Here’s the deal. Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, etc. And when waterfowl start getting pudgy, it’s time to shop. Each year, there are a few hot items that fly (like obese birds) off the shelves. Many of which are toys.
The first toy craze I remember is Cabbage Patch Kids. Parents would battle to the death for these weird looking dolls for reasons that are not clear to this day. The nineties brought us Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo and the Furby. I knew people who were buying up Beanie Babies as investments, thinking they’d retire off plush dolls. I don’t know the exact figures…but today they’re worth somewhere in the neighborhood of nothing. Tickle Me Elmo was so hard to find that a thirty dollar toy was temporarily selling on the Sesame Street black market (just behind Oscar’s can) for over a thousand dollars. And the Furby…I don’t know what to say about the Furby…I never understood what this creepy little toy was or what it did. The point is – all fads fade.
That being said, I’ve decided to try and speed up the process this year by debunking the myth of the hot toy.
First up is the “Fisher Price Laugh N Learn Pink Dance N Play Puppy.” You can find this little gem on the Target hot list on their website. This toy sings songs, teaches the ABC’s (with some prejudice, apparently, against a and d – my feelings on abbreviating “and” as ‘n’ can be found here), counts from one to ten, teaches parts of the body, actions and manners, claps, wiggles, dances, sings, raises its ears and blows kisses. Geez. Now I know what to pick up if I’m in the mood to laugh and learn and dance and play and sing and count and practice etiquette. There was a time when toys just sat there. And we liked it. Our parents had to play with pet rocks. A pet rock isn’t going to teach you about body parts. It doesn’t have a body. Look, it’s not like I have anything against the things this toy does…it’s just that it does so many things. There’s something to be said for a simple toy. For a child having to use their imagination instead of just pushing a series of buttons. I think toys should do one…or, maximum, two things. I like water toys. And I like artistic toys. But I don’t need an Etch N Sketch N Slip N Slide.
Over on the Toys “R” Us 2011 Holiday Hot Toys List, I found the “I Am T-Pain Mic.” Children can use this toy microphone to emulate their favorite rapper. They can sing along with such T-Pain hits as, Buy You a Drank and Chopped ‘n’ Skrewed. I’m sure the T-Pain Speak & Spell can’t be far behind. Rap music is all fine and well, but some of the themes and lyrics aren’t necessarily aimed at the Pre-K crowd. I like Eminem. That doesn’t mean I would buy my kid the Slim Shady Lullaby Package.
And, in this week’s Bed Bath & Beyond flier (I had to resist the urge to devote the whole post to this store for the third time – first two are here and here), I found the “Cardboard Color Me Playhouse” (above). Nothing says durable like cardboard. Come on, even the three little pigs were smart enough not to build a house out of cardboard. Actually, this is kind of inspired. Someone at R&D finally noticed that the kids were ignoring the toys and, instead, playing in the large boxes…so they decided to stick a twenty dollar price tag on it and just sell parents the box. And, just look at the picture, nothing makes a family happier than the ability to sit in and/or color a large box. Mom is half way to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from coloring the roof of this box brown for the past four hours, but she’s still grinning up a storm. Box. The gift that keeps on giving.
So, how am I going to do it? How will I get parents to…well, think outside the box? Hey, I’m not the toy police (but I was a big fan of Sting as a child, and I remember the year my parents got me the Toy Police and I would play Don’t Stand So Close To Me for hours). You should get your kids whatever makes them happy. All I’m saying is, just because a few websites and news reports declare something the hot toy of the year doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your child. How many Elmos go untickled nowadays? How many vegetable kids are left unpicked in the patch? And how long before that laughing, learning, kiss-blowing, over-achieving puppy is sitting in the corner gathering dust? Maybe we can start teaching out kids that they’re not defined by their possessions, that they need not give in to peer pressure, and that they should never pay twenty dollars for a box.