The Free Press, Mankato, MN


November 23, 2013

Krohn: Give a little Xmas danger to youngsters

If you're a worrier, shopping for Christmas toys can be ulcer-inducing.

There are all sorts of consumer groups issuing warnings of toy dangers, juicing up the fear of maiming your kids or grandkids if you choose toys with lead paint, magnets, small batteries — or that have strangulation, choking or high-noise risks.

The problem is, the dangerous toys have always been the most fun.

The original lawn darts set with heavy, sharp brass tips were a blast, albeit a decidedly bad idea.

Early Creepy Crawler toys were wonderful, made with heavy metal trays that were cooked in a little oven that reached 350 degrees and could bring third-degree burns.

A toy I always wanted but never got as a kid was the Johnny Reb Cannon built by Remco in the early '60s. It was a serious-size cannon, nearly 3 feet long. It used a spring mechanism to shoot a cannon ball 35 feet, which had the benefit of allowing kids to practice real battlefield triage.

But the granddaddy of all dangerous toys was one actually produced for one year in the early '50s called the Atomic Energy Lab. It was exactly what its name implies. It contained small amounts of actual uranium and included a Geiger counter. I never had one — not sure if anyone who did is alive.

I like buying or making toys for the grandkids that have a bit of hazard in them.

Taking a tennis ball to the back of the head from a "potato gun" gives them a lesson in rolling with life's blows.

Dangling upside down from a rope wrapped around their leg on the homemade climbing wall (not that that's happened in my yard) teaches them valuable problem-solving skills.

So it warms my heart to see what the No. 1 hot toy of this year is.

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