Pros: Great way for kids to safely express aggressive impulses.
Cons: May leak water on your floor. Has a pinhead!
My four-year-old son is going through a love/hate period regarding the Hulk character. On his birthday this summer, he was fully into his Hulk obsession and hence got a ton of Hulk toys to celebrate the big day. Aside from the Hulk hands, which were his all-time favorite, his next favorite Hulk toy was the Hulk Bop Bag.
The Bo-Bo Clown Gets Green and Mean
Personally, I was sort of pleased when my son received this gift because I've spent so much time reading about Bandura's studies on aggression and child's interaction with the blow-up Bo-Bo Clown. I really wanted to see what one of these things was like up close. However, I have no idea how much the Hulk Bop Bag resembles the original inflatable punching doll of psychological studies since I never saw the original. However, I can tell you about the Hulk.
The Hulk Bop Bag is an inflatable Hulk figure that stands about 40" high when fully inflated. The bag and edge of the figure is solid blue and then the green Hulk character with tattered purple shorts is on the front with the movie logo "HULK" printed at the bottom. The inflatable figure has two very muscled arms attached to the side of the bag and a remarkably tiny Hulk head, compared to the rest of the bag. Actually the head drawing is proportional (as far as Hulk goes) to the rest of his body but the overall outline of the inflatable head section to the rest of the bop bag is quite diminutive. It's really rather freakish looking, if you ask me. I wonder if it's supposed to be a statement about Hulk's mental capacities? Or the mental capacities of people who own these Hulk toys?
The Ups and Downs of the Hulk Bop Bag
Being the seasoned consumers that we are, we confidently inflated the Hulk Bop Bag without reading the directions. Who needs directions anyway? Well, after we had it all inflated by mouth (whew!), we noticed that there was a plug at the bottom for adding water so that the bop bag could stay standing. Therefore, we took it outside and tried to fill it with the hose. We noticed right away that we couldn't get very much water into the base. Hmmm time to read the directions. Guess what? The first thing is says in bold print is "FILL BASE WITH WATER FIRST!". Duh The next thing it said was that they recommended the use of an air compressor or bicycle pump to fill it because of the size. Well, that certainly would have been easier!
Despite our inadequate efforts at assembling this toy, my son had a fantastic time trying out all of his karate kicks and punches on the Hulk Bop Bag . However, we soon noticed wet spots all over the house where this bob bag had been placed so it was quickly relegated to the outside deck where it languished for a few weeks. When I finally decided to deal with this toy again, the water had completely drained from the base. I was worried that the valve was leaky but it turned out that it has a very distinct puncture hole in the bottom instead. We sealed that with some aqua glue that my husband uses for his kayaking gear. Then we inflated it the RIGHT way - water first, then air. What a great toy it turned out to be! My son could give it his best and the Hulk just bounced back up for more. He got hours of enjoyment out of attacking the Hulk, as did his brother and all of the boys in the neighborhood that passed by. Interestingly, neither my daughter nor any or her friends took more than a tentative kick at this tough guy. Testosterone does make a difference, I guess.
Now the Hulk Bop Bag lives in a semi-deflated (no water) state in our overcrowded front closed because we were concerned about leaving it outside and getting it punctured but also didnt want to risk any more water damage in the house. Clearly, this toy needs it's own place - ideally a playroom with a floor that is puncture free but won't get damaged by a little water. I'm sure that one of these days we'll take him out again and fill him up with water and air so that my son can take out his aggression on the Hulk instead of on his siblings. In the meantime, I wish I had a little more space to store him.
Despite the setback with the water leak, I would recommend the Hulk Bop Bag to anyone with a young Hulk fan with lots of energy and unfocused aggression. It provided hours of amusement and exercise for our son and meant that none of us had to serve as his punching bag during that time. Just make sure you have a puncture-free surface that can take some water leakage and ideally enough storage when Hulk is in resting up from his beatings.
Finally, am I at all concerned that the Hulk Bop Bag will make my son more aggressive by condoning aggressive behavior with this toy? No. In my experience, kids even as young as 3 can tell the difference between aggression towards a live being (person or animal) and aggression towards an inanimate toy or object. They can learn to discriminate between the various targets without too much difficulty. Though I'm also not a big fan of Freud's there is something to be said about the catharsis that comes from beating the holy crap out of something (other than a live being) when you are ticked off. I wish they made them in adult size