KICKIN' IT PLAYSKOOL 


With overtime hours looming and shopping time growing short, what are you going to do about the needy nieces and nephews on your Christmas list? Well, we've always found that a DNA test works wonders in denying a blood kinship. But if you've already stupidly admitted to a binding relation, you could do worse than throwing down a few bills for one of the hot sellers on our list of the year's top toys.

Colonic! – Decades ago, Milton Bradley gave the world Operation!, the pioneering electronic board game that had kids removing bones and organs from a comically distressed patient. It was living-room surgery years before the advent of the HMO, and the wee ones couldn't get enough of it. This update of that playtime classic has a more holistic bent, focusing specifically on the human waste-disposal system that's provided young 'uns with hours of educational hilarity since time began. Armed only with a miniature cleansing tube, two to six players take turns flushing out the patient's system, scoring points for every item that emerges intact. A wrapped Jolly Rancher is worth two points; a pair of Mommy's garden shears, four. Recovering an unexploded pellet of Colombian heroin wins it all and nets the victor $2 off M-B's companion toy, Border Patrol GI Joe. Our testers found the game play fun and the washer-safe tubes good for hours of repeat enjoyment, fully vindicating M-B's now-ubiquitous ad line: "Take all your other games and shove 'em up your ass!"

Public Domain Playsets – If there's finer work being done in the field of unlicensed merchandise, we don't know what it is. Garden City, N.J.'s, Blessed Loophole Toys offers a plethora of playware that's not beholden to the legal whims of any tightfisted movie producer or children's-book author. The result? A relentlessly generic fun-time experience that spares adults precious pennies in creators' fees. Durable polyvinyl playsets immerse kids in a variety of enchanting, exciting, wholly ambiguous environments, including a school for wizards, the deep-space headquarters of the virtuous "Jebbi knights" and a fierce jungle kingdom ruled over by the world's second-mightiest ape. Hey, where do these toymakers get their ideas, anyway? Somebody float them a raise! Estate Tax Lincoln Logs – In childhood as in grown-up life, the property you amass should be yours to keep – regardless of what those tax-and-spend liberals have to say about it. Yet the sole downside to the popular Lincoln Logs has always been the unsettling awareness that any edifice a kid assembles – no matter how humble its architecture – can be taken away from him at a moment's notice, whether by a local government hellbent on suburban redevelopment or by parents fanatically devoted to keeping a neat den.

Estate Tax Lincoln Logs – In childhood as in grown-up life, the property you amass should be yours to keep – regardless of what those tax-and-spend liberals have to say about it. Yet the sole downside to the popular Lincoln Logs has always been the unsettling awareness that any edifice a kid assembles – no matter how humble its architecture – can be taken away from him at a moment's notice, whether by a local government hellbent on suburban redevelopment or by parents fanatically devoted to keeping a neat den. Estate Tax Lincoln Logs put a welcome end to that sort of heartache: Each set comes with a certificate guaranteeing the child lifetime ownership of any windowless ranch home or primitive grain silo he or she may build, including the right to pass it on penalty-free to whatever sibling has the sense to remain in his or her good graces. Observant tykes thus learn that guarding property values is a key step in ensuring that their "neighborhoods" are never overrun by Fisher-Price school buses packed with the offspring of illegal aliens.

Lite Not 2 Brite – No longer shall light-up toys be off-limits to a family's, shall we say, dimmer bulbs. Don't bother looking for the "UL" tag on this dullard-proof variant of the classic Lite Brite set: There's no electrical plug to become frayed, no AC coursing through the plastic chassis and thus no chance that accidental electrocution will befall that lovable middle child you swear is nonetheless missing a chromosome (and/or looks suspiciously like your lazy-ass mailman). Multicolored crystals are placed carefully in a translucent frame, then held up to the sun to be revealed as stylized tableaux that positively reek of worry-free splendor. The innocuous artistry unfolds faster than the easily beguiled tot can gurgle, "Pretty flower!" (CAUTION: Small parts. May cause choking.)

I-Rottie – The joys of Rottweiler ownership enter the digital age with this whimsically vicious descendant of the robotic pooches that have been all the rage the last few Christmases. Thanks to recent advances in microchip technology, I-Rottie is capable of exhibiting a vast repertoire of behaviors and reactions, all of them utterly unpredictable and tending toward capricious brutality. There are plenty of laughs to be had at Grandma's expense as she struggles with the potentially fatal misconception that a hand proffered in friendship and soothing repetitions of "nice doggie" can keep the animal's razor-sharp jaws from her leathery neck. Putting the unit in "free play" mode brings a kid's carefully cultivated atmosphere of unease to the entire neighborhood, setting the dog loose to exert its technological dominance over inferior mechanical pets that were manufactured with superfluous "no-kill" features.

Interactive Kidlit – One of the most heartening trends in the toy business has been the development of interactive books that bring the wonders of reading to youngsters more used to push-buttons than the printed page. These oh-so-modern volumes often increase the child's control over the narrative as well, allowing the junior bookworm to enhance the story with multimedia effects and even change its outcome when desired. An approach that was previously restricted to Poky Little Puppies and Little Engines That Could now works its magic in editions specifically designed to indoctrinate eager youths into the rewarding world of big-people writing. Kids can make the members of Jonathan Franzen's family quack like ducks for added character emphasis, or hear the wee-wee running down the leg of a helpless victim in a Stephen King thriller. And in one possible storytelling turnaround, Jack Henry Abbott refrains from stabbing his waiter, instead ending his meal by ordering a tomato soup that's m-m-good. Listen to that tummy rumble!

sschneider@orlandoweekly.com

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