clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The absolute worst gifts you can buy for your kids

Sergey Peterman / Shutterstock
Brian Resnick is Vox’s science and health editor, and is the co-creator of Unexplainable, Vox's podcast about unanswered questions in science. Previously, Brian was a reporter at Vox and at National Journal.

Every year, roughly 149,000 kids go to the hospital because of ... toys.

A lot of these injuries are unavoidable. Children do dumb things with toys because they are children. But there's also some evidence to suggest that the toys themselves are becoming more hazardous over time. According to a report in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, toy-related injuries have increased by 40 percent, from 18.88 injuries per 10,000 children in 1990 to 26.42 injuries per 10,000 in 2011.

That's where WATCH — World Against Toys Causing Harm — comes in. Each year, the watchdog group releases its list of the 10 most dangerous toys it can find on the market. Some of its suggestions are a bit "duh." If you buy a child a fake sword, expect someone to at least get hit. But there are other dangers that lurk past the surface, like poorly labeled allergy warnings, or games that may encourage small kids to put small plastic pieces in their mouths.

Below are the 10 worst toys WATCH identified this year. But feel free to read this the other way: as a gift guide for the truly depraved.


This is a real toy.

Already this is a questionable gift. But what on earth could be dangerous about fake "make-your-own" poo?

As WATCH says, the danger is that the "dough" contains wheat allergens, and the only warning to be found is on the throwaway packaging. A child with a wheat allergy could make the mistake of playing with this shit toy and get sick.

Velociraptor claws


These look awesome. Alas, WATCH warns, "No warnings or cautions are provided regarding the potential for eye and facial injuries." (I'd assumed eye and facial injuries were the point.)

Kid Connection doctor play set


Purchase this in tandem with the Poo-Dough kit, and your kids can finally play gastroenterologist! Sadly, danger lurks in that play tongue depressor. "Small children are effectively invited to introduce this implement into their mouths, presenting the potential to occlude the airway," WATCH reports.

Foam dart gun


The packaging here warns "do not modify darts," but WATCH is far more concerned by the fact that this toy is indistinguishable from an actual weapon. Replicas, WATCH writes, "should never be sold as toys." There have been incidents of children being shot by the police while holding toy guns.

Stats 38 quick folding trampoline


"Quick folding" is not a quality desired in a toy meant to be bounced on repeatedly. It's stoking my lifelong fear of dying while trapped in a Murphy bed.

Here, WATCH is concerned with the overall idea of a trampoline being marketed as a toy. There's so much potential for injury, from falling off to bouncing into something sharp and unforgiving.

Splat X Smack Shot


Simply put: Kids and projectiles don't mix.

"The many warnings and cautions include 'alerting' anyone within 'close distance to the intended target,'" WATCH reports. That alone is reason enough to leave this on the toy store shelf.

Kick Flipper


The warning on the package states: "Do not use on stairs, hills, or inclines." Good luck enforcing that.

"The manufacturer makes no mention of safety gear," WATCH grumbles.

Leonardo's electronic stealth sword


"Young children are encouraged to engage in a 'Ninja Battle' with this rigid, plastic sword," WATCH warns. Undoubtedly, ninja battles are tons of fun. But like with charades or karaoke, someone is bound to get hurt.

Pull Along Zebra


This toy looks so innocent. A tiny anthropomorphized bear sitting on top of a zebra whose feet were cruelly but exactingly replaced with wheels: What adventures you can take them on!

Trouble is this toy comes with a 21-long pull cord. Evidently, no infant or toddler should be placed in a crib with a pull rope longer than 12 inches. It's a strangling hazard.

"Bud" Skipit's Wheely Cute Pull Along


This pull toy may seem safer than the example above. The cord is short, and "Bud" seems super plush. WATCH is worried about the wheels. The group reports:

On June 16, 2015, certain lots of these toys were recalled because the hub caps "can break or come off at the wheel, posing a choking hazard for young children." After issuance of the recall, a similar toy, purchased online, exhibited the same potential for the "choking hazard" identified in the government’s recall notice.

Bottom line is: Hazards are everywhere. Even tricycles — a staple toy for most children — lead to an estimated 9,340 emergency room visits a year. (Note: Toy-related deaths are much, much rarer than injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission counted just nine in 2013.) Truly safe presents are often the worst. Like sweaters.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.