Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University


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Flies in the face of fashion

What's Buggin You Now?





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Some Holiday Gifts for Kids a Little Buggy

Over the years, many youngsters have received a holiday gift or two that could be described as buggy. Insect-related items are probably not near the top of most children's holiday wish lists. But, like their living models, insect things do seem to creep into the stacks of holiday gifts.

Wooden pull toys have been popular gifts for children for many years. A common design for such toys is that of a cricket or grasshopper. Both of these insects have hind legs adapted for jumping, and that action has been incorporated into the toy.  

Wooden pull toys designed in the shape of a grasshopper have been available commercially since the late 1800s. One model offered for sale recently on eBay was labeled pla-lak toys and dated to the early 1900s. These early toys had the body of the insect cut from wood and included painted markings. The front legs were attached to a wheel. Each hind leg was articulated to the body on one end and to a wheel at the foot, which produced the up-and-down motion, simulating jumping by the insect.

By the 1950s, the design was frequently that of a cricket. For example, Fisher-Price produced Kriss Kricket. In this case, the cricket wore tuxedo and spats and produced a clicking sound as the toy was pulled forward. This cricket had coiled-spring antennae.

The well-known Kouvalias Wood Toys included the Little Cricket. This happy cricket was adorned with a top hat and four legs, which moved up and down when the toy was pulled. It also produced a clicking sound when in motion.

Another insect pull toy, which remained popular for years, was first produced in New Zealand by brothers Hec and John Ramsey. This toy, called Buzzy Bee, became a standard toy for baby boomers. It featured a buzzing sound, quivering antennae and spinning wings.

For kids who would rather push than pull their toys, there is a firefly by the Steven Co. You know it is a firefly because, when you push the handle, it produces light in its body. It also has front legs that move up and down, producing a noise.

When it comes to sound production by insect toys, the top of the line has to be the Bee Bop Band, manufactured by Battat Inc. and distributed by "Parents Magazine." This combination of instruments includes a caterpillar tambourine, ant bells, a seven-note ladybug xylophone, a bee clacker, centipede drumsticks and drum, which doubles as the container for the other items. Now there is a toy guaranteed to drive parents crazy.

Some people like to give more practical gifts. A pop-up storage bin might fit the bill. You can get them in bee, caterpillar or even spider designs. Such a storage bin is the perfect place for kids to store their toys.

All little kids like rocking chairs. One in a ladybug design is appropriately called the Lily Ladybug Rocker. Kids always need a little help reaching things, especially those that they aren't supposed to reach. Lily Ladybug can help out in the form of a step stool. If you don't like the ladybug motif, choose a Huck Grasshopper or Miss Spider step stool instead

For babies, a Sassy Teething Ring Butterfly is just the thing. A Come Fly With Me bib with a dragonfly design is a functional item for slobbering, food-spitting babies.

School-age kids are bound to create a stir when they pack their lunch in a cockroach lunchbox. The kids might even carry it to school wearing some of their new Buzz Off clothing that includes a variety of insect designs.

You can't go wrong with an insect design on gifts for kids. With the younger set, bugs are big!



Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox