Excerpted from Adventures in the Produce Aisle by Perel Grossman
In preparation for Chanukah, I would like to warn my loyal readers about the dangers of certain games and recreational items that you may be tempted to purchase for your children. Now, I’m not talking actual physical danger here. I’m saying, danger to the mental stability of the person or persons overseeing the running of the household: namely, Mommy.
Lite Brite – This toy has, unbelievably, been on the market since I was a child (a mere few years). It is comprised of a backlit screen, a piece of paper sporting a pattern that slides behind the screen, and two zillion transparent pegs of various colors.
Unbeknownst to the innocent consumer, these tabs are programmed to secrete themselves in any and every crevice in the home. Homeland Security experts believe that they are Radical Islam’s secret weapon to bring the West to its knees. This they do, as moms and dads comb through the long hair of their mustard-yellow shag carpet (can you say “time to redecorate”?) on their hands and knees to find all of the missing pieces. Yet only small humans of teething age are successful in finding these tasty pegs.
Researchers at Cal-Tech counter have their own theory, that this game is marketed by our own homegrown FBI and is used to beam back confidential information from our homes to their satellite bases for various nefarious purposes. Thus far, government authorities have refused to comment on the veracity of this story. (Like they would tell me if it was true.)
If you make the mistake of purchasing this item, trust me, you will regret it. No matter how carefully you box, bag, or otherwise contain the plastic tabs, they will find a way out. You will come upon these glass-like annoyances throughout your days. You will step on them at two a.m. when you stagger into the kitchen to warm the baby’s bottle. You will discover them under your sheets, in your odds-and-ends drawer, and in the dryer (where they trade places with single socks yearning to break away and start a new life elsewhere). And finally, you will come upon them when you slit open the envelopes containing your Social Security check.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Sand Art – Homemakers have long been waging a battle against dirt of any kind. The broom, the vacuum, and the mop are just a few of the implements created to keep dirt, soil, and sand outside where they belong. So which sane, self-respecting housewife would willingly invite sand of any sort into her home? The kind of housewife that cannot deny her children what they want, that’s who! In fact, she won’t just invite it in; she’ll pay good money for it!
The colored sand included in these decorating kits comes in small vials, which strongly resemble laboratory test tubes. This is only one of the clues which lead me to believe that this product was concocted by some mad scientist with a not-so-subconscious grudge against his domineering mother.
The sand particles gravitate towards deep pile carpeting, plastic tablecloths, and bed sheets. You may think you have adequately swept the kitchen floor, but this super-fine powder will effectively coat the feet of your little ones, carrying the substance into carpeted rooms. There, the sand can settle down comfortably and enjoy a long and fulfilling life until it decomposes. Which is never.
Sand Art favors the crevices in your brand-new dining room chairs, and particularly enjoys sleeper sofas and recliners, where it can be discovered anew when you open the bed in front of Tante Shaina. (Tante Shaina is the one who irons her napkins. The paper ones.)
In truth, there is one area of the house that the sand truly respects. It will not trespass upon this receptacle unless firmly placed there by strong human hands. That is to say: the garbage bin.
Sadly, even if you are strong enough to deny your children this type of project (which, I will admit, does keep them constructively occupied), you may not be able to entirely avoid the “sand trap.” This is due to the fact that enterprising youngsters have developed a method to create their own colored sand. It involves colored chalk, twenty paper plates, every surface in the dining room and living room, and all of the salt in your entire house, including the stuff in your best crystal shakers. ‘Nuff said.
Slime – This dull green substance has a sticky, mucus-like composition. My only comment about this form of children’s entertainment is the following: WHY?
Multi-Level Garage Parking System for Kids – The tip-off: This 685,421-piece toy for children ages 3+ costs only $1.39. There are several reasons for this:
a) The toys are assembled in Boputhatswana, where labor is cheap. The instructions, it follows, are in Boputhatswanese.
b) No adult of average intellect could possibly figure out how to construct this thing. It is believed to be another plot by Radical Islam to undermine the authority of Jewish men.
c) None of the stickers fit on the designated panels. When you finish assembling it to the best of your ability, the structure will resemble buildings which were never completed due to lack of funds. It will look nothing like the glossy picture on the box that your two-year-old ran over with his cozy coupe as you were sweating over the instructions, Boputhatswanese dictionary in hand.
I know what you’re saying: Perel Grossman wants to do away with almost every toy known to Childrenkind. She wants to deprive our kids of fun and joy. Not true! I have several games and toys that I would very much approve of; truly educational ones that will help our children plan for the future. Towards this end, I have compiled a short list of …
TOYS I’D LIKE TO SEE ON THE MARKET
Cozy Coupe ’76 – No sleek streamlined plastic automobile is this. The Cozy Coupe ’76 includes: one headlight, one windshield wiper, cracked seats, windows stuck in the midway position, a steering wheel that detaches without warning, and a radio that is activated only by a precisely-aimed karate chop. The C.C. ’76 features many realistic sounds, thus allowing your child to enjoy a real driving experience: the scraping of a muffler following reluctantly behind its former host car, the hiss of a tire rapidly losing air, and (a kid’s favorite!) the wailing of a police siren giving chase.
Press a button (You may have to hold it down. To expedite, recite kapitel 121 of Tehillim with great fervor), and the latest in technology brings you the aromas of a y.c. (yeshivishe car) – noxious exhaust fumes, the tantalizing odor of burning rubber, and a hard-to-identify smell indicating the probable location of the salmon trout that Mommy never could find when she got home from the fish store. A vehicle that is sure to afford your youngster hours of fun and entertainment.
Real Life – Similar in concept to the game of Life, this version challenges youngsters to avoid bankruptcy while paying the yeshivah tuition, mortgage, diapers, and car repair bills. If the player lands on a “bad sheitel day” square, he draws a “Gam Zu L’Tova” card, which may contain a message such as: Your son lost one shoe. Don’t even bother looking for it. You won’t find it until you buy a new pair. Forfeit $50.
Any player who amasses any kind of savings must pick a card from the Mazel/Shlemazel pile. A typical inscription would be: Mazel Tov! Your daughter is engaged to the best boy in Lakewood/Chaim Berlin/Ner Yisrael. The mechutan is in chinuch. Go directly to Gemach. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200. It won’t be enough.
An educational tool that will thrill your youngsters.
Kugelach – Instead of trying to catch small metal squares without dropping them, this game involves trying to turn oily potato-based cakes onto plates without dropping or mutilating them. For the bravest children only. Great training for future moms and caterers.
Lego: Deluxe Diplomacy Set – This game is not what you think. A china doll is tossed into the air and two children grab for it. The third must try to convince the other two, who are each tugging at one arm and one leg of the doll, to “lego” before it cracks. This game involves cunning, logic, and even subtle deceit, such as a distraction (“Hey, look! A one-eyed chicken!”), skills which will serve children well as they grow up and become parents.
Books Your Kids Might Enjoy:
Goldy Locks and the Three Wigs – The heartbreaking tale of one kallah’s search for the perfect, yet affordable, sheitel to match her golden tresses.
Little Red Riding Helmet – A fully-illustrated book designed to teach youngsters the importance of wearing a helmet when riding a bike. Highly educational.
Sleeping Beauty Gets Hers (alternate title: Crime and Punishment) – The spine-tingling thriller which tells the story of a hapless Bais Yaakov girl who oversleeps and misses Mishlei class. Warning: Contains subject matter which may be unsuitable for younger, nightmare-prone readers.
Well, that’s all the time we have today, folks. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Toy Review & Recommendations. So, until next year, have a safe and lichtige Chanukah!