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Wishing for a Silent Night in Toyland

Norris Johnson, the reporter's 5-year-old, uses his talking laptop.
Norris Johnson, the reporter's 5-year-old, uses his talking laptop.

It's that time of the year of when children are making their lists and checking them twice as they dream about new toys they'll receive over the holidays. When it comes to selecting gifts for Michele Norris' two young ones, she's decided that silence is golden.

"My young ones are 5 and 6 years old," Norris says. "They were born in the midst of a talking toy craze -- and the emphasis here is on that word craze. Once you get beyond books and the simplest of building blocks or basic dolls, it seems that almost every toy that enters our home is has some kind of sound chip."

While many of these yammering toys were gifts, Norris admits she's purchased many herself. But the annoyance factor grew with each new toy, "and before long, our rec room sounded like Grand Central Station at five o'clock on a Friday."

So, Norris wonders, why does a toy barbeque grill need to talk? Why do cars need to rev their engines and blast disco music?

Stephanie Oppenheim, who tracks toy trends at the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Web site, says toymakers crank up the volume to help boost sales. "In order to compete, the toys have to make a lot of noise to get your attention," Oppenheim says.

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