Tomorrow is my birthday, and a couple of people asked me what I want. My standard answer for the past thirty-three years has been the same: "Toys. Plastic toys." I feel a great sense of relief that my son is willing to go to Toys R Us and just wander the aisles - just looking at the permutations of polyvinylchloride. I have my eye on a couple of things, but it's mostly a vicarious thing these days - the toy pipeline to our house is now pretty clogged with the demand my son places on it.
No, tonight I find myself remembering toys past. Dangerous toys with sharp edges and questionable wiring. The first one that always comes to my mind is Yardarts - also known as Lawn Darts. These babies were eighteen inches long with steel tips that you were supposed to toss in a soft arc in the air to try and land one in the middle of a target circle. It's a cute enough notion, and I'm sure that with enough adult supervision none of these projectiles would find their way winging toward a younger brother or family pet. They just didn't consider the portion of every ten-year-old's brain that says "I wonder what would happen if I..." These were weapons - no two ways about it.
A more creative outlet was found in Mattel's Thingmaker. Pour the Goop into a mold, plug in your heating unit and then the fun really starts. The molds were metal, and capable of withstanding and maintaining a very high degree of heat. The goop would heat to a point, then needed to be removed and cooled in a special cooling tray (box of water). If you didn't get to the mold on time, your house would smell like burning tractor tires for about two weeks - burning Goop really reeks. Once the mold has cooled completely (ten-year-old patience, same kind of problem), you carefully peel the rubber thingie out of the mold and attempt to trim it and attach it to some other piece that you have created earlier. Something I'm sure Mattel didn't want us to do was to take the wet, cooled mold and drop it back into the heating unit. I'm sure they didn't expect us to try and return the rubber bits back into Goop by melting them down in the heating unit. Maybe there was some lengthy safety dissertation somewhere in the directions - I didn't read them. Here's what Mattel did expect us to do: for at least one of the kits - The Fright Factory - encouraged kids to make fake teeth and tongues and put them in their mouths. Really - with assurances of them being "non-toxic." As my wife and brother-in-law have pointed out, this means "safe to eat" to kids.
I understand that Mattel is now marketing a new "safe" version of the Thingmaker (with a light bulb for a heating element). You can buy Yardarts on Ebay. Alas, it's not the same. I'll hold out for some assembly required.