My husband and I spent some time this morning drinking coffee and reminiscing about toys. Earlier in the week I got a catalog in the mail from Back to Basics Toys. It’s a great catalog of classic toys and even has the original date for some of them. Gary has fond memories of slot cars, circa 1957, and I remember hours spent with tinker toys, a classic since 1914, and Patti Playpal, a three-foot tall doll from 1959. There are also some great toys that our children treasured- corn popper push along, View Master, Bozo bop bag, Lite Brite, and Lincoln Logs.
In the same mail was the JCPenney Christmas catalog. And while I was pleased to see some “classic” toys in it as well, I was stunned by the number of toys that require batteries and perform some specific, limited task. It’s no wonder that children need more toys if each one serves only one purpose. You know the classic story about the kid playing longer with the box than the toy that was in it- it’s because they can probably do more things with the box!
On December 1st when we return to school my students will spend some time writing “letters to Santa” for the paper. Another trend of the past few years is evident when we get to this traditional task. My girls don’t ask for a doll. They ask for a Bratz doll or a Barbie doll or a Hannah Montana doll. My boys ask for a “Batman” car or a “Spiderman” shirt. I listened to them yesterday as they discussed monster trucks. They know the names of drivers! They also know the names of sports stars, wrestlers, and rock singers. And they want a toy with a name on it! I can’t even spell half of the names without consulting someone else.
I think toys say a lot about our society. The things our children play with are often a reflection of what is going on in the adult world. Hence the toy cell phones and video games and play kitchens. One of the things I’m proud of is that we have demanded more and more toy safety regulations over the past few years. We also have more educational toys available, and a huge array of toys to meet the needs of children with specific disabilities. And even if the “flashy” name-endorsed toys are in the news and advertising supplements, there are still great classic toys being made. There are still toys that let children use their brains and imaginations.
Of course when you are buying toys for Christmas you can always use my tried and true, failure-proof plan…make sure you wrap them inside a great box!