Toys, toys, toys. Advertisements inundate store catalogs and television commercials. Parents watching their budgets or closet space may not be thrilled, and neither is a consumer group called the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). The group is hosting its fourth annual contest for the Worst Toy of the Year, or the TOADY Award (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children).
The group said it started the contest in response to the Toy Industry Association of America's annual TOTY (Toy Of The Year) Awards. Last year, a tablet for babies that retailed for $479 won the top dis-honor.
Three of this year's top five nominees are toys that use apps, which didn't seem to impress the group.
"When it comes to great toys, less is usually more," CCFC's Director Dr. Susan Linn said in a statement. "Just because we can link a toy to a smartphone doesn't mean we should. The toy industry is promoting superficial gadgetry at the expense of children's creativity."
Here are the five nominees for the 2012 worst toy of the year.
|"Put Me In The Story" App by Jabberwocky Kids|
"You know what kids hate more than anything? Books! Why? Because no child cares what happens to Olivia, Max, or Sam-I-Am," CCFC states. "But now, thanks to the Put Me In The Story App, you can instantly transform bestselling children's stories into e-books starring your own child. It's the perfect way to insure that your little one never grows out of that cute, all-about-me stage."
Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher at Sourcebooks, which created the app, said the company built the free app "because we care deeply about reading and books."
"We built Put Me In The Story to create greater bonding through and with books, and to change how kids grow with books," she said in a statement. "The goal isn't to replace Where the Wild Things Are. Our goal is the opposite. I think you're going to engage kids more deeply with stories that include them as a phase towards being more deeply engaged with books of all kind."
The first book with the app is free also.
|The 7-11 Slurpee Maker by Spin Master|
CCFC says it's "the branding, not the empty calories, that really makes this toy so TOADY-riffic." The group takes issue with the fact that the 7-11 logo is "emblazoned" on the product and that kids get a free Slurpee coupon, "guaranteeing your kids will be nagging you for a trip to the convenience chain for a taste of the real thing."
Harold Chizick, spokesman for Spin Master, the toymaker, said, "Our toy is all about the experience and the activity."
He said the company has sold hundreds of thousands of models of the toy, which has been on the market since the last holiday season. He said families can enjoy making Slurpees together.
"It's all about recreating the fun," he said.
|LEGO Friends Butterfly Beauty Shop by LEGO|
The group criticizes Lego's toy sets for girls, saying the company has turned "one of the all-time great toys into a TOADY contender."
"Introducing LEGO Friends, just for girls and so jam-packed with condescending stereotypes it would even make Barbie blush," CFCC writes. "Bye-bye square, androgynous figures; hello, curves 'n eyelashes!"
Lego did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One U.S. organization, SPARK, which stands for Sexualization Protest, Action, Resistance, Knowledge, said the Lego toy reinforced the idea that women should focus on their looks.
"Our goal with LEGO Friends is to engage more girls in the positive benefits of construction play," Michael McNally, brand relations director at LEGO Systems, Inc., previously said in a statement to ABC News.
Executives from Lego and SPARK met in April to discuss how Lego can be more inclusive toward young girls. McNally called it a "very productive meeting, and both parties walked away feeling good about the LEGO Group commitment to creative play options for all children."
|TheO ball by Physical Apps|
"Simply insert your $400 smart phone into the TheO ball, hand it off to your kids, and in no time, they'll be playing games their technologically primitive ancestors couldn't dream of—like 'Hot Potato'," CCFC said.
Physical Apps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
|Laugh & Learn Apptivity Monkey by Fisher Price|
"A teddy bear just won't cut it for today's jaded, screen-addicted babies," CCFC said.
Parents can put an iPhone in the monkey's belly, allowing young children to play with the device in a plush toy.
Fisher Price did not respond to a request for comment.