McStuffins Get Better Talking Mobile Cart, basically a pull-along ambulance ($50). It comes with a siren, an EKG machine, a gurney and even a little ladder (I guess to rescue stuffed animals trapped in tiny burning buildings).
Next time someone trots out that tired old "It's the future, where's my flying car?" line, show them this $55 flying Hot Wheels Street Hawk Remote Control Flying Car. Or better yet, buzz them with it like Maverick from "Top Gun" doing control tower fly-by while screaming "Is this futuristic enough for you?!"
The Zoomer Dino appears on all three retailers' lists, so it looks like it will be one of the season's most in-demand toys. It also sounds like it will be completely awesome:

"Boomer can detect when you're nearby and interacting with him. But watch out! Just like a real Dino he can get angry, spin around, chomp and roar! Using True Balance Technology, Boomer perfectly balances on two wheels as he roams freely, exploring your home. ... He might even let out dino-sized burps and farts!"

So imagine the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, only he's wearing roller skates, and also he's burping and farting all over the place. It's $100, and I just ordered it.
This is the one.

The only other toy to appear on all three lists, the Snow Glow Elsa Doll (from the hit Disney movie "Frozen") is already looking like this year's Tickle-Me Elmo. At Walmart, it sold out online while I was writing this article. Kmart says it won't have it in stock until Oct. 30. Toys R Us still has it in stock, but it's already set a limit of five per customer.

All this in September.

If someone winds up getting pepper-sprayed at a toy store this December, you can bet that it will be over this doll. It lights up and sings "Let It Go" -- and your kid probably wants it. You can hunt it down now and pay $35, or wait until December and pay $200 on eBay (EBAY).

Merry Christmas!

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