Wednesday 24 May 2006

child's play

I've always maintained that a lot of things aimed at children are pretty damn terrifying. Take things like Teletubbies, for example - what the merry hell is that supposed to be about? Then there are nursery rhymes ("Let's all sing about the plague, children!"), fairy tales involving witches eating wayward children who have wandered into the woods, and don't even get me started about clowns.

I have recently made a frightening discovery involving several of my son's toys: they beckon you when you leave them. He's got a stuffed puppy that sings and plays games when you press its paws, and if you leave it alone for a few minutes, it cries out in an artificially created mock child's voice "I love you!" It's not cute; it's like something out of a horror film. I'm waiting for it to creep up the side of our bed late at night and softly sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" at us while its eyes glow bright red. Jack's got a plastic farm that plays a few tunes and makes animal noises, and after it's left for several minutes, it shouts out "YEEEEHAAAAW!" The first time it did that, my heart leapt out of my throat.

My uncle got a Furby for his kids a few years ago, and he said that it used to make noises and move its eyes all by itself. I'm still traumatised by a toy I once had called "Baby Alive", a doll that contorted its mouth while you shoved something resembling orange custard in its mouth and then deposited it out the other end. I'm not sure what people in children's toy marketing are trying to do with our offspring, but it's scaring the crap out of me. That's it; I'm only buying Lego and Playdough for my son.

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