Fidget spinners, a plastic Wonder Woman battle sword and a remote-controlled Spider-Man drone are among the toys topping a consumer safety group’s annual list of worst toys for the holidays.
World Against Toys Causing Harm, or WATCH, unveiled the top 10 list Tuesday at a Boston children’s hospital. The non-profit organization has been releasing the lists for more than four decades.
WATCH claims fidget spinners contain small parts that can be a choking hazard, Mattel’s Wonder Woman sword has the potential to cause blunt-force injuries and Marvel’s Spider-Man drone has multiple rotating blades that can lead to eye and other bodily injuries.
The Toy Association, an industry trade group, dismissed the list as “needlessly frightening” to parents because all toys sold in the U.S. meet “rigorous” safety standards. It also criticized the organization for not testing the toys it focuses on.
National toy safety standards are “inadequate,” as can been seen by the high number of recalls each year, WATCH President Joan Siff said.
The non-profit says there have been at least 15 recalls representing nearly 2 million units of dangerous toys since December.
Siff stressed the toys named each year have common hazards that the group sees year after year. She pointed to the “Pull Along Pony” by Tolo Toys that’s marketed for children over age 1 but has a 19-inch cord.
“We don’t need a testing lab to know that’s a strangulation and entanglement hazard,” she said.
With consumers increasingly doing their holiday shopping online, it’s more important than ever to have the most current information about the safety of a toy online, Siff said.
For example, Hallmark’s Disney-themed “Itty Bittys” plush stacking toy for babies was recalled over the summer due to fabric pieces that posed a choking hazard. But the toy still is readily available online because many web sales are rarely monitored for recalls, Siff noted.
Among the other toys that made this year’s list is Nerf’s “Zombie Strike” crossbow, which the organization says poses the risk of eye and face injuries because it uses a pressurized, pull back lever to shoot soft projectiles.
Razor’s “Heel Wheels” are strapped onto children’s shoes to turn them into improvised roller skates but pose a burn risk because they include “real sparking action.”
And “Slackline” is a tightrope-like device by Brand 44 meant to be anchored between two trees that WATCH says can lead to severe injury and death.
The first thing many notice when approaching the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France is the ground itself.
Although trees have sprung up in the century since the historic battle between Canadian troops and the German army, the ground is still covered with craters from the mortars, shells and other munitions that pounded the battlefield.
The next thing that catches the eye is an official government sign welcoming visitors to Canada.
Located more than 10 kilometres north of the town of Arras, the government of France has ceded the 100-hectare battleground to Canada to serve as a museum and memorial. The site commemorates not just the Battle of Vimy Ridge, but the nearly 61,000 Canadians who lost their lives in the First World War.
A long driveway off Rue des Artilleurs Canadiens winds its way past gravel parking lots to a short, angular building that serves as the museum.
Admission is free to the site and the museum is staffed with Canadians working as tour guides, eager to answer questions or point out landmarks. A permanent exhibit explains how Canada was drawn into the war by its colonial ties to the United Kingdom and the resulting toll it took on the young nation. A detailed video map of the area illustrates the strategic importance of Vimy Ridge and how the Canadian victory helped turn the tide against Germany.
Particularly moving is a gallery of 3D renderings of carvings from deep inside the tunnels that honeycomb the ridge. These etchings were done by Canadian soldiers to pass the time as they waited to move into the forward trenches ahead of the opening charge on April 9, 1917.
Guides lead tours of the site in English and French, alternating every 30 minutes, highlighting parts of the trenches and underground tunnels that have been preserved. Visitors can walk through the cool, damp tunnels and lean against the walls that had been carved out of the chalk-rich soil. At its lowest point, the ceiling slopes down to five-foot-nine, underscoring the cramped conditions the soldiers endured. Moving through the tunnels, tourists emerge in a part of the forward lines and then walk through no man’s land. There, the enemy lines were only 30 feet apart.
A path then leads to the impressive monument itself, perched on the lip of Vimy Ridge, towering over the Douai Plain. It is made of bright white limestone and engraved with the name of every Canadian soldier who died during the First World War. Alongside the monument sheep roam the field and keep the grass a manageable length since no lawnmower can navigate the thousands of craters.
At the base of the monument, where Canadians charged up the steepest part of the ridge to overrun German fortifications, visitors place photos, letters, crosses and poppies to honour the dead.
If you go:
The site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Mondays when it opens at 11 a.m. Admission to the museum and site are both free. It takes approximately two hours to see the museum, complete the tour of the trenches and visit the monument. Vimy Ridge is nearly 200 kilometres north of Paris and is about a two-hour drive from the French capital on toll roads.
If you’ve got avid travelers on your gift list this year, or just armchair ones, consider getting them a custom map. Maps of favorite places might commemorate special trips or experiences, and can appeal to any age or gender.