Toys are us: what do today's games and gadgets tell us about Ireland in 2018?
What do the bestselling children's Christmas gizmos, games and gadgets say about the way we live now? Ed Power has a few suggestions
Christmas is coming and homes across the country are about to throw open their doors to landfills-worth of shiny new playthings.
But in addition to giving future generations of seals and whales something to enjoy when all that lovely plastic ends up sloshing around the north Atlantic, toys provide a unique insight into our national character. In more care-free times, scruffy urchins would lark in the streets with sticks and cowboy guns made from toxic lead. Today, by contrast, it's all gizmos and gadgets. What does that tell us about Ireland in 2018? Wonder no more - as we cast a knowledgeable gaze over the 10 most anticipated toys this Christmas.
1. Spy Code - Operation: Escape Room
Because nothing says seasonal joy like being trussed in an "escape belt" that looks like a cuddly suicide vest. Tapping into the 'escape room' craze supposedly sweeping the country - it would seem to be sweeping in its own good time - Operation: Escape Room requires players to collect three keys via "challenges of skill, strategy and luck" before the clock runs down. Ideal for kids who enjoy solving puzzles while subjecting close family members to recreational incarceration.
2. Our Generation Awesome Academy School Room
Whatever happened to youthful rebellion? It has apparently gone the way of vinyl and British fishing quotas. This replica classroom boasts "working lights, clock, fire alarm, school bell, real chalkboard and chalk, and glow-in-the-dark whiteboard". Not included: leaky prefab, failed structural report and teacher whinging about their salary.
3. Poopsie Unicorn Slime Surprise
Society's unicorn obsession was never going to end well - and here we arrive at the apotheosis: a replica horned horse that leaves a trail of rainbow poo all over your house. Never mind Brexit, Donald Trump and Oh My God What a Complete Aisling - when future generations wish to consider how close to the brink we teetered in 2018, here is all the evidence required.
4. L.O.L. Surprise! Eye Spy Under Wraps Series
Here's the real surprise - these "under wraps" dolls, each with a "mystery disguise", retail at circa €20 a pop. Something to remember next time you find yourself wondering why the mortgage won't be paid off until 2045. Yes, Daddy needs some alone time.
5. NERF Laser Ops Pro AlphaPoint Blaster 2-Pack
It has more going for it than just a catchy title. This heavy-duty plastic gun looks like something Ellen Ripley might have packed had they not killed her off in Alien 3. What does it say about 21st century Ireland that we're rushing out to buy huge white and orange fake laser howitzers for our young people? Something to do with Brexit, probably.
6. Treasure X
Unfortunately not a reference to the tax relief you were promised you could claim back off the attic conversion. Instead, the game has you digging for buried goodies. Maybe your eight-year-old will unearth enough gold doubloons to pay for a new kitchen.
Fingerling Baby Dragons "bring you good luck and friendship at your fingertips". As it happens, luck and friendship are things you could do with plenty of as you're too busy working a 70-hour week to normally have time for either. They grip tightly and make indecipherable babbling sounds, which start off endearing but are soon testing the limits of your willpower - an ideal way for preparing your kids for when they have children of their own.
8. Unicorn Ponycycle
Another unicorn, although at least this (probably) won't poo all over your wood flooring. Your precious bundle can "cycle" around on the unicorn by moving their feet up and down on the pedals. Thus will an entire generation - at least the unicorn-loving segment thereof - be rescued from childhood obesity.
9. Fisher-Price Dance & Groove Rockit
A light-up responsive toy designed for babies and the perfect introduction to a lifetime of being harassed by technology without their consent.
10. Barbie Dreamhouse
She may be plastic and project a unrealistic ideal of womanhood but, as with many people, Barbie really just wants a roof over her head. Her Dreamhouse has eight rooms and comes with home office, furniture, lights and sounds. And unlike the rest of us, she doesn't have to commute from Longford for the privilege of living in it. Not included: 'Airbnb Ken' doll who trashes his room and leaves something smelly and dubious behind (a hissy review online).