FULL DISCLOSURE: These are not paid product reviews. If they were, I probably would not get paid, because I'm not sure toy companies appreciate being compared to monstrous black magic hell demons. The links are Amazon Associates, meaning if you decide to buy a monstrous black magic hell demon today, you can click through and reward me with a shiny 1/8th of a penny, or you can open up Amazon in a different browser tab and navigate to the toys yourself, muttering "fuck you, Amalah" the whole time. I am totally fine with either.
The Busy Ball Popper works thusly: you drop some balls into a chute, press down on a lever and and the balls pop up and out and back down the ramps as a merry little circus theme plays. And your kids. Go. Apeshit. They lose their ever-loving goddamned minds over this thing. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers. Even a jaded emo teenager would be powerless to resist squealing and clapping and jumping up and down because OMFG BALLS. Do you remember that scene in Knocked Up where Paul Rudd wishes he liked anything as much as his kids liked bubbles? I don't think there's anything in my adult life that has brought me as much crazed joy as the Ball Popper brings to my children, and I'm including the battery-operated stuff in the nightstand. The Ball Popper is a breakdancing TiVo, an iPhone that shits unicorns, the last faint beacon of hope between this generation and a smoldering pile of war and toxic air and financial ruin.
Cost: $27.99 Alternatively, you could probably make your own with some bent PVC pipe and a hair dryer, but I'd be worried that my neighbors would see the effect it has on their children, and then they'd storm the house in the middle of the night, with torches and pitchforks and their best witch-burnin' stake.
Okay, so I know this thing doesn't really resemble a seahorse. I think it looks more like a Care Bear crossed with My Little Pony sperm, but NO MATTER. You press the beetle-like shell of a belly and it lights up and plays music, just like dozens of other toys that light up and play music, except that this one has apparently been bewitched with magical sleep powers. Yesterday I put a squalling, protesting baby in his crib while I went to retrieve some socks from a nearby laundry pile (shut it), and he kicked and cried and somehow sort of sat on the Spermhorse and the music played and he went into a dazed, silent, thumbsucking trance. Within 30 seconds, he was sound asleep. I honestly keep waiting for an indicator light to come on and tell me it's time to replace the vaporized opium packet located somewhere near the battery pack.
Also bewitched with magical sleep powers of simulated ocean sounds, but be warned: It will eat through your soul at pretty much the same rate it eats through batteries. It will become the bulky, heavy bane of your existence as you feel compelled to drag it with you everywhere that your baby MIGHT POSSIBLY need to sleep, never once encountering a crib design that actually seems compatible with the straps on the back, leading to various precarious jury-rigged arrangements on Pack-n-Plays and relatives' nightstands, because your baby CANNOT SLEEP WITHOUT THE AQUARIUM. NO. NOT EVER. It will demand nightly sacrifices at 2 am of four fresh D batteries, and of course you have no choice but to placate the bubbling, lullaby-playing monster, because without it your baby might wake up at 2 am, or something.
Cost: $49.99, sucker.
You know a toy is educational when they manage to cram the word "LEARN" into the name twice. (Just wait until the Fisher-Price Busiest Busy Ball of Poppin' Pop Balls hits the market. It's gonna be awesome.) And yes, while both of my children were uniformly delighted by this toy, I must admit I am really including it because 1) its red curly tail looks EXACTLY like a baboon's ass, and 2) one of the song lyrics says "you can put coins in my slot and you can take them out."
Cost: $18.72. Slot. Heh.
In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon and there were three little bears sitting on chairs and one little boy on a big wheeled bike, and an elevator that flooded the hallway with blood and REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM...wait, what? My point is, kids really like this book. A lot.
Cost: $8.99, though don't be surprised to look around one day and realize that you own no less than seven copies of it, even though you don't actually recall buying it in the first place. You back away, a little unsettled. You trip over three or four copies of Guess How Much I Love You. The lights grow dim. And then the bunnytaur is upon you. Goodnight. NOBODY.