Six toys I’m not buying from

Score one for high school networking. My wife keeps in contact with a then-German exchange student she met during her senior year. He’s buying a DVD of the Le Premier Cri documentary from Amazon’s German outfit and shipping it to us. There’s no English subtitles, and our Deutsch is quite rusty, but so what.

I seized the opportunity to browse through’s toy section and found one interesting toy that is not sold by the manufacturer’s American distributor. What toy do German kids play with, but is not appropriate in America? Sorry, you’ll have to wait for the review in a few weeks. Rest assured, it’s something both my 19-month-old and 5-year-old can play with.

In the meantime, here are a few toys I decided not to buy…

Photo of a wooden rack containing three hanging plastic sausages and two plastic cans of food.

1) Plastic bratworst from BC Tanner — Plus, two plastic cans of ravioli and rice soup. I shouldn’t smirk at something as simple as dietary cultural differences, but I just can’t imagine my kids plunking down giant sausages on their toy plates.

Photo of a toy shaving kit depicting a child's face covered in shaving cream.

2) Shaving kit from SES Creative — It’s a toy straight razor and shaving cream. One time, in college, I considered using a straight razor. That dream died a week later after I was unable to find a store that sold straight razors. I’m thinking the only places that sell them in America are, perhaps, barber shops and web stores.

Our German friend’s comment: “I think this is really weird! Does ‘straight razors’ mean for wet shaving? Anyway, they are common.”

Photo of a red handpuppet that looks like a traditional depiction of the devil.

3) Satan hand puppet by Sterntaler — I suppose devil puppets are sold in America too, but I still scratched my head when encountering Satan in a toy store.

German friend’s comment: “Thanx for the laugh!”

Photo of a clear plastic ball containing a plastic turtle sitting on a floating platform with a dragonfly hanging above him from a plastic stick stuck in the floating platform.

4) Turtle Ball by Fisher Price — A plastic turtle and dragonfly float in a water-filled ball, always staying upright as your toddler rolls the ball around. Fake rocks in the ball make a “funny noise” when shaken. Uhh, what? It’s rated for 3 months to 2 years.  Did this toy fail in the American market, or was it never introduced? There’s also a Duck Ball.

German friend’s comment: “A little tacky, isnt it? But the babies like this stuff. One of [our son's] friends has something similar and [our son] cannot let go of it!”

Photo of a child's red ride-on car covered in an orange bearskin with a bear's cartoon face depicted at the front.

5) Bobby Car Classic red with a bearskin coat — It’s a ride-on car with a plush faux bear skin. Why a bear skin? Google Translate says it’s a “perfect accessory” for when you’re “in cold temperatures.” That’s what I love about the German people. They care about how their inanimate objects feel. The car is rated for 1- to 3-year-olds. Also, who knew bears in Germany were yellow-orange? Raise your hands. Anyone?

German friend: “LOL!”

Sobering language factoid: You would think the way to say “laugh out loud” in German is “laut loslachen,” but it’s apparently just LOL.

Photo of a red Christmas train pulling two tall cars that contain 25 Advent treat boxes on them, stacked high.

6) Advent Calendar Steam Train — It looks to be a Thomas-style train, except with with triple-decker cars sporting 25 goody boxes. At first I thought, “Hey, kind of cool.” Then I thought, “No, no it’s really not.”  A  Playmobil Public Storage Rental Advent Calendar would be cool if it came with 25 Playmobil people who visit one-by-one each day wanting to empty their rental spaces, and they all store chocolate. That gets me thinking. When I die, I want an Advent Calendar Gravestone Topper. It could contain miniature plastic flowers to place on my grave.

German friend: “This is not really unusual, if you have ever been on a German Christmas market. I have seen worse.”

Photo of a Thomas the Train style small wooden trail that comes with a remote control.

7) Bonus Toy: Infrared Locomotive from Eichorn — Maybe this is in America now and I just haven’t seen it… Thomas and Brio-style trains, not just battery-powered, but with a remote control to activate, move forward and reverse, play sounds and flash the headlights. I totally wanted this one, but my wife doesn’t want me to experience joy.  (It’s funny because it’s true.) Oh, okay, my wife just retorted, “You got your joy when you recorded my snoring and put it on your blog.” This just in: women never forget, and they make you pay over and over and over again.

German friend’s comment: (Actually, I didn’t ask him because there are quite a few trains like this on I also didn’t ask him about the plastic sausage toy because nothing would peg me as a dullard quicker than that.)

Photo of a board game called Magic Labyrinth.

8) Bonus toy I probably am buying: Magic Labyrinth — It’s an invisible maze board game for 5-year-olds. You’ll have to watch the embedded video on Amazon for a sense of how it functions. Essentially, the playing pieces are magnets dragging ball bearings around. The balls are connected underneath the playing board and bump into unseen walls. When you accidentally detach the ball and the ball rolls out a collection point, you know you’ve hit a wall. It looks like a great memory game.

Magic Labyrinth won the 2009 Kinderspiel des Jahres — best children’s game in Germany. If there’s one thing I’d love to do, it’d be to browse the board game section of a German toy store because they take the genre seriously. Where else can a board game designer become a household name? You can’t see it in the thumbnail, but above the game title on the box is the inventor’s name, Dirk Baumann.

Anyhow, I’m inclined to buy the American release of Magic Labyrinth. It’s available for pre-order at Thought Hammer where I’ve purchased a few other games such as Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride, both past Spiel des Jahres (adult Game of the Year) winners.

And that there is the end of my post. Usually right about now I spout off a pithy question to engender further conversation, but this time I’ve got nuthin’…


4 Responses to “Six toys I’m not buying from”

  1. SarraJK says:

    Brio made something similar to item 7. I got it for my son for Christmas 2 years ago.

    Looks like it’s no longer available, but we got ours at Toys R Us.

    November 19th, 2009 at 8:31 am

  2. Phil says:

    Hey AJ – we lived in Germany for a year and learned the hard way that German DVDs and American DVD players don’t play nicely (and vice versa). That was nearly 10 years ago so maybe they’ve unified into a standard format.

    Hope Le Premier Cri works in your player!

    November 19th, 2009 at 12:37 pm

  3. AJ says:

    Phil, it’s worse than you think. Your DVDs were intentionally rendered unplayable outside Region 1 (the US and Canada). This is done so companies can charge different prices in different countries. Any claims about it being an anti-piracy move are baloney. Pirates have no trouble removing “digital rights management.”

    I bought a “region-free” DVD player from my local DVD rental store so I could watch UK-minted Doctor Who DVDs a full year before they are released in America. These days it seems most fans choose to illegally download TV shows because the BBC offers no legal option for watching, short of waiting a year or more until a DVD is released or it runs a year later on an American cable channel.

    Meanwhile, the new Blu-Ray discs are even more bad news, introducing even tougher restrictions. Corporations don’t understand their markets and actively fight consumers (trying to control us) rather than embracing a more lucrative business model that recognizes today’s reality. I’d gladly pay a subscription fee to watch BBC TV online.

    November 19th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

  4. Allison says:

    Wow, the labyrinth game and and the remote control train both look really cool!

    November 24th, 2009 at 3:30 pm