10 Classic Toys (And Why They Suck)

#5. Boomerang

Why it sucked:
A curved piece of wood designed to return to the user when thrown. They are usually associated with the Aboriginal People of Australia, which leads us to believe that the Aborigines did not have many friends if they had to develop a method of playing catch with themselves.

Why it sucks:
Has anyone ever known someone who could throw a boomerang and actually get it to return? Someone always knows someone who swears someone managed it, but we're certain that's an urban legend. What generally happens when you throw a boomerang is it shoots forwards and curves upward, at which point it either:

  • a) lands in a tree
  • b) flattens out and disappears over the horizon
  • c) curves upward and away and lands in a river 300 feet to your left
  • d) plummets to Earth and half-cartwheels, half-bounces along at lethal speeds, whereupon it usually hits another child in the head, knocking him off his Space Hopper.

Either way, you usually give the boomerang a couple more hopeful throws before it gets lost or confiscated by a an irate mother. At this point, you shrug and go back to fun activities, like making the fat kid with glasses clamber into the pond to get your Aerobie.

What can make it better:
For toy companies to stop pretending a boomerang is a toy, and instead regard it as what it really is; a shitty novelty hunting device that apparently takes years of training to master.

Fun fact:
The returning variety is not the only form of boomerang. You can also get non-returning boomerangs, though most people just refer to these as sticks.

#4. Home Chemistry Kits

What is it?:
A toy which promises children an entire chemistry laboratory in the safety of their own bedrooms.

Why it sucks:
Home chemistry kits promise so much. A glance at any chemistry kit box shows two or more children, usually clad in white coats (not supplied, ever) staring in awe at a glowing green rock or holding some amazing contraption and looking at it in wonder. Even the box for My First Chemistry Kit seems to infer that you can alter your perception with some sort of LSD magnifying glass, and that it even contains a powerful acidic substance that you will naturally use to torture insects. So, while the box never exactly claims that you'll be able to create explosives powerful enough to fell several trees, that's definitely the implied message.

But what you get instead are three glass beakers, a few bags containing salt, sugar, iron shavings, chunks of wood, some substance that turns water green (and makes you feel slightly peculiar when you drink a glass-full), laughably oversized safety goggles and something that looks suspiciously like a Chemistry textbook. The disappointment of realizing you're not going to be able to create your very own thermonuclear device ensures that home chemistry kits are one of the biggest let downs of a child's life.

What can make it better:
Adding stuff that can explode to the kits. If they just let the people who design the box art decide what goes in, then home chemistry kits would be the finest toys available.

Fun fact:
The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, released in 1951, had the right idea. They actually supplied a chunk of uranium with the toy, so the child could try all kinds of atomic experiments. Of course, the isotope, U-238, was dangerously radioactive and has been linked to cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. That's right kids, it even got you out of school.

#3. Pogo Sticks

What is it:
A pogo stick is a pole with handles at one end, and footpads at the other, beneath which is a large spring designed to bounce the user up and down.

Why it sucks:
Pogo sticks look fun when other people are playing on them. Someone else always seems to work them easily, merrily bouncing around the street or their yard until they comically topple from their perch, all the while shrieking gay laughter.

When it's your turn, you clamber aboard with the aid of a wall, grip the handles, push your feet down and launch off, expecting a laugh-a-minute roller coaster ride. Except instead of joyfully bouncing around in a happy-go-lucky style, the pogo stick compresses down about 9 feet, then shoots off the ground at a velocity approaching Mach 2. Surprised, and sporting a pair of rapidly browning underpants, you release your grip from the handles and try to step off. At this point the stick would inevitably carry on its ascendancy and smash you on the chin with slightly less force than the punch of a super heavyweight boxer. All the while you get to listen to the cruelest sound ever; the mocking laugh of a fellow child. (No, this never happened to us.)

What can make it better:
We grudgingly admit pogo sticks might be fun when someone has mastered their terrifying and unpredictable nature, and has sensibly clad themselves in adult diapers. But, when we say they're fun, it's like we're saying base jumping is fun. Thus, if they are properly marketed as a suicidal sport not to be attempted by the sort of bespectacled children who grow up to write comedy on the internet, instead of as a harmless children's toy, then we can live with them.

Fun fact:
In rocketry and aerospace design, a form of extremely dangerous oscillation is referred to as pogo oscillation, in reference to the motion of a pogo stick, which only serves to reinforce our view that pogo sticks are fucking insane.

#2. Diablo

What is it:
A Diabolo, or a Devil On Two Sticks, is a juggling toy whereby a spool is whirled and tossed on a string connecting two sticks. They evolved from the Chinese Yo-Yo, which was extensively used throughout the Eastern Kingdom in the 12th century, where we're assuming it was still the most boring form of side walk performance art in existence.

Why it sucks:
Diabolos suffer from two main drawbacks: Tossing a spool into the air is not fun, and it's really, really hard. Just balancing the spool on the string takes Gandhi-like calm, and once that is achieved, the spool has to be flicked into the air and caught again on the string. What usually, no, always happens is your desperate, flaying efforts to catch the spool result in it being flicked away from you at a fairly rapid pace. It then rolls straight under the sofa, forcing you to drop the sticks (immediately and irreparably tangling the string up), get on your belly and shove your hands under the piece of furniture so you can pull out the wretched thing. Also, it is somehow always attracted to the one corner where you need a clothes hanger or a golf club to reach the fucker.

We remember being given these things by well meaning, yet elderly, aunts who clearly believed that any toy that might be fun is the work of Satan and that constantly having to dig the spool out from under the sofa would build character. "Ooh, it's gone under there again, the naughty thing," the demented old crone would cackle. "You need more practice!" And then our parents always forced us to apologize to dear Aunt Gladys for telling her to shut the hell up.

What can make it better:
The toy would be improved several times over if it came in packs of two. Two children could spend the afternoon flinging the spools at each other, scoring points if it hit them in sensitive areas. That's how toys should work.

Fun fact:
Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based entertainment empire, frequently have Diabolo performers in their shows, which just goes to show how dire things have become north of the border.

#1. Yo-Yo

What is it:
A yo-yo is comprised of two discs of equal weight connected with an axle, from which a string is attached. The user loops the other end of a string around his finger and proceeds to flick the yo-yo up and down the string until inevitable frustration sets in.

Why it sucks:
Yo-yos have been fobbed onto kids as fun toys for far too long. There's a good chance that anyone whose childhood was from the 1970s onwards will have experienced a yo-yo troupe performing in a school assembly or youth center, in which sparkling performers whipped glittery yo-yos into the air, rolled them up walls and generally managed to get these revolving plastic devices to break every single law of physics.

Then, when the performance was over, every child in a 100-mile radius begged their parents to spend $15 on an official Coca-Cola stunt yo-yo. Then what happened?

Hours of frustration. Hours of trying to untie a piece of string which has a mind of its own when it comes to entanglement. Hours spent watching your yo-yo idly twist at the end of the string instead of snapping smartly back into your palm. The slim volume coming with the pile of shit that promised to make us yo-yo masters within minutes had wonderful drawings and photos of the tricks, but it didn't tell you how to fucking do them. The only trick anyone ever learned was the 'walk the dog' trick, which was just rolling a yo-yo on the floor. All yo-yos did was give two generations of schoolchildren bruised knuckles and friction burns on their index fingers.

What can make it better:
Somehow making the difficulty curve exactly that, instead of a difficulty cliff. Mastering the ascending/descending motion of a yo-yo was not tricky, but trying to get it to do anything else was headache-inducing hard. Either that, or just don't pretend that yo-yos are cool and stop sending lithe, glittering women into our nation's schools to promote them as just that.

Fun fact:
None. There is nothing fun about yo-yos. They are the devil's own stringy testicles.

If you like this article, check out David Knight's article about the 10 Most Insane "Sports" From Around the World.

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