Fun is a funny, subjective thing. Sure, some executives and toy designers think they’ve struck gold, when really, their newest play creation is on the highway to the danger zone. Or in the case of these toys, parental disaster zones.
Here are ten toys that freaked parents out and stirred a bunch of controversy!
1) Parents thought Po had a Potty-Mouth
In the late ’90s, “Teletubbies” launched its own line of talking dolls.
I should know, I liberated one from Target for my sister during her raver-phase.
Shortly after the toys’ release in the late 90s, some parents began complaining about the “foul-mouthed” Teletubby doll named Po. Some parents said that the doll sounded like it was saying things like a word that rhymes with ‘Sagat’ from Street Fighter.
Read between the lines.
In response to parents’ complaints, Hasbro, the manufacturer behind the dolls, began including language cards in each doll’s box in order to “familiarize” consumers with the language of the Teletubbies.
2) Earring Magic Ken looked like he was wearing a sex toy on a chain
In 1993, Mattel Toys gave Barbie’s counterpart, Ken, a makeover so he could look “a little cooler.” Called “Earring Magic Ken,” the doll wears a purple mesh shirt, a blue leather vest, earrings, and a silver ring on a chain.
Many felt Ken’s overall look fit gay stereotypes of the time and some called special attention to the doll’s necklace. Multiple publications, including Queerty and Pride, said that Ken’s necklace strongly resembles a sex toy that was considered a queer fashion statement in the ’90s.
Lisa McKendall, former manager of marketing and communications for Mattel Toys, denied the claims that Ken was wearing a sex toy. “It’s a necklace. It holds charms he can share with Barbie,” McKendall told The Chicago Reader in 1993. “C’mon, this is a doll designed for little girls, something like that would be entirely inappropriate.”
According to the HuffPost, this bestselling doll was later discontinued and recalled.
3) Breast Feeding Baby Doll Freaks Out Americans
As if childhood in and of itself isn’t weird enough.
Or breastfeeding, for that matter.
In the 2000s, the company Berjuan Toys introduced Bebé Glotón, a toy designed to let children imitate the act of breastfeeding a baby. The toy comes with a child-sized bra with flower-shaped nipples that the doll can “suck” on. The baby doll is also designed to make sucking and burping sounds.
As ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported, some parents in the US were angry about the doll because they thought it “forced girls to grow up too quickly” and some even felt it could promote young pregnancies. Other parents called the toy “bizarre” and “unnecessary,” according to CBS.
But not all parents thought the doll was an issue — some told ABC that they thought the toy was a great idea and it could help “normalize” and “increase the popularity of” breastfeeding.
4) Sexist Talking Barbie Can’t Do Math
In 1992, Teen Talk Barbie was released by Mattel. Each doll contains a voice box that allows the doll to say four random phrases out of 270 possible ones. One of the phrases that garnered the most attention was “Math class is tough!”
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) criticized the use of that phrase in a report about how schools treat girls unfairly. According to the New York Times, following the report’s publication, Mattel removed the phrase from the toy’s computer chip and offered to exchange any “offending” doll.
“In hindsight, the phrase ‘math class is tough,’ while correct for many students both male and female, should not have been included,” Jill E. Barad, Mattel’s president at the time, wrote in a letter to Sharon Schuster, president of AAUW. “We didn’t fully consider the potentially negative implications of this phrase, nor were we aware of the findings of your organization’s report.”
5) Whack-n-Play Tarzan
In 1999, Disney released a Tarzan doll. The movie-inspired doll makes a “jungle call” sound and it is also able to move its arm up and down.
“I think this is where adults look at things through a different set of eyes,” Mattel spokeswoman Sara Rosales told the Las Vegas Sun in 1999. “Kids have a much more innocent concept.”
Following the consumer feedback, Rosales said Mattel would change the doll’s packaging so that its arm could not “drop below the waist.”
6) Big Brother Pets Spies on You
When CloudPets came out a few years ago, they were marketed as “a message you can hug.” You can record voice messages on the CloudPets mobile app and send it to a child’s stuffed animal. Then the child can reply by pressing the doll’s paw to record their own message.
Shortly after the toy’s release, a reported data leak involving these internet-connected toys was uncovered.
According to 2017 Forbes report, Troy Hunt, an application security expert, was one of the first individuals to notice that someone had a copy of the CloudPets database that included the information of CloudPets’ users, such as the profile photos of children and their recorded audio files. He said there was no way to know how many people had access to it.
“Parents need to work on the assumption that if they have a CloudPet, multiple unauthorized parties could have accessed their voice recordings,” Hunt told The Huffington Post in an email.
In a statement to NetworkWorld magazine, Mark Myers, chief executive at CloudPets, denied that any voice recordings were stolen. He also called the incident a “very minimal issue.”
Over a year later, retailers including eBay and Amazon stopped selling the toys, according to BBC.
7) Girl’s Work
In 2014, the It’s Girl Stuff! cleaning toy set went viral. Manufactured by Kandytoys, the set consists of things like a dustpan and a broom that kids can use to pretend to clean. The toy’s purple and pink packaging is covered in flowers and the gender symbol for female.
Some users took to Twitter to express their disappointment with the fact the faux cleaning supplies seemed to be labeled and designed specifically for girls. In a 2014 article for The Huffington Post, one writer called it “most sexist toy in town.”
“When you add it up, it does matter to tell little girls that cleaning is for them and their role or to tell boys that they aren’t allowed to do things in the domestic sphere,” Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexismproject, told the Telegraph in 2014. “I just wouldn’t label it girl’s stuff – it’s just so unnecessary and restrictive for both boys and girls.”
8) American Homeless Girl
In 2009, American Girl released Gwen Thompson, the company’s first doll that is homeless, according to its backstory. The doll retailed for $95 and was limited edition.
A representative from the Mattel-owned American Girl company told ABC News that the doll is meant to teach tolerance and promote an anti-bullying message.
Although some praised the doll for showing “awareness of what’s going on in the world,” the doll was also criticized by many parents. Some homeless advocates praised the doll until they realized it was not being used as a “fundraising device” for individuals who are homeless, according to HuffPost.
9) Cabbage Patch Kids Snacktime Kids Will Eat YOU
Released in 1996, Cabbage Patch Kids Snacktime Kids dolls have battery-powered, mechanical jaws that move when the doll is fed the plastic toy foods that come with it. But according to a 1997 report from the New York Times, sometimes children’s hair or fingers would also get stuck in the dolls’ motorized mouths.
The publication reported that a 7-year-old girl in Connecticut got her hair stuck in her Snacktime doll’s mouth and she had to be freed from the toy by rescue workers, although she was not injured. According to officials, this was one of the estimated 100 reports of kids getting their fingers or hair caught in the dolls’ mouths.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in 1997, Mattel Inc. (the company behind Cabbage Patch Kids) said they would offer $40 refunds for the 500,000 dolls they had sold and they would be removing 200,000 dolls from stores.
10) Magnetix Recalled After Millions of Kids Swallow Magnets
Magnetix Magnetic building kits were released by Rose Art in the early 2000s and they consisted of small, colorful magnets meant to be used for building. The product was soon deemed unsuitable for children as consumers realized how dangerous the small, colorful magnets could be when swallowed.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled millions of Magnetix toys in 2006 after a 20-month-old died after he swallowed the magnets and they “twisted his small intestine and created a blockage.”In 2007, CPSC announced an expanded recall of Magnetix Magnetic building sets after “additional serious injuries” to children occurred, including at least 27 intestinal injuries.
According to the Chicago Tribune, some individuals did not think the building kits were recalled soon enough.