It's definitely unjolly when the instructions say 'Insert Tab A in Slot B' and there is no Slot B

December 25, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

Every parent who has played Santaa on Christmas Eve can recite at least one toy-assembly nightmare -- of unpacking the scoot-along toddler tractor to find only one rear tire or to learn that the instructions are in a foreign language.

"You see that clock ticking away, and all of a sudden you're not so nimble anymore and not so coordinated, and the screws won't go into the holes," says Beverly DeJulio, a home repair expert with a seasonal specialty in putting toys together.

Ms. DeJulio, who offers household repair advice regularly on the Discovery Channel, says she learned from experience not to wait until late Christmas Eve.

"It was the first year I was a single parent. I had four children, and the youngest was 2. It was about 5:30 in the morning when I finally put my head on the pillow, and the first child was up at 5:45. I was only 15 minutes ahead of them. You really must look ahead," she says.

Her first rule: Read the instructions before you even think about buying the toy.

"There's a dollhouse out there this year that has more than 200 parts -- that's a four-hour job to assemble. Just don't bite off more than you can chew."

Since some toys may still need to be assembled, here's Ms. DeJulio's method:

* Lay out and sort all the parts and pieces, then use small bags or boxes to stow the screws, nuts, bolts and washers by type.

* Open boxes carefully so that if a part is missing, you can pack it easily to return. (Don't even attempt assembly if pieces are missing.)

* Study instructions. Make sure you have the tools you'll need. The basic tools for toy assembly are small and medium sets of screwdrivers -- slotted and Phillips -- and regular and needle-nosed pliers.

* Buy batteries. Also have glue, tape and scissors handy. They often aren't listed in the instructions.

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