Do Kids Really Have to Wear Helmets, Knee Pads and Elbow Protectors to Play with This Toy?

Every year, the “non-profit” organization W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) comes up with its “10 yyhyyrsfbr
Most Dangerous Toy
” list, which the media laps up.

I bet you couldn’t guess the group is run by product liability lawyer James A. Swartz. Here’s my favorite warning of his this time around:



W.A.T.C.H. is raging against Bump ‘n Bounce Body Bumpers, an inflatable garment that seems to make kids into beach balls. The manufacturer dutifully printed on the package:

“WARNING! To avoid risk of serious injury or death: …This product does not provide protection. Impact hazard may present; protective equipment (for head, elbows, knees, hands, etc) should be worn (not included).”

Which you’d think might be warning enough. But the plaintiff’s group chides that:

Children on the packaging are shown running into each other without any “protection” (not included), as recommended by the manufacturer.


The group has been delivering these lists to an eager-for-scary-headlines media since 1973. One year the list actually warned against a Batman doll because its ears are made of sturdy plastic:

“[t]oddlers may fall on these inflexible protrusions, with the potential for penetrating and blunt-force injuries.”

Holy frivolous lawsuit, Batman! Do we really have to worry about kids impaling themselves on dolls?  

So here’s the Reuters’ story on this year’s list by Scott Malone. I was delighted to read the end, which says:

“There’s nothing that has zero risk,” said Lenore Skenazy, founder of the free-range kids movement and a contributor to the online commentary site “If you are a plaintiffs’ attorney you want to make it seem like anything that ever happens to a child is someone else’s fault. If there are no accidents, the world is your courtroom.”

56 Responses to Do Kids Really Have to Wear Helmets, Knee Pads and Elbow Protectors to Play with This Toy?

  1. BL November 17, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    Anybody for a game of lawn darts?

  2. Edward Hafner November 17, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    Hands up if you “know someone who still has an original set of lawn darts.”
    Mine is.

  3. Emily November 17, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    Hey guys, let’s play a game. I’ll name a toy that seems perfectly safe, then the next person has to come up with some crazy, far-fetched way in which it could possibly be dangerous. Then that person has to come up with another “perfectly safe” toy, and so on, and so forth. I’ll start:

    A sock monkey with eyes that are embroidered on, so they can’t be pulled off and choked on.

  4. Jess November 17, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    @Emily, what if some poor child decides to swallow one of the limbs and chokes because they can’t get the whole thing down? Better make it for 14 years and up.

    I’m having trouble thinking of a follow-up…I keep seeing paper cuts, choking, and impaling no matter what I think of…Maybe I should have worked in insurance…

  5. Workshop November 17, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    My seven-year-old is learning Ryukyu Kempo. I really want to send these nitwits a picture of him punching a board just so they can have an aneurism.

  6. Workshop November 17, 2016 at 10:22 am #

    Oh, and I have an original set of lawn darts.

  7. lollipoplover November 17, 2016 at 10:36 am #

    **Raises hand**

    I also have the original “Fun Ski’s” from Whamoo that used ropes to tie onto your feet (white rope that was lost that first snow) so we learned to balance on them and ski dangerously fast and out of control down the sledding hills…no poles, helmets, or bubble wrap. So much fun.

    Not to be anymore Debbie Downer on this toy, but wouldn’t the hard plastic of the protective wear recommended puncture the (likely) Made in China, wafer-thin plastic?

    Not so much fun bumping and bopping when your deflated…

  8. Rick November 17, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    “If you are a plaintiffs’ attorney you want to make it seem like anything that ever happens to a child is someone else’s fault. If there are no accidents, the world is your courtroom.”

    That pretty much sums up the fear-mongering ideology we’ve been subjected 24/7.

  9. Beth November 17, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    Reference the sock monkey, don’t those have gangly limbs? I would be super afraid that my kid would wrap the limb around his neck and choke himself. None of those in my house!!!!

  10. Earth.W November 17, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    I don’t know about you but I bubblewrapped everything here. Even the trees are bubble wrapped. Just can’t take the chance so I snuck out and bubblewrap every car I come across.

  11. Emily November 17, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    Bubble wrap is dangerous!!! Kids could pop all the bubbles and use it to strangle each other!!! They could try to pop the bubbles with their teeth, and accidentally bite off a piece of bubble wrap, and then choke on it!!!

  12. pentamom November 17, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    Emily’s game: hula hoop.

  13. Beth November 17, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    @pentamom, it could roll into the street and the kid it would be hit by a car.

  14. that mum November 17, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    hula hoop could get out of control; and knock out a tooth. especially if you are like I was as a kid and preferred to do it around your neck rather than waist– oooh it could give you whiplash that way… awesome.

    rubber duckie.

    this is all reminding me of the old SNL bit with Candace Bergen and Dan Ackroyd. one of my favorite skits.

  15. Emily November 17, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    Back to the game—–a squishy sponge ball like the ones we used to play dodgeball with in gym class (or take the whole bag of them and have “indoor snowball fights”) when I was in grade two.

  16. John B. November 17, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    We might as well ban touch football for any kid under 18 too. I mean, a kid might fall down and skin his knee or they might bump into each other and hurt themselves. Same with a pick-up basketball game for any “child” under 18. These activities are just too dangerous for kids!

    Then they have the nerve to complain that kids today are lazy and fat and do not have the strength and stamina their parents had at their age. If this is indeed true, it’s the crazy, paranoid adults who are at fault, not the kids.

  17. BL November 17, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    @John B.
    “We might as well ban touch football for any kid under 18 too.”

    At my grade-school playground the players were quite upset to be limited to only “touch” football.

  18. lollipoplover November 17, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    “a squishy sponge ball like the ones we used to play dodgeball with in gym class”

    You mean Dodgeball???

  19. Kirsten November 17, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

    Okay, how can you hurt yourself with an Etch-A-Sketch?

  20. lollipoplover November 17, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    “Okay, how can you hurt yourself with an Etch-A-Sketch?”

    You could crack open the cover to harvest the aluminum powder so you can make thermite and burn through a warehouse door. It’s been done. I saw it on TV.

  21. BL November 17, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    “Okay, how can you hurt yourself with an Etch-A-Sketch?”

    You could sketch something triggering, like a gun-shaped poptart.

  22. Emily November 17, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    @BL–A gun-shaped Pop-Tart!!! Don’t you guys know how DANGEROUS Pop-Tarts are, with all their sugar and chemical additives?!?!?!? And where in nature has anyone seen a “blue raspberry?”

    Okay, we need another toy… about Beanie Babies?

  23. Kelly November 17, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

    Excellent contribution when we need it most.

  24. Amy November 17, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

    While I have actually seen an adult carried away by ambulance after getting injured in a similar “toy”, this still looks like fun. The whole list is hilarious! Last year, I actually got some present ideas from this list (Velocoraptor claws, from Jurassic World, for my then three year old daughter. Sure she was younger than the recommended age, but she loves dinosaurs and it totally made her Christmas).

  25. Havva November 17, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    2016, the year W.A.T.C.H. decided that literally wrapping your kid in a bubble isn’t safe enough.

  26. Roger the Shrubber November 17, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

    A saw an adult injured while using the similar, culturally appropriative, Sumo wrestler suits. Heads collided and one split a lip. Alcohol may have been involved. Funniest thing about that party was when I was leaving with my 8-year old he said ‘Daddy, I heard a lot of bad words today.’

    Hula hoops may cause repetitive stress spinal injuries.

  27. Katie November 17, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

    @Emily – Beanie Babies not only have eyes that can be pried off and then choked on but some have ribbons that you can remove then wrap around an appendage (finger, toe, etc) which would then cut off circulation ultimate resulting in amputation which could then led to antibiotic resistant MRSA (sp?) and ultimately death

    I can’t think of a toy that is completely without “dangers” guess we just shouldn’t have kids, drive cars, eat food, breath air…basically live because ultimately we could die. Oh wait…we’re all going to do that eventually.

    How about a sheet of craft foam?

  28. Jessica November 17, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    “Children on the packaging are shown running into each other without any “protection” (not included)”

    They’re literally WEARING IT ALREADY. The entire product is a protective bubble around the child. It’s ALREADY A SAFETY THING. It makes it SAFER for them to slam their bodies into each other.


  29. Jess November 17, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    Okay, I just read through the entire list and holy cow! I was near tears from laughing. Honestly, if your kid is likely to impale himself on a plastic dinosaur’s tail, I think you have bigger problems. And the Superman toy is just a remake of the Barbie fairy launcher. Was that on the list before (if it wasn’t, was it not dangerous then, and if it was, then this is just a repeat)? Seriously, some of these toys are on the list because they don’t have the “appropriate” warnings or because they don’t include the safety protection the package shows or recommends.

  30. En Passant November 17, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

    BL November 17, 2016 at 12:20 pm wrote:

    At my grade-school playground the players were quite upset to be limited to only “touch” football.

    Just for comparison to the present. When I was in elementary school and dinosaurs roamed the earth in the 1950s, we played full tackle football at recess, more or less on the sly, no helmets, pads or anything else. Some kids even played barefoot.

    For 5th and 6th grades there was organized intermural football among several elementary schools. That was “flag football”, similar to “touch football”. Blocking was same as ordinary football. Tackling consisted of grabbing and removing the ball carrier’s “flag”, a red kerchief loosely tucked into the back of the pants waistline.

    By 7th grade, organized school teams played full tilt tackle football, with regular padded uniforms, shoulder pads, and cleated shoes.

    Football was a second religion in those parts. But nobody was killed or even seriously injured as I recall.

    For little league baseball, batters wore “batter’s helmets”, which had no top, but padding in a rigid outer shell which wrapped around the batter’s head from temple to temple. I once got beaned by a wildly high and inside pitch, and woke up on first base. So I’m glad for those batter’s helmets.

  31. Backroads November 17, 2016 at 5:13 pm #

    Craftfoam: This, in and of itself, is a fun and perfectly safe toy.

    However, it’s a gateway toy. It leads to children not just being satisfied with their sheet of foam, but getting out SCISSORS and HOT GLUE and SMALL CHOKABLE OBJECTS in order to CREATE, which then takes away from more focused standards-based learning.

    Those little plastic cones with the stackable rings for babies.

  32. Jess November 17, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

    For the stacking rings – they can be flattened, creating a sharp edge along the seam that can lead to cuts and scrapes.

  33. AmyO November 17, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    Now I’m just picturing some poor kid with nothing to play with except one solitary piece of craft foam. Do they have pointed or rounded edges, by the way?

    So sad… lol

  34. Beanie November 17, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    Backroads: “Focused, standards-based learning.”
    Oh wait, that’s not funny. Last year the principal told the second grade teachers that she didn’t want to walk in and see the kids using scissors.
    Maybe she was just concerned about their safety?

  35. Cinnamon November 17, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    how much is the fear for kids safety driven by fear of litigation or shaming,
    and how much is really driven by fear for the kids safety ?

    If you build cars – people will die in them
    if you build aircraft – people will die in them.
    if you build ships ….. etc…
    if you have kids….some will die of accidents…

    if you are live on earth…. one day you will exit …

    Given that we happily accept the 1 in 20,000 lifetime risk of dying in a car accident
    that makes MOST other activities MUCH safer in comparision.

    It is not a question of NO risk, but of acceptable risk.

  36. Barry Lederman November 17, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

    I agree with Jessica’s comment

    Add to that, the fact that they are pictured playing on soft plush grass. Not something dangerous like hard concrete or pointy-eared batman dolls.

  37. Xena November 18, 2016 at 1:03 am #

    And what are those bubbles in bubble wrap filled with? If they pop, are we in danger? Should we have gas masks, just in case?

  38. Xena November 18, 2016 at 1:05 am #

    Kirsten – re: Etch-a-Sketch. Carpal tunnel syndrome, a common repetitive motion injury.

  39. sexhysteria November 18, 2016 at 3:14 am #

    Kids play this same game without any body bumper, which offers much-needed skin contact. Three kids sit on a couch, and a fourth runs up to them and dives onto their laps. The dive bomber then has to hold on to any body part available to avoid the seated children from pushing the diver onto the floor. Over and over again – looks like great fun.

  40. Buffy November 18, 2016 at 7:22 am #

    “Football was a second religion in those parts. But nobody was killed or even seriously injured as I recall.”

    To be fair, though, CTE *is* a real thing, and can begin in kids due to the repetitive blows to the head common in contact sports.

  41. Emily November 18, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    Okay, back to the “completely safe toys” game…….how about a dollhouse that has no sharp edges, and comes with furniture that’s too big to choke on, and it’s all done in gender-neutral colours, like the 1980’s Fisher-Price dollhouse that I had as a child?

  42. Kirsten November 18, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    Last night after reading this Youtube sent me a video suggestion and it turned out to be this annoying video “Incredibly Dangerous Toys From the Past You’ll Be Left Speechless”:

  43. Kirsten November 18, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    @Emily Warning: children exposed to this product may be in danger of developing a taste for faux-Tudor style architecture.

  44. En Passant November 18, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

    Buffy wrote November 18, 2016 at 7:22 am:

    To be fair, though, CTE *is* a real thing, and can begin in kids due to the repetitive blows to the head common in contact sports.

    True dat.

    I do not recall any head blows in elementary school (from ground contact or from player contact) in either informal playground tackle football, where helmets were not used; or in more organized intermural touch or flag football, where helmets were used.

    Much more typical was “getting breath knocked out” by shoulder to abdomen collisions with full momentum of runner and tackler or blocker combined. Often in those collisions there was no head contact with anything, for either player.

    That doesn’t mean repetitive head blows did not happen, just that I don’t recall them happening.

    Jr. high and high school football with full padding and helmets had much more frequent and much harder blows generally. Repetitive head blows were much more likely there I think. By that time, the players were much heavier also. And CTE can occur even with helmets.

  45. K November 18, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    Re: touch football – I remember when my cousin broke a bone playing football. My mom (who had all girls), was surprised, and asked my aunt, “Don’t they play touch football?” She laughed. “Yeah, they play touch football. ‘I take my two hands and I TOUCH you as hard as I can.'” Still, they played! Maybe not anymore.

  46. Backroads November 18, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    I’m pretty sure I threw that dollhouse at my brother during one of my infamous tantrums and gave him a goose egg.

  47. Havva November 18, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

    Those doll houses were actually removed from the market and completely re-designed into a fairly un-fun chunky monstrosity. They were one of the first victims of W.A.T.C.H. featured on the cover of founder Edward M. Swartz’s book “Toys That Kill”. The little people figurines were on the cover of the book, and accused of choking toddlers.
    My daughter loves my old little people city, and her cousins love the old sesame street club house. The new little people doll house doesn’t get as much love, and frankly just isn’t as fun. (This mini van and 2 figurines, which unfortunately we have, doesn’t take up much less space than the house you fondly remember, and which I now want for my kid).

  48. Emily November 18, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

    Really? My beloved childhood dollhouse made the “Toys That Kill” list? Well, if I’m still alive, that must mean it didn’t work. Can I retroactively demand a refund?

  49. pentamom November 18, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

    I had the late 60s version of that dollhouse — structurally the same but plainer on the outside. The roof was yellow but I can’t remember the color of the outside walls. That was probably the most-loved toy of my entire childhood. It lasted through the toddlerhood of one of my girls, I think.

  50. pentamom November 18, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    (She survived it, too)

  51. Emily November 19, 2016 at 8:24 am #

    Pentamom, was this your dollhouse?

    Anyway, I can’t help but think that these ever-increasing safety standards on toys, might possibly just be a ploy to keep people buying new toys. I mean, yes, recalling “dangerous” items, and having to offer refunds, hurts the toy companies in the short run, but in the long run, it discourages parents from handing their childhood toys down to their kids, because those toys are considered “dangerous” by the current safety standards. So, for toy companies that have been around forever, like Fisher-Price, they know that they’ll have a steady income stream as people procreate, because surely these people wouldn’t let their children play with dangerous toys, like the ones they played with as children, would they?

  52. Jackie November 19, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    How about the shrinking art project that you would color with marker and then (horrors!!) place in the oven so they would shrink and make cool stained glass looking ornaments or just little art pieces? Can’t remember the official name though….

  53. pentamom November 20, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

    Yes, that was it! I had two different kinds of people for it — I think one set must have been original and then somebody bought me a few more to increase the family or replace lost ones. They were of slightly different types, though they were still both the smaller (“chokeable”) thimble-sized ones. I think the newer ones had plastic heads.

    I bought shrinky-dinks for my girls when they were younger — couldn’t have been more than 15 years ago, since the older two are only 21 and 25.

  54. pentamom November 20, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

    Emily, I think you may be on to something with the safety standards as planned obsolescence thing. A lot of those older toys are now sold new as “classic” versions, which means they meet the new safety standards but vaguely resemble the nostalgic version. What parent that REALLY loves their children and wants to share their childhood toys with them wouldn’t buy the new “classic” version instead of the old deathtraps they played with.

    And of course, the new versions often lack some of the features that made them fun.

    When I think about the horrible ways that dollhouse could have killed me — the small people, the foam “mattresses” glued to the beds that could have come off and choked me, the little bell mounted on the ceiling that dinged when you rang the doorbell, the wheels on the car….it’s a miracle I’m here to type this.

  55. pentamom November 20, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

    Dollars to donuts the original people I had, had lead paint on them, too.