Toys that try to be smart but end up failing miserably

courtesy of

the article

This toy that was designed to teach children environmentalism bothers me in so many ways.  It’s not a product yet, just a prototype (as of 09/12/07), but here are all the things that i think would be wrong with it, should it become a product:

First of all, i don’t like toys, or anything for that matter, that underestimate children’s brains.  This is just another toy that doesn’t teach, but only trains.  Think about it:  how many parents would hand this toy to their kid and explain to him its purpose?  And even if some do, how many kids would listen?  Just make a toy that lets kids think, for god’s sake.  How about some kind of chemistry set that shows them visually how greenhouse gases cause global warming?  Do something with gases to make different colors that allow kids to witness the change.  Every kid loves seeing colors change.

How many times would the parents remember to pack that toy when they’re taking their kid to the beach?  Even if they do bring it, how likely is it that they’ll remember to take it out of the trunk, which is loaded with iceboxes, umbrellas, folding chairs, and food, give it to their kid, and explain how it works?

How likely is it that after their kid finds enough bottles to complete the octopus, the parents will lovingly remove the legs and recycle them, if they don’t teach their kid to recycle them himself?

Once the octopus is completed, the kid will surely enjoy floating it on the water while he’s swimming.  And then it might float out of his reach, away from the shore, and, well, you know what i’m getting at here.  Safety is the most important factor when it comes to toys, and this designer obviously didn’t think of all the possibilities of danger.  Even if the kid is saved, the octopus will likely be forgotten, and that means six more plastic bottles and a plastic octopus to add to the ocean’s pollution.

And, hello?  Octopuses have eight legs.  The toy only allows for six.  Kids are gonna think octopuses have six legs.  They’ll never understand the latin root octo.

Also, the octopus has only one size openings for legs.  Is it okay for bottles with bigger mouths (and there are plenty of them out there, especially with the current design trend towards varied bottle mouth sizes) to pollute the environment?

So how useful would this toy be in either saving the environment or teaching kids to care about it (and even to understand the meaning of octopuses and octograms)?  Not very.


Filed under culture, design, products, technology

3 responses to “Toys that try to be smart but end up failing miserably

  1. Oh yeah, one more thing: A toy that encourages kids to touch litter on the beach? I can’t say the octopus not having eight legs bothers me much – that’s stupid, yes, but I don’t think it’ll be a stupidity that stays in the brains of children. But really, what the hell? Litter is dangerous. What if those bottles are glass, and broken?

    Besides, this doesn’t encourage shit. What’s the “reward” here? Something that floats? Big deal. It’s not like you get a worthwhile toy out of it. And personally, I’m not thrilled with children playing with something made up of stuff just lying around. Isn’t that something we should be encouraging them not to do?

  2. n

    Good point. I’ve seen some disgusting things on the beach, and i sure as hell wouldn’t want any kid touching them. I’m not against children playing with random found objects per se (i’m all for exploration and experimentation with whatever is around you), but i do agree that it could be dangerous.

  3. Yeah, looking back, now I realize I sound like I’m discouraging the idea of children playing with found objects. I’m certainly not against that. As a kid – okay, even now, really, I’ve found that the most fun can be had out of objects often discarded.

    Still – litter is usually garbage. (Not always, but mostly.) That’s something I wouldn’t want kids rooting around with.

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