Sometimes science is gross. It doesn’t have to be, though, especially when it comes to science-based toys. GIANTmicrobes, “stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes — only a million times actual size!”, are more intellectually stimulating than a teddy bear, but still just as cute.
GIANTmicrobes are available in Original (5-7″), Petri Dish (3 Minis), and GIGANTICmicrobes (15-20″) sizes, with each strain of GIANTmicrobe having regular and miniature versions, and the most popular styles mutating into GIGANTICmicrobes*. (GIGANTICmicrobes, aside from being huge, huggable stuffed toys, are suitable as decorative throw pillows, so if you have a science-themed room in need of whimsy, these jumbo microbes fit the doctor’s bill.) New GIANTmicrobes are spawned regularly, at a rate that makes action figure lines seem like relatively small outbreaks. The complete catalogue of specimens, to date, is as follows:
- Aerials: House Fly, Mosquito
- Alimentaries: Acidophilus (New!), Beer & Bread (Yeast)*, Cavity, E. coli*, Listeria (New!), Salmonella*, Yogurt
- Ambulatories: Lyme Disease
- Aquatics: Algae, Amoeba (Blue, Orange, or Yellow), Copepod (New!), Krill, Red Tide, Scum, Sea Sparkle, Waterbear (New!)
- Calamities: Anthrax, Black Death*, Ebola*, Flesh Eating*, Mad Cow*, Typhoid Fever
- Corporeals: Brain Cell*, Egg Cell, Fat Cell, Nerve Cell, Platelet, Red Blood Cell*, Sperm Cell, White Blood Cell*
- Critters: Bed Bug, Black Ant, Bookworm*, Dust Mite, Flea, Louse, Maggot, Red Ant
- Exotics: Bird Flu, Martian Life*, Penicillin*, Swine Flu*, T4
- Health: Common Cold*, Cough, Ear Ache, Flu*, Sore Throat*, Stomach Ache*
- Infirmaries: C. Diff, Chickenpox, Measles (New!), MRSA*, Pneumonia, Rubella (New!), Staph*, Toxic Mold
- Maladies: Athlete’s Foot, Bad Breath, Giardia, Kissing Disease*, Pimple, Ulcer
- Menageries: Heartworm, Mange, Rabies, Toxoplasmosis
- Professional: Hepatitis, HIV*, Polio, TB
- Tropicals: Gangrene, Leishmania (New!), Malaria, Sleeping Sickness, West Nile
- Venereals: Chlamydia*, The Clap (Gonorrhea)*, Herpes*, HPV (New!), The Pox (Syphilis)*
The GIANTmicrobes’ low-pile plush fabric is soft and brightly coloured — a pile of the toys looks like a spilled box of Crayola 64-pack crayons — and accent materials like shiny plastic eyes, embroidery, fringe, cord, felt, and shimmery metallic cloth add tactile detail that make GIANTmicrobes so invitingly touchable. Hang-tag booklets and other packaging on the GIANTmicrobes provide pictures and scientific bios of the real lifeforms they caricature, humorously written in the manner of Bill Nye the Science Guy, allowing GIANTmicrobes to be both educational and fun. Parents and teachers can use them to introduce their little scientists to the world of microorganisms, while school health classes and medical professionals will want to employ them as props in discussions with young people about sensitive topics, such as pregnancy and STDs. Or, you can skip the real-life science lessons and just play. Gather a group of friends to recreate the infection process on a grand scale by throwing GIANTmicrobes at one another and yelling things like “I just gave you kissing disease!” (This game is great exercise, as you’ll need to run and dodge to avoid being “infected” back.)
Perhaps the most entertaining of the GIANTmicrobe toys are the petri dishes. Three mini microbes are sealed in a plastic “petri dish”, a heavy, clear plastic container subtly embossed with the GIANTmicrobes logo on the lid. The paper labels are all loosely attached with bits of transparent tape, so they’re easily removed to give you a fairly realistic looking petri dish. Mad scientists-in-training can amuse themselves for hours, combining the contents of petri dishes to see what “results” they get. The more petri dish selections in the “lab”, the more interesting the “science experiments”! Bookworm + Brain Cell = Smart Bug. Martian Life + Swine Flu = Pigs in Space? Amoeba + Flesh Eating Disease + Rabies = Microscopic Zombie. Yikes!
If you work in a doctor’s office or science lab, and want to add a touch of humour to your formal wear, GIANTmicrobes are printed on stylish neckties in three eye-catching designs. For informal settings, there are t-shirts and hats. Other GIANTmicrobes-related items tailored to your workspace are coffee mugs, keychains, and, for anyone wanting to apply fake cooties to their skin, temporary tattoos.
The GIANTmicrobes brand even has a line of medical supplies. There’s a liquid soap dispenser shaped like a common cold bug, moist wipes, and a digital thermometer. The bright orange and white thermometer is less clinical in appearance than a regular thermometer, and has an adorable picture of a sad cold bug on the handle, a teensy GIANTmicrobes thermometer stuck in its mouth. The digital thermometer comes in a protective clear case, and, being electronic, contains no toxic mercury — seriously, why stick poison in your mouth when you’re already sick? Since the device is American-made, it displays degrees in Fahrenheit, so converting the results will be a necessary inconvenience in other countries, where Celsius is standard. The thermometer only takes about a minute to spit out an accurate reading, however, and its tip is flexible for a comfortable fit under the tongue. A beep indicates when the temperature readout is ready, and a fever alarm lets you know when a visit to the doctor is in order. An auto-off feature conserves battery life, which lasts around 200 hours.
Germs are tenacious little beasts, and frequent hand-washing only controls them for so long. As a last line of defense, you may need to bring in the big guns to keep your playful GIANTmicrobes in order:
Marshmallow Shooters, recommended for ages 8 to 88, are similar to Nerf guns, except that instead of shooting foamy, marshmallow-like projectiles, they use real marshmallows as ammunition. Depending on which Marshmallow Shooter you choose, mini or full-sized marshmallows are loaded up and launched, and if you prefer a firearm that’s more medieval issue than a pistol or bazooka, the extensive range of Marshmallow Shooters includes bows and crossbows. Weapons aren’t usually described as Earth-friendly, but these toy shooters hold that unique distinction. Unlike foam pellets, the “biodegradable payload” used by Marshmallow Shooters simply melts away, leaving no trace behind, aside from a few diabetic squirrels who get to the treats before the next rain shower. Everyone knows that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, so blast those microbes into submission with a barrage of sugary sweet marshmallows!
Or order GIANTmicrobes directly through the Giantmicrobes website. Order Marshmallow Shooters directly through the Marshmallow Fun Company website. GIANTmicrobes and Marshmallow Shooters are also available through ThinkGeek.
GIANTmicrobes, GIGANTICmicrobes, and GIANTmicrobes in a Petri Dish are distributed by Giantmicrobes (US) and Stortz & Associates (Canada). Marshmallow Shooters are distributed by Marshmallow Fun Company (US) and Stortz & Associates (Canada).