Earth imports alien-manufactured toys which must be tested for safety. Early imports were clearly harmful...but the harm is getting very subtle and the story covers a scene where testers/scientists do not understand what the alien toy is trying to achieve.

This is a short story, probably written in the 1950s or 60s.


Didn't find a duplicate, but I found a comment on another question that leads to

"War Game"

by P. K. Dick

To copy from the wikipedia entry

The Ganymedans are considering war with Earth. A group of Earth toy safety inspectors examine three new toys from Ganymede to discover if they should be allowed to be imported: A toy soldier game where 12 soldiers attack a citadel, a virtual reality suit, and Syndrome, a Monopoly-like board game.

It's quite a "oh. ... OH!" kind of story and can be read as a commentary on the value of play as a tool for learning. By extension it can be read as a warning about helicopter parenting, though from the publication date (1959) I don't believe that was quite as widespread as it has become in recent decades.

It seems to be available from archive.org.

  • 3
    That's actually the opposite of helicopter parenting, where the parents hover (like a helicopter) over everything the child does, rather than let them mature and learn from their own experiences. In the story, the adults are distracted from the real danger (the board game) by the toy soldiers. Only the children bother to read the rules of the game, where the objective is to have the LEAST amount of stock by the end of the game. It's meant to destroy the enemy's economy by teaching children to not want wealth.
    – CigarDoug
    Dec 12 '15 at 11:30

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