Hi, everybody. As you may know from previous mentions here, or my Twitter account, I'm father to a 7-1/2 month old son.
Among the many concerns parents of young children have - and hoo boy, there are concerns - is this question: what toys should I buy for my child? We want our children to have toys that are fun, of course. Are they safe, though? Are there small parts that could pose a choking hazard, or hard corners that could hurt when he slams his head into them? Do they contain potentially harmful chemicals? Is this educational at all, or is it rotting his newly-formed brain?
Of course, one question looms over all of these: will this toy help him toward my goal of him playing college football?
"Wait," you say, rudely interrupting me, "... seriously?" Sure, I know what you're thinking. He might not have the pedigree for college football. I'm 5'10", around 175 pounds of white-collar gelatin, and I have the coordination of a newborn goat. I fell down the stairs at work last month. I'm like Rudy without the heart or determination. His mother doesn't help the case, either: she graduated from Purdue.
So why do I think he's going to play college football? Well, I'm sure as hell not going to be able to pay for college in 17 years. It's this or nothin', kiddo.
Let's review some toys, shall we?
FISHER-PRICE LAUGH & LEARN LEARNING WORKBENCH
A little redundancy there in the name, but we'll let it slide. Promising entrant, no? It's got light-up buttons you're supposed to push down, that'll help with hand-eye coordination. It's got a little drill press and a detachable hammer, a vise grip - it's gonna teach hard work and determination, right?
Yeah, well. It doesn't have a very secure base, so he usually just ends up flipping it over and chewing on the legs, while the cheery-sounding voice actress acts like everything's normal. You can give the kid a bunch of great tools, but that doesn't mean he's gonna know how to use them, and things eventually go belly-up.
RATING: KEVIN SUMLIN'S AGGIE TENURE
"FRANKIE THE FOX" BY CLOUD-B
Adorable, right? This isn't just a stuffed animal, though: it's a soothing-sounds machine! You hang this lil' fella on the side of the crib, and it plays a loop of one of four pre-recorded sounds. We've used this every day of the boy's life at bedtime. I hear the song in my sleep. I hear it in my waking hours. I hear it right now. I could play it on the piano right now, and I don't know how to play piano nor have access to one.
This teaches relentless consistency. His coaches are going to love that: you want kids to respond to your predictable platitudes day-in, day-out, and give you the results you expect. (In this case, those results are: go to sleep so we can watch Shark Tank and catch up on Twitter.)
Of course, that means we're all in on this, and when the battery runs out and the message changes, we're SCREWED.
RATING: BO PELINI'S TENURE AT NEBRASKA
FISHER-PRICE LUV-U-ZOO JUMPEROO
(That's not my baby, FWIW, it's Walmart's.)
Man, he loves this thing. From a training perspective, we're looking good, too. He's gonna build lower body strength bouncing in this, gonna need that, definitely. He's gonna learn reach and coordination grabbing at the dangling monkey and rhino toys. He's gonna learn focus with all the sounds and lights and oh god it makes a cartoon boinging sound every time he bounces I don't even remember what quiet is like and I haven't seen the dog in a week I think she hates us now and where was I? Oh yeah, there's a bunch of spinning toys around the edge, too.
Sounds great, no?
Ehhh, a bunch of flash and show and acrobatics and in the end you don't end up going anywhere? I've seen this before.
RATING: THE BIG 12 AFTER OCTOBER
Hey, this isn't one of your toys. Let g- kiddo, come on - let go I'm trying to change you - wait keep your legs up keep your legs AH MAN NOW THERE'S POOP EVERYWHERE
You lost focus and now we're both a mess.
RATING: THIS FEELS LIKE A UCLA THING, WE DON'T HIT THEM ENOUGH FOR THAT
IKEA "MULA" ABACUS
Purchased like most things in the housewares section at IKEA: on impulse when we were there for something else. But hey, it'll teach him math! He'll be smart! Of course, neither of us know how to use an abacus, so it's really just a bunch of colorful beads.
Yeah, he played with it once and forgot about it. No one cares if you're good at math anyways. Nerds.
RATING: THE 2015 NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK WITH YOU
SOPHIE THE GIRAFFE, BY VULLI
If you've been around a baby, you've met Sophie. What's she do? Nothing, basically. Just a soft rubber giraffe. You can chew on it. I dunno. People seem to think it's great, but I've seen no proof that it accomplishes anything. You just accept that it is.
RATING: WELL, YOU COULD PLAY FOR KIRBY SMART AT GEORGIA I GUESS
THE BOX THESE TOYS CAME IN
THIS IS AMAZING. I CAN CLIMB INSIDE IT. AHAHA I CAN'T SEE YOU RIGHT NOW MAYBE YOU'RE A WIZARD AND DISAPPEARED WAIT NO THERE YOU IT'S MAGIC HAHAHA MY SQUEALS ECHO FUNNY IN HERE AND THERE'S FLAPS! FLAPS, DAD! FLAPS!
Yes, we're giving you something essentially worthless, and you love it because you're going to make it great through your own skill and efforts and we're going to get all the credit for it. We're great parents!
RATING: CONGRATULATIONS, SON, YOU'RE A STUDENT-ATHLETE!