As she tore into the wrapping, the dark blue horns and ferocious teeth of the toy become visible. She beamed and Grandpa leaned forward, eager as the five-year-old who is feasting on the gift. Its claws appeared, followed by impressively meaty legs and a mighty blue tail. And then, it roared.
To my ears — a dad’s ears — it was not a mighty roar. It started off with a gravelly purr, the kind a 10-ton cat might make as it is being stroked. This, however, morphed into a gargled growl, the sound that same animal would let out while drowning in the bathtub. It then turned a corner into what I could only assume was the 63-year-old, tinny but formidable roar from the original Godzilla. After plenty of time with the creature, this much is clear: It is the king of the annoying sounds.
The Animal Planet Infrared Smoke Breathing Dragon is, all things considered, a pretty cool toy. It breathes smoke (technically water vapor), it walks, it works by remote control, and it looks the part of one badass dragon. But under no circumstance should a parent with intact hearing buy it for their child.
This toy isn’t a lone offender. Walk down the aisle of any Toys ‘R’ Us independent toy store and you will see bearers of annoying sound everywhere. The telltale sign is a circle cut into the packaging, surrounded by a label that says “Try Me! – Pruébame! – Essaie-Moi!” My advice: Faites s’il vous plaît!
Go ahead and push the damned button before you buy. Then push it again. Repeat a dozen more times and then the whole store will get a sense of what the first 10 minutes of life with this toy will be like. Then, really consider it. Do you want your life to be met with such a racket? To reach a point where you want to sneak around in the middle of the night and pull out it’s battery-powered heart?
So far, I’ve done an excellent job of complaining about how annoying noise toys are for the parents: beyond imagination. But what about the effects of such toys on the kids? Looks like, despite the clear button-pressing pleasure kids derive, they lose out too. According to one study in JAMA Pediatrics, infants playing with their dads involved fewer adult words, conversational turns, and parental responses when noisy toys were involved over traditional toys or books). My question for the dads in this study: How much did they pay you to be subjected to such torture?
I get it. We buy toys not for ourselves, but for our kids. There is, however, such a thing as self-care. And a dad constantly plagued by the roar of a dragon or cry of a doll or bleat of a sheep is a dad that’s a bit more on edge.
The worst thing about our noisy dragon friend is that for the brief time that it was the most popular toy in our house, I avoided indoor play time with my daughter. I’d go out of my way to concoct DIY projects, take her to the playground, read to her, do anything but play with her dragon friend. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Playing imagination with your kids is one of the most trying things for parents, sure, but it’s also incredibly important. The dynamic of play with dolls and action figures is unlike any other type of play, and many experts agree that it’s a valuable one indeed for their social and creative skills. The addition of an annoying noise likely hinders this play in ways beyond what any study can finger.
In other words? Let our dragons be ferocious, breathe fire, and menace our playrooms, but for goodness’ sake, please don’t let them roar.