While 99.9% of banned books have no basis for being banned, these banned toys have lawsuit after lawsuit to back them up. From lawn darts through the skull to the NSA’s personal feud with Furby, these are the stories of outlawed toys that make the toy industry feel like the wild wild west.
Whoever came up with lawn darts definitely didn’t think kids’ games had high enough stakes. Who doesn’t love running in fear from the oversized darts your blind-as-a-bat cousin whipped in your direction? Lawn darts, aka Jarts, were a bad idea from the beginning. But if you were a rowdy kid like me who kept jumping off the 1-story high front porch to try and break her arm to ‘see what if felt like,’ then lawn darts revved your engines.
In 1988, the Consumer Product Commission (CPSC) officially banned lawn darts in the U.S. because it was responsible for three deaths, one of which was a 7-year-old who had one dart pierce his skull Phineas Gauge style. Of all the banned toys on this list, this isn’t one we’re itching to see come back.
Sky Dancers Flying Dolls
We’ve all seen the iconic VHS-quality home video of the little girl's Sky Dancers Flying Dolls Christmas present incinerate herself on her first flight (or if you haven't, check out the AFV classic here). If only wayward fireplaces were the only trouble that befell Sky Dancers.
These toys were about as unpredictable as shooting live Roman candles at someone and just as dangerous. From black eyes to near concussions, these dainty dolls packed a punch.
According to the CPSC’s press release concerning their recall, some of the reported injuries were “scratched corneas and incidents of temporary blindness, broken teeth, a mild concussion, a broken rib, and facial lacerations that required stitches.” You’ll have to pay good money to find one of these outlawed dolls online.
My twin brother was obsessed with Magnetix when we were kids. They were a natural graduation from Lincoln Logs and had more maneuverability than any block set. But playing with these magnets was like playing with fire. Swallow two or more of these bite-sized pieces, and their magnets might attract… inside of you. One person’s 3D masterpiece was another person’s absolute nightmare.
In the mid-2000s, the CPSC announced their recall, but a good thing never stays down for long, and similar magnet-building toys are back on the market.
Furby’s late-night no-battery Five Nights at Freddy’s shenanigans are notorious enough, but did you know the NSA had their own beef with the 90s toy? In 1999, the National Security Agency banned Furbies from the premises on threat that they were recording classified information. Given the Furby’s unknown agenda, we can’t say for sure they wouldn’t be up to capital espionage. And the irony of the secret wire-tap expert agency banning a toy for doing just that isn’t lost on us.
Snacktime Kid Cabbage Patch Doll
Imagine your overzealous dog with a less-than-gentle nibble who always catches your fingertips when you feed them treats turning into a toy for the afternoon. Then you’d have the Snacktime Kid Cabbage Patch doll.
In 1997, the CPSC announced that Mattel was offering refunds for any of the 500,000 people who bought a toy that might as well have moonlighted as Hellraiser’s Chatterer’s child. Released in 1996, reports of chomped-on fingers and caught hair were enough to pull the toy from shelves.
Although I was well into my pre-teen years by the time Aqua Dots hit the market, I remember their quaint advertisements. This was that simple toy your kid sibling went nuts over that took the iron-on beads concept and put a distinct H2O spin on it. If you don’t remember them, we don’t blame you. It wasn’t long before unsuspecting kids slipped into comas after downing a few of the colorful beads.
Of course, the only option was to take them off the market. So, in late 2007, the CPSC announced the 4.2 million unit recall.
Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Vibrating Broomstick
One legendary toy stands out in the pages and pages of discontinued toys: the Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Vibrating Broomstick. Whoever pitched this toy must have been in cahoots with the animators behind the infamous anatomically-shaped castle and “happy to see them” priest in The Little Mermaid.
It doesn’t take long to see why adult shops and avid adult Potter fans flocked to buy this toy. But unlike electric toothbrushes, parents could kick up a fuss about this XXX-rated merchandise, though the long-since banned toy is something many kids remember fondly.
Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab
The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab kit really put the atomic in Atomic Age. Learn how to gauge radioactive material first-hand with samples of autunite, torbernite, uraninite, and carnotite. For liberal arts people like me whose only experience with rocks are lusting over the expensive kind, the most common name for them you’ll recognize is uranium.
Who needs to worry about the atomic bomb when you’re raw dogging uranium as a 9-year-old? Might as well crack open a thermometer and down its mercury while you’re at it. And if you find one of these toys in a storage unit or crevice in your grandparents’ houses, maybe keep your hands to yourself.
CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit
If you’ve grown up in the ambulance-chasing lawyer age, then the first litigation buzzwords that come to mind are probably mesothelioma and asbestos. Asbestos has been linked to causing cancer in some studies, and ever since it has been removed from most products. However, the CSI TV franchise didn’t get the memo.
One CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit brought the popular procedural to life — life-threatening situations and all. That white fingerprint powder? Yeah, The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization found that it included nearly 7% of a deadly form of asbestos. Though it was never officially recalled, it went quietly into the night, never to be seen again.
Slip 'n Slides
A suburban summer staple is the Slip ‘N Slide. Over ten years later, and I still remember sliding over a stick that sliced my exposed torso up. You think soap in your eyes is bad — wait until you’ve got sudsy water seeping into a fresh 6-inch cut. Mine is just one of the many stories of Slip 'N Slide action going awry.
Things got so bad that in 1993, the CPSC urged adults and teens not to use Slip ‘N Slides because of the number of spinal cord injuries that had wracked up. While an unofficial ban, the threat of spinal cord injuries is enough to make it on this list.
Who Knew Your Toy Box Could Kill You?
If these banned toys teach us anything, it’s that trampolines aren’t the only kids' toys we need to watch out for. So be careful out there. You never know when a toy as deadly as Chucky might be waiting around the corner.