7 Toys That Are Not Played With as the Designer Intended*

Recently in a local community “buy, swap and sell” Facebook group that I belong to a mother advertised a Mr Potato Head with lots of accessories and the note “played with only once.” It’s sad that as I move around our house I trip over many toys that just seem to be there, never getting played with as they should be, but maybe just tossed on the floor out of the toy-box whilst looking for something else or thrown around, sometimes even thrown by one boy at his brother.

Our boys have plenty of toys in their toy-boxes, in their wardrobes and on their shelves that rarely get used the way that the toys were designed to be used if they ever get used at all. Back in August 2013 I wrote about “8 Toys That I Don’t Want Our Kids to Play With” and most of those toys mentioned were examples in my “The Toys (That) Have Gone Viral” story.

And I know from talking with other parents that this is a common thing that happens in many households;

  • either you buy your child something that they’ve been bugging you for or have shown and interest in playing with at the shops or at a friend’s house but they have no interest in playing with it once they own it,
  • or you get given a completely random toy from a friend or family member and instead of re-gifting as many people do, you do the right thing and try to encourage your children to play with it. But they don’t.

So here is a list of toys that you can find around our house that aren’t played with as the designer intended them to be played with, and what the kids use them for…

1. Soft Foam Jigsaw Play Mat.

Foam Letters Photo Credit eBayThe description given for this is that it this is designed for teaching children 3 years and older the alphabet and numbers. It comes with the letters A through to Z (convenient) and the numerals 0 through to 9. It also doubles as a soft play mat.

Our boys however think that each letter makes for ninja weapons such as shurikens (more commonly known as ninja stars). Before becoming obsessed with ninjas they still were thrown as pseudo boomerangs (the non-returning type) or Frisbees.

Chance of the set being complete and unbroken: 10%

Percentage of time it has been used as intended: 10%

2. Poppin’ Park Pink Elefun Busy Ball Popper

Playskool Poppin Park Elefun Busy Ball PopperThis toy comes with some light weight balls and it is designed to pop the balls in the air and have the child run around gathering the balls if they shoot off in all directions. From the manufacturer’s website;

“…your child is going to get some great physical play out of this toy, but he’ll never know he’s “exercising” he’ll think he’s just having fun. This toy also helps encourage development of Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Cognitive Learning and Sensory Development.

Whilst is has been used the way it is supposed to be, it mostly acts as some weird arse garage for Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars.

Chance of the set being complete and unbroken: 60%

Percentage of time it has been used as intended: 50%

3. Trouble (Board Game)

trouble gameI am sure you know this game. Most people I know had this game when they were younger and as a result when they game turned up in the boys’ collection of toys and games I was pleased because it’s such a simple game to play. And it has that “pop-o-matic” dice so that’s cool, isn’t it?

To answer my rhetorical question; no it is not. That thing is annoying, especially in the hands of a 3-year-old who thinks the whole concept of the game is to keep pressing that darn thing until he gets in trouble off Mummy or Daddy. Maybe that’s how the game got its name. I know the game is supposed to be ages 4+ and many people would suggest that 5+ would be better, but our 3-year-old is a gun at many other board games so getting him into that shouldn’t have been a problem. But the appeal of pressing that “pop-o-matic” dice over and over and over and over and over again is better than playing the game.

Chance of the set being complete and unbroken: 20%

Percentage of time it has been used as intended: 10%

4. Crazy Forts

crazy-forts-iglooI love the concept of this toy, I really do. Children can use their imagination and build forts and then cover them with bed sheets. Parents can visit the toy’s website and download design ideas and share the ideas on the manufacturer’s Facebook page too. It’s a great interactive toy on many levels. One of the leading online toy shops writes;

“Each Crazy Fort Kit contains 25 geometrically precise balls and 44 sticks that connect to create a multitude of possible play structures.”

But to my boys those 25 geometrically precise balls that could be used for building are actually 25 purple objects to throw at your brother. The 44 sticks that could be connected together to create a multitude of play structures are swords to hit your brother with. The manufacturer suggests that this is for children 5+ and seeing that our boys are almost six and just turned three, that toy has been packed away until the little one who is our household tough guy is going to be able to use his imagination for building things rather than just destroying them.

Chance of the set being complete and unbroken: 80%

Percentage of time it has been used as intended: 10%

 5. Angry Birds Board Game

angry bird board gameI was over in China in December 2011 for work when I decided to buy this for our first born son. He had just turned 3-years-old and was obsessed with playing Angry Birds on Mummy or Daddy’s phone. And even before he had turned three he was a gun at the game. If there was an under-3’s world championship, he would have been the title holder.

I played this a few times with him but he became bored of it and didn’t discover it again until his little brother was a full blown toddler. At this stage however, the game wasn’t played the way the designer intended, instead the birds and pigs became bath toys and the wooden structures became inanimate objects laying around the house. The slingshot is the best part of this though as it can be used on its own. Now when I say best part I am using one of my favourite writing tools; irony.

There’s a button to turn the sound on, and when pressed it plays the Angry Birds theme song over and over and over (you get the picture) again until the slingshot is pulled back. When this happens there’s that weird pig noise played followed by cheering, a crashing noise, more weird-arse pig sounds and then that theme song played over and over and… shoot me now.

Chance of the set being complete and unbroken: 20%

Percentage of time it has been used as intended: 20%

6. Vtech Fly and Learn Globe

vtech-fly-and-learn-globeAgain, this is a toy or learning device that I really like, but it just doesn’t get used the way it should. Unfortunately I think that my wife and I a partially to blame because we really need to take the time to sit down with the boys and play it with them. And maybe that’s the problem with many of the toys and games that I have listed here, or ones that you have been thinking about around your own home since you started reading this post from me.

The toy has a few modes which are aimed at teaching children about different countries and continents and the child can use the joystick to fly around the world and land in the destination given by the aural instructions spoken by the toy.

But without our supervision, it just turns into another annoying toy where there’s music or sounds that don’t seem to annoy the kids, but to the parents (well, my wife and I in our case) these repetitive sounds are just noise.

Chance of the set being complete and unbroken: 90%

Percentage of time it has been used as intended: 30%

7. Marbles

MarblesAdmittedly my wife bought our “deluxe box” of marbles for a different purpose than what they are designed for, so the kids aren’t really to blame for this. Our particular box says 6+ and it would have been a bad idea to give them to either child before they had turned three because marbles are definitely a choking hazard.

My wife bought them to use as a reward system for one of the kids; possibly for toilet training to receive one into a container and then add them up to gain a prize at the end of the week. The thing is, I don’t think she followed through with this and I know that I didn’t so the marbles have just found themselves mingling with other toys around the house, falling to the bottom of the toy-boxes, ending up under the lounges and in draws and other locations throughout our house. I have found them in my office draws, in the tub beside the bath where we keep the bath toys, in my beside table draws, and in that container on the kitchen bench where random things go to die.

In the many years that I had marbles as a child I can’t honestly remember playing “marbles” with them. I don’t even think I know the rules of marbles. I mean, I know the concept and I have seen it being played in movies from bygone eras, but I can’t honestly say that I have won a “keepsie” in a tournament.

Chance of the set being complete and unbroken: 0%

Percentage of time it has been used as intended: 0%


Now I’m not trying to dump on these toys and games, nor dump on my kids for not playing with them as they are supposed to. What this exercise has shown me is that the age limits of toys really do need to be adhered to in most cases, and even though it’s great to let your child’s imagination run free, us parents should really take the time to play with the children and teach them about the toys. When they are in their first year the toys are basic and there’s no a lot of instruction needed, and nor will that pay off for the child as the whole purpose of a child having anything to play with before they turn 12 months old is to put the thing in their mouth.

As I mentioned, I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have toys laying around the house that have never been played with or not played with as the designer intended them to be played with. So tell me, what toys have your children neglected to play with? And what toys have they found alternative uses for?

*in our house

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