Life before the ESRB: Truly Hazardous Toys
Author :        Date : 11-Oct-12

While kicking back this past weekend, the unexpected befell this aged bachelor – emergency babysitting duty of my 6 year old niece.  With little time to prepare, it was decided that we would just hang out at my humble abode for the evening.  To my surprise, she was not disappointed at all but actually ecstatic.  This would be her very first visit to my home and entrance to my ‘Room of Doom’ was included in the evening’s events (in addition to a Kung Fu Panda video).

Upon her arrival, she politely declined my offer of the Dora the Explorer juice box and simply looked up at me and cautiously asked “Can we go check out the video games Uncle Terry?”  So off we went, skipping the whole way (why do kids like to skip so much?) to the Man Cave.

She was initially awestruck by all of the mysterious goodies contained within my secret gaming domain.  She had experienced the Nintendo Wii and gaming apps on her iPod touch, but this was a completely different animal.  After receiving my A-OK, she immediately plopped down in front of one of the bookcases to pick out a game for us.

Within a few minutes, she began organizing games taken off the shelf into distinct, but as of yet unidentifiable, piles.  She then stated in a rather dubious manner “Uncle Terry, what are we going to play???”  It was only then that I recognized the pattern: titles were being sorted by their ESRB rating.  Her frustration was being fueled by the inability to quickly locate any “C” (children) or “E” (everyone) rated games.  This realization caused me to pause prior to answering her.  I took a moment to reflect upon my own early years, an era when ignoring similar cautionary flags could actually lead to incurring substantial physical harm …

Handy Andy Toolbox

Complete with a steel hammer, finishing nails and a metal serrated saw, the Handy Andy Toolbox provided the urchin everything needed to impart destruction.  Family furnishings were primarily the target, but annoying little sisters could also become the recipient of 'Handy Andy Terror".

Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven

Looks pretty innocent at first glance, but this demon actually caused more house fires than anything else on this list.  In addition to being able to actually heat your morning biscuit to a fairly high temperature, the Easy Bake Oven excelled at melting crayons, exploding ball point pens and torturing the wayward insect.


For those unfamiliar with Jarts (or lawn darts), the premise is the same as horseshoes but you use high-flying metal tipped darts in lieu of slow moving steel projectiles.  Participation required nimbleness to avoid the errant cast that could turn this seemingly harmless toy into a potential death missile.

Pen Knife

For whatever reason, this always seems to be an item gifted from one's Grandfather.  Receiving one of these multi-functional instruments is almost like a rite of passage for the youngster.  The possibilities this tool afforded were overwhelming, as were the myriad of self-inflicted injuries this device could inflict.

Kaster Sets

Like the Play-Doh Fun Factory, the Kaster Kit enabled  the young buck the ability to craft their own toys.  But instead of using a malleable clay product, the material that was provided was solid lead.  The  manufacturer 'wisely' included an apparatus to heat the lead to its melting point (621 degrees F!!).

Wood Burning Kits

Before the age of electronic labeling devices, the wood burning kit was the inscribing king.  Within a matter of minutes, hooligans could apply their initials to virtually anything.  From baseball mitts to the coffee table, everything could be branded by the youth, including human flesh for the careless.

The Junior Chemist

Now if the Junior Chemistry Set isn't a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is.  With over 20 chemical  compounds, test tubes and its very own Bunsen burner, the adolescent was provided with everything they needed to create any number of mysterious, bubbling cocktails.  Without a doubt, this product had to be the Poison Control Center's biggest nightmare.

Atomic Energy Lab

This has got to be the most outrageous toy in the history of mankind.  This monstrosity came with four different types of uranium ore, a cloud chamber with its own short-lived alpha source and an electroscope.  An optional Geiger counter was also available for purchase, a popular add-on to ensure that radiated family members were appropriately quarantined.

I snapped back to reality to see my niece, still sitting there patiently awaiting my answer.  What game were we going to play?  If I could have survived the hazards detailed above, then she could certainly weather virtually any title within my collection.  A glance down at that young bug quickly dismissed that thought.  To her delight and my dismay, we ended up playing the following, a true horror that rivals any of the items listed above:
High School Musical 3: Senior Year DANCE!
What Hazardous Toys Do You Remember?

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