A plush chunk of talking bacon may not be exactly what your kids hope to find under the Christmas tree. But consider this: Instead of jousting to snag the latest video game or Barbie -- and furnishing your children with the same stuff as their friends -- you can give them a huggable doll shaped like breakfast meat.
Sure, it may seem counterintuitive, but as anyone who grew up playing with a Slinky, a Squirmle or Silly Putty can attest, it's often the strangest toys, the ones that freak us out or make us squeal, that become our childhood favorites. They also allow kids to explore a culture through its toys, bringing the sense of discovery that comes with traveling right into your living room.
Indeed, there are toy manufacturers and home-crafters across the globe that cater to kids' taste for the bizarre. A few of the odder toys out there seem geared to kids from certain cultures. An American child, for instance, might not feel particularly inspired to play with a platter of crocheted sushi rolls, while a Japanese or Muslim child might be baffled or even horrified by that talking slab of bacon.
More often than not, though, strange toys have universal appeal. What child, for instance, wouldn't enjoy turning a boring old toothbrush into a whirring bristled robot beastie? (Parents, start planning your oral-hygiene playdates now.)
-- Sarah Gold
Budding surgeons-to-be will appreciate Erwin, a plush doll with Ziggy Stardust hair and a secret under his hospital gown. Lift Erwin's hem, unzip his apparently genderless torso, and voilà -- out pops a series of interconnected, sort-of-anatomically-correct innards. A set of bright blue lungs, a tangle of green intestines (both small and large), a pair of kidneys, a spleen, a liver and a red valentine-shaped heart are all attached to one another with color-coded Velcro strips. See More Strange Toys Here Photo: Courtesy of Wild and Woolly Toys
Sure, the Green Lantern fights against evil with his Colossal Cannon and Spider-Man has his sticky web nunchucks. In a real emergency, though, what most of us need is a man with a plunger. Ergo, the Mega Plumber action figure, created by American Standard (a company that also makes toilets) to help kids "see plumbers as true superheroes." The six-inch figure comes equipped with his own monkey wrench, miniature toilet, and -- so important for superheroes -- rubber gloves. See More Strange Toys Here Photo: Courtesy of O'Reilly DePalma
One of Europe's most popular toys (with more than a million sold in 2011 alone), Doggie Doo caters to two childhood fixations: a love of animals and a fascination with poop. The game, which purports to teach about responsible pet care, features a plastic dachshund with a leash that ends in a pneumatic pump handle. Kids feed molded-putty treats into the dog's mouth, then pump the handle to watch them expelled beneath its wagging tail -- to a barrage of farting sounds. The first player to scoop three poops wins. See More Strange Toys Here Photo: Courtesy of Goliath Games LLC
Germophobic parents may look askance at these plush creations, which portray disease-bearing microbes as cuddly, google-eyed friends. But while it may be unsettling to see your child snuggle up to a squiggly pink toy syphilis, play house with fuzzy, tasseled E. Coli or have a tea party with flesh-eating bacteria (helpfully embroidered with a knife and fork), the microbes are undoubtedly helpful for educational purposes. And they've been heralded for their design by no less than New York's Museum of Modern Art. See More Strange Toys Here Photo: Courtesy of thinkgeek.com
Why read your kids a book or show them a movie about the world's most famous shipwreck when you can reenact the epic tragedy in your own backyard? Made in China but available for party rentals all over the world -- with the exception of Switzerland, where it was called unethical by the national Titanic Club -- the Titanic Inflatable Slide is a 33-foot-high, bouncy replica of the doomed steamship, tilted at a precarious angle to allow kids to plunge screaming from the decks. For extra realism, some models include an inflatable iceberg. See More Strange Toys Here Photo: Courtesy of fun-makers.com
Made from a battery-operated motor attached to the head of a hacked-off toothbrush, this buzzing, vibrating mini bot has nothing to do with cleaning kids' teeth. Rather, it's meant to be set on the floor, where it careens around like a caffeinated caterpillar, ricocheting off walls and furniture. The bot's simple design elements (and high parental annoyance factor) are almost certainly why it's so popular with kids. While there are premade bots available for purchase, there are also plenty of Internet videos showing how to make Bristlebots at home. See More Strange Toys Here Photo: Courtesy of Hogwild Toys
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