If you have small children or you're around small children, you are almost certainly aware of the Golden Rules of Present Buying for Munchkins.
Number One, never ever give a child anything that makes noise. Drum sets are right up there at the top of the no-go list, closely followed by cutesy talking dolls and creatures. Experienced parents know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the cute little squealing or squawking thingy becomes irritating really fast. And if it lights up or vibrates, the toy is likely to find itself buried in the yard or at the bottom of a box in the attic. No, mommy doesn’t know what happened to the Screaming Rubber Chicken...
Number Two, don’t even think about giving a kid something with a lot of small parts that end up getting lost five minutes after the package is opened. This applies to things like bead sets. Associated with this rule is the warning that you should steer clear of anything that makes a mess, like the dreaded Sand Art, Play Doh or the gooey yukky Pirate Slime.
And whatever you do, don’t get anything so complicated that daddy has to spend hour upon hour figuring it out. The prime offender in this category is Lego’s Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Robot kit (you pay nearly $300 for the thing and then spend the next month trying to figure out the fractured English instructions, only to find that a crucial part is missing).
So, what’s left? Not much. Every year in the run up to Christmas, Toys R Us issues its 'Fabulous 15 List' - the must have toys for the year. It may or may not come as a surprise, but many of the irritating toys on this list have made it into the Fab 15, and are carried “exclusively” at the store. Perhaps we've identified a culprit for those many interrupted nights' sleep?
Some of the 10 following really annoying toys are “classics” and some are as new - so be warned - but they're all some of the most irritating toys in the history of humanity.
10 Elmo Anything
There is so much to choose from. Elmo Guitar, Hug Me Elmo, Tickle Me Elmo, Chicken Dance Elmo. Chicken Dance Elmo has to be seen to be believed...
First, there is the really annoying little squeaky voice, that sometimes sings and sometimes comes out with “wuv you” words. Take Hug Me Elmo, it has 50 - count ‘em, 50 - animated phrases that are certain to drive mom up the wall. “Let’s pretend we’re rabbits, boing, boing, boing”. If you hug it, it hugs back. A tip for beleaguered moms everywhere, lay the thing down on its back and it goes to sleep. Night, night Elmo. Not as irritating as Chicken Dance, but close.
9 9. Screaming Rubber Chicken
It's hard to believe anyone ever thought this was a good idea. So annoying is this toy that it has been awarded its own string of YouTube Videos. It is just what is sounds like, a two foot rubber chicken that squawks when you squeeze it. It’s really loud and the squawking sound grates almost from the very beginning. It’s the easiest way in the world to make hard and fast enemies out of your former parent friends.
8 Duck Dynasty
On its web site, The Wish Factory waxes lyrical about its line of Duck Dynasty toys. There’s the bank with the talking pop-up redneck, the talking clock, the bearded Si Robertson bobble head figure that cackles out wise words (“Play Hard, Nap Hard” or “I’m down like a rodeo clown”). But the most irritating prize goes to the Duck Dynasty Deluxe Talking Animatronic Duck. It sings bits from ZZ Top songs featured on the show (“Legs” and “Sharp Dressed Man”) and turns its head and mouths, with moving beak and wagging tail, phrases like “No shoes, no socks, no problem”. Advertised as suitable for 4 and up, it costs around $40. And its annoyance factor is right up there with Billy the Big Mouth Bass.
7 Billy the Big Mouth Bass
Another animatronic nightmare, in 2000, just after Joe Pellettiere of Bass Pro Shops invented Billy, he was everywhere. You couldn’t walk into a drug store, department store or toy store without encountering Billy’s Big Mouth. He turned his head towards you and with an angry look and lips flapping sang “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “Take Me to the River” in a Bob Marley-esque voice. It’s cute for about three minutes and then you have a fight or flight response, either high tailing it out of the vicinity or being incited to violence. A recent ABC News report credited the Big Mouth Bass with spontaneously singing and scaring away a burglar in a tackle shop. But it's still irritating.
6 Grow A Frog
This is a kit, complete with a “see through” tadpole (all tadpoles are 'see through'). You send in a coupon and get a tadpole, in suspended animation, by return mail. Then the fun begins. “Watch its heart beat” and watch it grow into a real live frog that you have to feed and take care of for years. Irritating? No. Just downright infuriating. One family reported that when it got a little tadpole friend for its Grow a Frog creation, the frog ate his little friend and a few goldfish. Nasty.
Malevolently cute is the best way of describing Furby. There's just something sinister about the furry little creature. Starting in 1998, it was the “must have” toy for several years. 40 million were sold. The idea is cute; the little creature starts speaking gibberish (Furbish) and is programmed to gradually “learn” English. The thing is that late at night, when all the world’s asleep, Furby can spontaneously start talking, like a thing possessed. It’s a little scary. Emoto Tronic Furby, a 2005 invention, tells knock knock jokes, really bad knock knock jokes.
4 Zed the Zombie
Zombies are everywhere. There is, believe it or not, an incredibly popular series of small toys dubbed “Plants versus Zombie”, each package containing a not-very-scary rubber zombie and a plant - you pretend the two are foes. Sounds like fun... But Zed the Zombie adds insult to injury. It rises from the grave in pieces that game players frantically rush against the clock to put together again. Fail and the creature explodes all over the place. You can bet that after one or two games, body parts will go missing and mommy will be pretending to search online for replacements.
3 Despicable Me Fart Blaster
What's better to give a kid than a machine that farts? According the the Toys R Us website, Thinkway Toys is responsible for this travesty. Just as in the Despicable Me movie, this is a gun-like plastic toy that makes “funny” fart sounds and gives out with a rotten banana scent. “Every day’s a gas”, they say. It’s “good old fashion gross out family fun”. And, even better, there’s a joke mode. You can set the thing, leave it somewhere (say under mommy’s car seat) and 20 seconds later it comes out with a farting sound. “Tootin’ good times” is their motto.
2 2. Nerf N-Stroke Vulcan EPF 25 Blaster
This is a plastic blaster machine gun that, joy of joys, does not fart but does go rat-a-tat-tat, shooting 25 rubber tip darts up to 40 feet. Part of the fun is watching mommy crawl around on the floor unsuccessfully searching for the things, only to find one when she is walking barefoot across the living room. Sending the kids out to the yard doesn’t help. The chunky gun comes with slings and a tripod so you can swing it about and shoot all over the place, annoying the cat and making recovery of the darts nearly impossible. Never fear, you can get a 75 pack of replacement darts for $18. Might as well buy some spare batteries as well. The gift that never stops taking.
1 Popin’ Park Elefun Busy Ball Popper
For the really little ones, this “fun” elephant comes with 5 colorful plastic balls that are air popped all over the place while happy, happy, happy music plays. The video shows happy mommy and toddlers chasing around after the balls. Right. Four batteries not included, of course. You might as well save yourself some time and buy a pack or two of replacement balls for around $11. If the corny music doesn't get to you, the ball chasing will.