Service of Toys With Consequences

November 30th, 2015

Categories: Gifts, Toys

piles of presents

‘Tis the season. To prove it $billions will be spent between Black Friday and Cyber Monday today–maybe you’ve contributed.

I read about one toy you might want to avoid if children are on your list–hope I’m not too late. I love gifts that involve creativity and no technology. What if the electricity goes out and there’s no way to charge gizmos? What if making something with your hands is a good thing?

BunchemsSo Bunchems sounded like fun. Paul Ziobra described them as “a hot new building toy. Each marble-sized Bunchem has dozens of soft springy hooks that give the multicolored spheres a Velcro-like grip….. Bunchems are meant to be used to build things like bears, snakes and unicorns.” Ziobra wrote that they were introduced at the NY Toy Fair in February, are on Target and TTPM’s top holiday toy lists–the latter is an online toy review site– and, he reported, they are nominated for top toy of the year in the action toy category.

But there’s a sticky snag Ziobra wrote about in The Wall Street Journal article “This New Toy Hit Some Real Snags–in Children’s Hair….. Kids like to build with Bunchems, but some parents have hair-raising tales about the sticky spheres.” He gave some examples of parents who had to use “multiple vegetable oils and hair conditioner, combs, crochet hooks and even forks to get the Bunchems out of the hair.”

Bunchems in hairThe manufacturer, Spin Master, warns about keeping the spheres away from hair and claims that most of the time they easily slip out. A Massachusetts mother knows otherwise. Kids will be kids so some kids end up throwing the balls at each other. After all, they are balls. And they might look pretty in hair so after building with them for a while, young imaginations may decide to enhance a friend’s coiffeur. It took the mother four hours to get 60 Bunchems out of her eight year old’s hair in addition to eight pairs of hands and a whole jar of vegetable oil, heated coconut oil and forks. A set of Texas parents worked for hours with the help of a neighbor to clear their child’s hair of the toys, and that of her birthday slumber party guests.

This toy is recommended for children 4 years old and up. Should there be a board that reviews toys? Can you think of others with such potentially unfortunate repercussions? If you were on the committee selecting the best toys of the year, would this report give you pause about selecting this one?  Should the manufacturer go back to the drawing boards and should Target and TTPM review their decision to place this toy on the top 10 gifts for holiday giving or am I overreacting?

back to drawing board

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6 Responses to “Service of Toys With Consequences”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Up the age to 6+ and there may be fewer tangles. And no, we can’t have review boards for each and every toy on the market. Anything can be nasty, inconvenient or even dangerous if misused.

    As to avoiding giving such a gift to a child with long hair, think twice. If said child has a crew cut, one may have to shave its head to get these things out, and voila! Bald child!

    Conclusion: Make an effort to know your recipients. If that’s not possible, perhaps a gift card to a favorite/popular store might be a wiser choice.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I realize you can’t protect kids from themselves or the toys or tools they play with. We weren’t allowed to munch gum at school so we took a dollop of rubber cement, rubbed it in our fingers until it formed a ball and munched that. No doubt it was worse than gum for our systems [it had a medicinal taste as I recall]. There’s no way to predict how children will use anything so maybe a review committee is impractical. If a toy is found to cause misery as this one does, we must depend on reporters such as Paul Ziobra to get out the word. Kudos to Mr. Ziobra.

    It was several eight year olds who got into trouble with this product so that upping the age to six might not do the trick. Maybe upping the age to 16?

  3. hb Said:

    What a devilish, nasty little toy! I can just imagine how many children and inattentive adults are going to be scratched or cut by those little things.

    Yes. Just as we have laws and regulations that protect consumers from buying or consuming contaminated food and water, we have a duty to public safety, to protect consumers from unwittingly hurting themselves by buying toys likely to harm them. The cost of enforcing such protection should be born by the companies selling them.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Ratings by some savvy board of experts would help–as in movies and medications. Not just age-appropriate notations, safety ones. The manufacturer must post in packaging “side effects” of its toys when used inappropriately. In addition, award-giving organizations should be aware of such problems and not give them to such toys, clever as they appear to be.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    It seems wisest and safest for all concerned that the toy you describe with its hazardous potentail should simply be removed from the market. That is much more effective than overseeing its use by children and or adults. As for Target and TTPM’s best seller or recommended lists, I think they are just guidelines for tabulating the bottom line and certainly not guidleines that take into account buying public’s safety and well being. I completely agree with hb about the need to protect consumers
    and public safety with some form of rules and regulations.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are right and I never thought of what you wrote, at least about Target. [I don’t know how TTPM makes its money.] I was for a short while in the food business and a suggestion to restaurateurs was on menus to place at the top of categories the three most profitable–not the most expensive–items. [People tend to select most from the top three.] Similarly, a store would want to promote its most profitable items–not the best ones for consumers.

    Think of the unsuspecting aunts, uncles, grandparents and parents who buy something that could cause the kind of damage this toy does. You’re right: Send it back to the drawing boards and don’t let it back on the market until it slips easily out of every kind of hair texture.

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