Wishing for a Silent Night in Toyland

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Norris Johnson uses his talking laptop.

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

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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.


A Furby electronic pet, featured in "try me" packaging designed to improve sales. Photos by Alison MacAdam, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photos by Alison MacAdam, NPR
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"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."

Talking Elmos on a store shelf i

A symphony of Talking Elmos. hide caption

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Talking Elmos on a store shelf

A symphony of Talking Elmos.

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

Road Rippers 'Hip Hoppers' car

A noisy Road Rippers car is Michele Norris' "least favored toy." hide caption

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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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