September 4th, 2010

Parental Annoyance Toys

Some toys look good in the store, but their flashing lights and repetitive sounds quickly grate on an adult's sanity. I think my parents have been waiting for years for a grandchild so they could inflict on us the misery that was inflicted on them when they were new parents.

In some ways, either through luck or by semi-intentional design, we've avoided a lot of the problem. The baby's almost a year old now, and since we haven't seen a reason to put any "child-friendly" shows on the TV, I'm pretty sure he doesn't really view the television as something that's for him. When I'm holding him watching TV, he's more interested in the lights and buttons on the DVD player than anything actually on the screen.

But you can't avoid it entirely. In a fit of sadistic glee, my parents bought an "Interactive storybook", where the book has buttons that play songs, and recognizes when you turn pages, and that kind of thing. Also, in a fit of weakness in the store, I bought a push-button farm thing that plays songs and talks when you press the keys, the animals,whatever.

Both of these are by the same company, and they have some disturbing similarities. For one thing, the language is kind of stilted sometimes. Maybe it's because I've heard it a million times, but when I hear "Join the barnyard jamboree!", there's a half-second pause between the words "barnyard" and "jamboree" that grates on me, and only gets worse the more that I hear it.

Also, the toys nag you to play with them. If the baby wanders off, after a few seconds, it says something like "Hey! Press the button of the dog!". Eventually, it switches itself off, but it sort of sounds desperate for a while there: "Hey! Don't you leave me, you baby! What, are you playing with some other, lesser toy? Come back and play with me!"

There are some good (well, less bad) things about these toys, though. As computer chips get cheaper, it's cost-effective to have lots more sound samples in a cheap baby toy. Which means that where in my parent's generation, they'd probably only hear one or 2 things over and over and over again, we at least get 25 or 50 different saying repeated. Which is good for our sanity.

I'm a little worried though- his first birthday is coming up, and who knows what craziness the grandparents will spring on us, get the baby hooked on, and then leave town laughing as our ears bleed..