Parents lament gifts of Christmases past

Stephanie Hartlaub of West Manchester Township acts out a dreaded Christmas morning scene with her children, Hope, 5, and Hunter, 1 (Photo by Jason Plotkin).

for Smart

When the very mention of a toy is enough to send shivers up a parent’s spine 27 years after his child received it, you know it’s earned its way on to the top of the “Worst Toy Ever” list.

It was Christmas 1985, writes Sandy McCarthy of Red Lion in an email. Her family was visiting friends on Long Island when her daughter, Katie, received “the dreaded roller-skating bear.”

Sandy McCarthy, left, holds the dreaded roller-skating bear, with her daughter, Katie, as friend and gift-giver Marge Livingston looks on.

The overall-clad bear skated along to the song “Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music” and proved to be a lifesaver of sorts when, on the drive home, the family got stuck in a traffic jam outside of John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“The only thing that kept Katie from crying and trying to get out of the car seat was watching the bear’s legs move back and forth, and listening to that song,” McCarthy writes. “So we had to listen to it for two hours straight!!”

To this day, if her husband, Walt, hears the song “Edelweiss,” he runs away screaming.

We imagine McCarthy would be horrified to learn that a similar “Edelweiss”-singing roller-skating bear was recently available on eBay for $79.95.

Your worst toy stories

As the gift-giving season fast approaches, we asked area parents what their most-hated toys were, in the hopes of rescuing others from toy hell. Here’s what they had to say:

“My least favorite toy in our house would have to be the Playskool Poppin’ Park Elefun Busy Ball Popper. This is by far the loudest and most annoying toy … even the name of the toy sounds awful. Someone bought this for our daughter for her first birthday and within seconds of it being out of the box I hated it. I keep it in the basement so she forgets to play with it. It has a loud fan that blows balls out of the elephant’s trunk topped off with music, and the balls end up flying everywhere. It has no educational value.”

mother of Caroline, 2,
Manchester Township

“Moon Sand. It’s AWFUL. … It does NOT stick together like it claims.”

mother of Ben, 7, and Sadie, 3,
West Manchester Township

The Playskool Bounce Back Racer tops the list of Sam and Pam Cooley, parents of 5-year-old Caden and 3-year-old Rylan. The remote control car is supposed to be able to scale obstacles or flip over and keep going. “It didn’t work at all,” Pam said. “Everyone who has it says it doesn’t work.”

They York Township couple also regret buying the boys a drum set, although Sam is more annoyed by the instrument than Pam. “I’m so conditioned to the noise,” she said.

Finally, Sam said sports equipment — especially a set of toy golf clubs – can be hazardous as well because the boys will swing them and unintentionally hit each other in the head. “They get a little overzealous,” Sam said.

parents of Caden, 5, and Rylan, 3,
York Township

Shannon Cook of Hanover said her family has gone through three VTech V.Smile Learning Systems because they would stop working after awhile. She’s also not too keen on puzzles (the kids just spread the pieces all over the floor) or any type of noisemakers (“I’ll hide them on the refrigerator,” she said).

mother of Jordyn, 7, and Mekenzie, 5,

Tammy Dorsey of West Manchester Township is not too fond of the metal guns her boys received as gifts. “They like to run after each and end up hitting each other with them,” she said.

mother of Conner, 7, and Cole, 5,
West Manchester Township

The most annoying toy Jess Minichino said she and her husband purchased for their daughter was a guitar. “She plays it all the time but doesn’t know how to play it,” Minichino said.

mother of Makayla, 6 and Alexis, 2,
Red Lion

“One Christmas my son got an Elmo garage for Matchbox cars, it’s just a little toy, but it made noise constantly — if it sensed movement it went off. We had to listen to it the whole way home from the Christmas party. Once we got home, we took the batteries out and they haven’t been put it since. My kids play with it just the way it is, with no noise.”

mother of RJ, 5, Larsen, 4, and Kamdyn, 2,
Dover Township

Reporter’s Notebook

As with most stories, the idea for this one came from personal experience.

Before I had children, I bought my nephew what I thought was the greatest gift ever: The Fisher-Price Learning Mower.

“Encourage laughing, singing and playing …Toddlers can enjoy push-along role-play while singing, learning and helping out,” the toy overview said on Perfect! I thought.

I should’ve known something was amiss when my sister Jen, upon learning I was pregnant with my first child, returned the mower to me. “I want you to experience how wonderful it is,” she said in a sweet voice dripping with acid,

The mower lay dormant in the nursery closet until Lily learned how to walk. Then the beast was awakened.

To be sure, Lily has spent many hours laughing (albeit maniacally) and playing with the mower, which, by my estimate, is louder than an international convention of lawnmower enthusiasts (if such a thing were to exist) – and this is without the batteries needed to play the sing-along songs and instrumental tunes.

Don’t even try carrying on a conversation while the lawn mower is in use, the ball-popper function will drown out anything you’d say, not that you’d be able to form a rational thought with all the noise. This, of course, isn’t helped by the fact that the only thing Lily wants to do with the lawn mower is chase the dog (who understandably barks in fear and frustration) while shrieking like a she-devil.

If scaring off a grizzly bear or dispersing a herd of wildebeests is in your future, then by all means pick up the learning mower. You can do both while also learning how to count and exploring opposites.

But if maintaining your hearing and sanity are at all important to you, maybe skip this one.


It’s still a little early to tell what the hottest toys of the 2012 holiday season will be. But based on their sales on, here are 10 toys parents actually seem to like:

1. Cards Against Humanity

2. LEGO Ninjago Lloyd ZX 9574

3. Syma S107/S107G R/C Helicopter

4. Solar Car – World’s Smallest Solar Powered Car

5. Monster High dolls

6. Manhattan Toy Winkel

7. Vtech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker

8. LEGO Ultimate Building Set

9. Pillow Pets Dream Lites

10. Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow Kit

– Source: best-selling toys

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1 Response

  1. December 24, 2012

    [...] one Christmas wish for you: None of these dreaded toys made it under your [...]

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