Worst Toy of the Year!

Every year, the Campaign for a Commerical-Free Childhood (CCFC) selects several toys for the TOADY award. Readers vote on which toy is the worst toy of the year. This year’s winner is the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Monkey.

“The TOADY voting reflects growing resistance to the toy industry’s cynical attempts to foist screens of every conceivable size and shape onto infants,” said CCFC’s Director, Dr. Susan Linn. “Screen-free stuffed animals have been a source of comfort to young children and a springboard for creative play for generations. The Apptivity Monkey is a textbook example of more being considerably less.”

Fisher-Price markets the Apptivity Monkey as “the best of both worlds for baby—a soft, cuddly friend to hold and hug, plus fun interactive learning with your iPhone or iPod touch!” There is no evidence, however, that screen media is educational for children under 30 months. CCFC’s ongoing efforts to hold the “genius baby” industry accountable for its deceptive educational claims led Disney to offer a groundbreaking refund on Baby Einstein videos in 2009 and to alandmark judgment by the Federal Trade Commission against the makers of the video series Your Baby Can Read earlier this year. The push to convince parents that screen time is educational for babies—and the packaging of a screen device inside a stuffed animal—are what propelled the Apptivity Monkey to outpace its formidable competition.

“I voted for the Apptivity Monkey because it is in clear violation of pediatrician and professional recommendations to keep babies and toddlers under 2 away from any screens at all,” said CCFC member Anna Martin. She added, “It’s more like the Capptivity Monkey.” Jennifer Long, owner of a child care center, noted, “It’s bad enough that most toys for babies are battery operated and flashy/light-up, but now they are encouraging screen time as part of a toy. I’m sad for the sweet little babies that get an Apptivity Monkey this holiday and for the unknowing parents that buy it thinking it’s good for their baby.”

 I am sure that all of us have at one time or another have used our iPhone to entertain our children.  Just the other day, a friend guiltily admitted to giving her four-year-old son her phone while he had to go to work with her.  The occasional use of a smart phone to keep a child content during a difficult time, like waiting in line, is fine, in my opinion.  The regular use is a concern.
Sure this stuffed monkey would protect your phone while child is entertained, but really, it shouldn’t be trying to make it more appealing.  Kids don’t need anything additional to draw them towards these devices.
Screen time is an issue for all of us.  The same friend mentioned how her eight-year-old daughter received a lot of homework on the computer, and that she was concerned about screen time.  This family often chose not to do assigned computer homework, as it violated AAP recommendations for screen time, an organization my friend called very conservative.
Although there are lots of good educational apps designed for preschoolers, screen time is a real concern. Children need to play freely and learn from that play.  For example, they need to discover geometry and spatial relationships from building with blocks, not playing on an iPad.
Please choose wisely this holiday season.  Classic toys are classic for the very reason they have stood the test of time for both developmental appropriateness, as well as enduring entertainment.

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