No Fun: 5 Insanely Dangerous Toys That Were Somehow Sold to Children
If you're designing a toy, there are two important traits you want to keep in mind: 1) It should be fun; and 2) it should have as little a chance as possible of killing someone. Sometimes throughout history, though, the second has been avoided in pursuit of the first, with extremely predictable results. We’re not just talking about your classic, detachable, small choking hazards or good old lead paint, either. There have been toys released that couldn’t pass a TSA checkpoint, much less a modern safety review.
To that end, here are five insanely dangerous toys that somehow were sold to children.
Toys ‘R’ Us Submarine Stationery Set
I’m not sure that any child would be exhilarated to receive a stationery set. Among the top hobbies of young children, I can’t imagine that “penmanship” is high on the list. For a small time at Toys ‘R’ Us, though, you had the opportunity to buy a fun little submarine-shaped set for children anywhere from 6 and up. It feels more like a way to force a kid to write thank-you notes for their birthday gifts than anything, but hey.
The problem with this specific stationery set, however, had to do with just how thorough its set of tools was. Namely, that one bit of the submarine pulled off to reveal just a straight up razor blade. Urban legends about Halloween candy, eat your heart out. The toy was recalled because no matter how adorable the housing, it’s usually not recommended to hand a 6-year-old a razor blade in any situation.
Gilbert Kaster Kits
Sticking with ill-advised tools of the trade offered to children in the guise of toys, let’s take a look at Gilbert Kaster Kits. You might be familiar with the Easy-Bake Oven or its grosser cousin, Creepy Crawlers. These used small amounts of heat to allow a kid to make plastic bug toys or disgusting half-cooked brownies. The original Creepy Crawlers even had its own safety issues, since it used metal molds and got a little hotter than generally advised.
But they both seem about as dangerous as a decorative pillow compared to the Gilbert Kaster Kit, which also allowed kids to create their own fun. The part of it that’s a little more eyebrow-raising was that the toys that were created were made of cast lead, cast by, you guessed it, the child in question. I don’t think any modern parent in their right mind thinks molten lead is a suitable play material, so not much hope for a new version of Baby’s First Foundry on the horizon.
Powermite Child’s Power Tools
If you thought the toys that were just a smaller reimagining of dangerous manual labor would end there, you would be wrong. Next up is something that is barely a toy. Could a child have a passion for carpentry? I’m sure it’s possible, but I think that’s a passion that’s best not explored beyond pinewood derby cars until they’re responsible enough to trust with a saw.
Powermite Tools said, staunchly, “Fuck all that.” The Powermite tools were a line of what were basically just straight-up power tools, including an honest-to-god metal circular saw, that were resized for children’s small little hands, which would presumably only get smaller after one or two good accidents with these things.
You might not have expected to find a Barbie on this list, unless there was some long-banned Asbestos Barbie Playset, but here we are. This is even one of the more recent toys I’ve included, being made in the 1990s. The danger of Rollerblade Barbie came from her trademark skates, which made cool sparks! But like, real, capable-of-starting-a-household-blaze sparks.
The secret ingredient? Genuine flints contained within her tiny skates, meaning that the whole toy was a fun outfit away from giving a kid an empty Zippo to play with while mommy heads to the liquor store. After stories like a child setting her brother on fire with the skate sparks, a recall was issued and Barbie was forced to hang up her fire hazard of an exercise regimen for good.
Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab
We’ve saved the best, and maybe most famous, for last. A dangerous toy is one thing, but this is probably one of the only things I’m not even 100 percent sure is legal to be owned by adults these days. I’m talking about the infamous Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab.
If your kid was interested in messing around with radioactive elements, the U-238 was your answer. It even included genuine uranium for your child to play with and, inevitably, put into their mouth! You know something’s a bad idea when parents are concerned about it in the old days where people thought radioactive creams were a decent skin-care routine. It even included a Geiger counter so you could measure just how bad of an idea this whole thing was.