Being a parent in 2019 means constantly worrying that the world is toxic. Usually, I can keep the scaremongering at bay with a good dose of common sense.
But what happens when a respected government agency finds that your kid’s favourite toy contains high concentrations of harmful chemicals? Well, you freak out and decide that everyone needs to hear about it – and that’s what happened the day that I bought my kids some “squishies”.
“Squishies” have been the big toy trend of the past eighteen months. You’ve probably seen them at the shops – they are like bigger, cuter and softer stress balls. A squishy often resembles something “kawaii” (the Japanese word for “cute”), such as an ice cream, unicorn or rainbow poo, usually with an adorable little face on it.
When you squeeze a squishy, it feels like you’re grabbing a giant marshmallow that slowly re-inflates. The squishy took off as a trend thanks to videos on social media of people playing with these adorable, tactile toys.
When my kids told me they wanted squishies, I happily went with them to the shops to buy some. Each squishy was very cheap (around $3 to $5) and easy to find at our local shopping centre. We had dinner with the kids’ grandparents that night, and we squished our squishies as we waited for the food.
I realised that something was up, though, when I felt that maybe we should scrub our hands more than usual before we ate, because we’d been playing with the squishies.
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I’m not a germaphobic mum. It’s just that I noticed that the skin on my own hands felt a bit different after playing with the squishy, as though some residue was left on them – like when you run your hands through your hair after it’s had hairspray and other products in it.
There was also the smell. On each squishy packet, there was a warning that each squishy had been intentionally fragranced with a bad smell, so as to deter pets and humans from eating them. It was true – the squishies stank. Like old nail polish and hair dye. The sort of smell that stings your nose and makes your eyes water.