Downtime

Why Do Children Love This Terrifying Stuffed Animal They Have to Hatch From an Egg?

A "hatchibaby" with two adoring girls.
Don’t look directly into its eyes.
Spin Master

“Hatchimals” were the Tickle Me Elmo of Christmas 2016, the kind of uncanny gotta-have-it stuffed animal that children demanded while the rest of the world looked on in horror. They were small, brightly colored robotic creatures that kids were supposed to coax from eggs and then “nurture,” though they remained in a state of permanent adolescence.

If you hoped these were just a passing fad, well, they’re evolving. As Black Friday approaches, Hatchi-parent company Spin Master is poised to have another hit on its hands with Hatchibabies, this year’s fluffy atrocity that comes inside an egg. In case you missed Hatchimals the first time they stole Christmas, now’s your chance to catch up and get acquainted with these moppets—moppets that retail for $59.99.

A Hatchimal comes from the same disturbing toy lineage as the Furby—it’s a stuffed animal that makes noise and interacts with its owner. The idea is that kids are supposed to take care of it like a pet, by brushing it and tickling it, etc. (Because we all know tickling is an important part of the maturation process.) The big difference between one of these and a Furby is that each one comes inside a big, spotted egg that has to be cuddled and encouraged before it can hatch, so theoretically kids can have an even bigger part in its life cycle. But those are regular Hatchimals. Now, we have “Hatchibabies,” an even “cuter” and more babylike version of these toys, with giant eyes and little diapers on their bottoms. They’re supposed to be cute, anyway. To me they have the look of underfed alley cats, in that something about them looks unhealthy—the proportions, the matted fur? In any case, I question whether these are the best means to teach children how to rear something to health. But those children seem poised to overrule me: Hatchibabies are all over “hot lists” of toys that are poised to sell out in the coming weeks.

Aside from the spooky little aliens inside, is anyone else horrified that so many toys come in eggs now? What gives? It appears to be the result of the popularity of YouTube unboxing, or I guess also de-egg-ing, videos, and toy companies have welcomed the phenomenon with open arms, since “collectible” variations mean kids will wish for several versions of the same toy to unpack. But the egg thing: It just seems so clinical—is this really how children want to play? Doesn’t it invite questions about biology that parents won’t necessarily want to answer? Do kids really want to catch the lit-up eyes of a small monster staring at them from inside an egg, and then rock that egg to free the monster, and then burp it when it comes out? I guess so! The Hatchibabies come in a few different varieties, and another new element this year is that the hatchling can be a boy or a girl. Hatchimals were previously genderless, something that just couldn’t stand in our mad-for-gender-reveal­-parties world, which seems like another not-great lesson to impart to small children, but oh well.

Hatchibabies are already burning up the Amazon Top 100 in Toys and Games, and in the Stuffed Animal category, they’re in the top 10, so brace yourself for a 2019 full of cooing interactive animal babies. But as I studied their eerie rise, I was also comforted to see, not far into that same Top 100, the card game Uno, holding strong and surrounded by no eggs whatsoever. My future children, should I have them, better like the classics.