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FAIL! 5 Toys/Games that need improvement

We don't spoil our 2 ½ year old, but he has collected his fair share of toys and games, especially over the last year or so. Here are four that hold a special place in our hearts (read: make us laugh every time we hear them).

1. The O Sole Mio Dog

By the sound of it, you probably think our batteries need replacing. But guess what? This is what the dog sounds like whether the batteries are fresh or not! And, no, we did not buy this for him... a kookie relative did, who'll remain anonymous. The jury is still out on which version is the most lackluster: the Italian or the Ragtime (wait for it!)

2. Matchman

Our son LOVES my iPhone. In fact, more than 50% of the apps on my six pages are his games. Most of them are really good and he's already learned how to spell, which is better than I could do at 2 ½. But this Matchman game is lacking, big-time, especially in the sound-effects department. Listen to the guy they got to record the colors, for instance. He sounds like he's asleep, or possibly stoned. Plus, dig the severe hiss each time he speaks, as if the sounds were recorded on a cassette tape and then transferred to mp3. It's unreal!

3. Tozzle

So Tozzle is actually an amazing app. Our son mastered the many puzzles that come with it long ago, yet they're still entertaining him"¦ which is hard to do. But the girl they got to record the names of the letters in the alphabet puzzle isn't a native English speaker, and you can't tell many of them apart, especially the R, Y and I. When he's playing this one, my son likes to say, "The phone is making a mistake, Daddy." He couldn't be more correct!

And here's our son Jack, telling us about it:

4. The Phillie Phanatic Musical Doll

When you squeeze the hands on the Phanatic, he plays different tunes. The right hand tune, the trumpet/"charge!" works perfectly fine. But the left-hand tune, ""Take Me Out to the Ball Game," has serious note/rhythm issues. Have a listen.

5. Spirograph (the new one)

When I was growing up, one of the best parts about being sick was my mom getting out the special "home-from-school" toys from the closet. My favorite of the bunch was Kenner's Spirograph, as seen in the below commercial:

Long discontinued, Hasbro now makes a couple versions that pale by comparison. They only give you circles (no cool shaped gears) and they're flimsy ones, at that, almost so cheaply made you can't even use them.

But rather than just complain, I'm trying to do something about it! Join me and more than 100 other people as we try to bring back the original Spirograph! That's right, if you're on Facebook, you can Fan our BringBackSpirograph page and help us make a statement.

How about you all? Own a toy or game that makes you shudder? Tell us about it!

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Pop Culture
Wise Quacks: A History of the Rubber Duck
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IStock

In the middle of a raging storm in 1992, a cargo ship carrying a huge assortment of vinyl toys tipped over. Descending into the Pacific were nearly 29,000 tub playthings, including untold thousands of rubber ducks. Bobbing and drifting, the tiny yellow birds took weeks, months, and years to wash ashore in Hawaii, Maine, Seattle, and other far-flung locations. Their journeys were able to tell oceanographers crucial information about waves, currents, and seasonal changes—what one journalist dubbed “the conveyor belt” of the sea.

The humble little rubber duck had, once again, exceeded expectations.


iStock

Aside from soap, shampoo, and towels, there may be no more pervasive an item in a kid-occupied bathtub than the rubber duck, a generic aquatic toy that usually squeaks, sometimes spits water, and can be teethed upon without incident.

The ducks had their origins in the mid-1800s, when rubber manufacturing began to gain ground. Out of the many animals crafted, they were the most native to water and broke away from the pack. Families who used to make bathing a weekly event prior to Sunday church sessions would entice children to submerge themselves in the murky tubs with a duck, some of which didn’t float. They were intended as chew toys.

In 1933, a latex supplier licensed a series of Disney characters and made inexpensive bath floaters: The most popular were Donald and Donna Duck. While Disney’s brand recognition helped, companies looking to mass-market cheap ducks didn’t want to depend on a license. Sculptor Peter Ganine is believed to have been the now-familiar generic duck’s primary designer, patenting a toy in 1949 for a period of 14 years. Ganine reportedly sold over 50 million of them.

By the early 1960s, the vinyl ducks were free from patent restriction and became a bathroom fixture. They were cheaply made, cheaply acquired, and a soothing presence for children with apprehensions about being dipped into water. Any hydrophobia was eased by the bright yellow duck, who didn’t appear to have a care in the world.

On February 25, 1970, rubber ducks got their biggest break yet. On the first season of Sesame Street, Ernie splashed in a tub while singing an ode to his maritime companion:

Rubber Duckie, you’re the one

You make bath time lots of fun

Rubber Duckie, I’m awfully fond of you

Rubber Duckie, joy of joys

When I squeeze you, you make noise

Rubber Duckie, you’re my very best friend, it’s true

The song went on to sell over 1 million copies as a single and has been included in well over 21 different Sesame Street compilation albums. The image of Ernie playing with the duck was licensed for T-shirts, storybooks, and other merchandise that further endeared the ducks to child-occupied households.

The duck has since undergone some minor advancements. Some, molded to resemble celebrities or athletes, are a popular gift or marketing tool; others are sculpted to giant-sized proportions to bob in lakes during summer festivals. And while the toys now come in $99, Bluetooth-enabled versions, it was the classic yellow duck that made it in 2013 into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Additional Sources:
“Rubber Ducks and Their Significance in Contemporary American Culture,” The Journal of American Culture, Volume 29, Number 1 [PDF].

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Make Your Own Ship in a Bottle With a New LEGO Set
LEGO
LEGO

Building a ship in a bottle doesn’t need to be a stodgy affair, as LEGO’s latest release proves. LEGO Ideas is coming out with a new, 962-piece set called Ship in a Bottle based on the design of an Idaho-based fan named Jake Sadovich.

Sadovich spent three weeks designing his own version of a ship in a bottle using 1400 LEGO bricks before uploading images of the finished result to the LEGO Ideas site in November 2016. His project received the 10,000 supporters it needed to garner a review from the LEGO team in less than two months, and in August 2017, LEGO green-lit plans to build and sell an official set based on his design.

A product shot of a LEGO ship in a bottle against a white background
LEGO

Placed inside a bottle made of transparent bricks, the miniature ship boasts an outsize number of features for its 5-inch-long size, including three sails, six cannons, a crow’s nest, a compass (sorry, it isn’t a working one), and a flag. There's a wax-sealed cork built out of LEGO bricks, too, as well as small LEGO pieces designed to serve as the water beneath the ship.

“There was room to do some crazy building techniques and sneak in some elements in cool colors,” LEGO designer Tiago Catarino told the LEGO Ideas blog, so we expect the set to be a delight to put together. Hopefully, it won’t take you three weeks to build, though.

Some of the other fan-submitted LEGO Ideas projects the company has brought to life include a Women of NASA set, a LEGO version of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, and a design for a fishing store.

The Ship in a Bottle set goes on sale February 1 and will cost $70.

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