A Dad’s Shopping Trip
My daughter – just 4 – has become enamoured of Ben 10, and as an unsurprising result, wants a “Ben 10 watch!!!” I decided (being a big ol’ softy) that I’d buy her one. There are a number of factors that needed to be considered in this shopping trip, alongside her desire (“I like my Ben 10 watch, do I Dad?”): these include .. well mainly its price, given that at barely 4 years old she will break it. Immutable law of the universe right there. You want a theory of everything? Forget unifying gravity and molecular forces and such: Children. Break. Stuff. There’s your unified theory right there. Anyway, so I already figured that the “Ultimate Omnitrix” was out; I just went looking for a basic thing with a wristband and a Ben 10 logo, basically.
I mean, that’s what it’s about, right? Wish fulfilment. Ben 10 really appeals on the same level as the comic book character Green Lantern. Regular person finds something, puts it on, and can suddenly use it to do/become anything they want. What kid wouldn’t want that? Certainly as a young lad I would have loved a Green Lantern ring. Just a green plastic ring that looked like a lantern and I would have been away. In my mind I would have been conjuring up all manner of cool stuff with it. That’s kind of what I was looking for here: a basic thing to wear, which with a child’s imagination provides endless enjoyment.
‘Twas not to be.
Apparently children no longer have imaginations … or at least manufacturers of children’s toys can’t imagine that they do. I knew about the Ultimate Omnitrix, and ignored that, looking instead at the thing next to it. It was hardly cheaper, and had almost as many complicated bits and pieces to it (I guess they figure that parents really need to have all these bits going everywhere, getting broken, and prompting oceans of tears when they are irrevocably lost). Apparently having a Ben 10 logo on a wristband isn’t enough for today’s children; they need to have it Do. Stuff. Which really means you either spend too much money on something that will get broken, or they go without.
It’s the same with what we used to call “cuddly toys”. They just aren’t, any more. They all have motorised this, and actions that, and 28 damned catchphrases the other. They also cost about 4-5 times the price of a basic plush toy if you can find one). I saw a Spotty-Wot and a Dotty-Wot on this same shopping trip, and would have grabbed them if they hadn’t been over-complicated with speech, and mechanical this that and the other.
… Which. Gets. Broken.
A couple years back we bought my daughter a TMX (Tickle Me Elmo Xtreme, for anyone not in the know). This sod was about $70 or $80 (NZD) if I recall correctly, and it talks and laughs, and convulses, and stands back up. That takes motors. Moving limbs. My daughter decided however that she didn’t really want the limbs to move the way that Elmo was moving them…. The sound of the electric motor straining against my girl’s grip was rather unpleasant … until the day it finally let go. Elmo would move no more. I’m pretty sure he spoke no more either, so she must have basically fried the entire electrics.
Now not only had Elmo become a rather expensive cuddly toy – he wasn’t (cuddly, that is). All the damn motors and battery cases and speakers and such in these soft cuddly toys mean they’re not at all soft or cuddly.
Give Me the Simple Toys
Imagination is a wonderful thing. As adults we often don’t use it. We get told through school years not to “daydream”, and the world wants to push its reality at us all the time. Still, without imagination things can get pretty dull. Young kids are constantly imagining. My wee son grabs my guitar effects pedals, holds them up to his ear and has a
telephone conversation. My nephew had my mother quite worried, telling her about how he;’d been in a car-crash with his parents – until he mentioned about the dinosaurs that came and chased them along the motorway. Children don’t need a $40 complicated and highly-breakable chunk of plastic with multiple bits to lose, in order to imagine they
can turn into a super-powered alien. Sure, they probably don’t need anything specific; a normal watch could suffice – but one with the right colour/shape/logo makes it that much cooler and more enjoyable. As parents it’d be nice to be able to provide that without forking out silly money for something that will get broken. Very soon. (And I’m at least a little sure that’s not just my kids. )
Simple toys are all kids need. That’s why they play in cardboard boxes. Everybody knows this. We remark on it, we joke about it … and we go and buy the complicated expensive flashy noisy breakable toy.
Can’t think why. Couldn’t possibly be that there’s no money in simple and less breakable toys. Couldn’t be.
… Could it?