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Santa's classic toy sack
by Asa Butcher
2006-12-14 10:09:22
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Last weekend we had a premature Christmas Day with my wife’s parents and this also meant that my seventeen-month-old daughter opened a few of her presents a couple of weeks early. Aside from the usual selection of clothes and baby equipment, she received some new toys, all of which have been around for decades.

Model farm animals, wooden jigsaws and a baby doll have now been added to her bulging toy chest, which follows a tradition of Christmases throughout the 20th century. It seems as though the only change has been a slight variation on the theme or an infusion of technology to bring an added twist to a much-loved product.

For example, the Baby Born doll my daughter is now carrying about has an amazing eight functions that includes crying, squeaking, eating, drinking, pooping and peeing, plus has an instruction manual equal to my new stereo. How can 43cms of plastic baby doll come with a manual while a real flesh and blood baby has none? My second question is why would you want a toy that does all that stuff?

As a father I have no experience with defecating baby dolls. My expertise begins and ends with action figures, such as Action Man, He-Man and Thundercats figurines with chopping action and chewable accessories. None of my toys ever need a new nappy of stained the carpet with a floury food paste (one packet supplied).

It is another example of innovation and variation combined with tradition that is littered throughout the latest toy catalogues. Despite the complaints I made recently about the current state of LEGO, it is reassuring as a parent to see so many familiar brands and toys on the shelves of your toy store.

Despite the fresh look some of the brands may have, you can see below the surface it is business as usual for LEGO, Tomy, Playmobil, Fisher-Price, Brio, Play-Doh, Scalextric, Matchbox, Barbie (she’s looking hotter than ever), Hornby, Hot Wheels, Crayola, MB Games and Parker. There is unlikely to be any nasty surprises should you buy a product from one of these established names in toys.

It may be hard to believe that Meccano is still a kid’s favorite despite the arrival of the Geomag and SuperMag range, plus one catalogue even had a Rubik’s Cube. Polly Pocket, My Little Pony and Care Bears have made a comeback, while the boys can once again choose from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (now Ninja, not Mutant), Transformers and Biker Mice from Mars. An honorable mention also goes to the return of

Seeing these familiar names wraps you in a warm blanket of nostalgia knowing that you’ll be able to buy these for your children without feeling too much guilt at indulging your own childhood whims. You may laugh at your children’s long lists to Santa, but it does mean that once they are safely tucked up in bed you can relive your youth.

The fact that Unilever, Tefal, Bosch, Falck, Black & Decker and McDonalds are producing their own range of toys is rather frightening; especially the fact that a parent would want to implant the idea that working at a fast food chain is fun. Before my daughter was born I would have laughed at the replica vacuum cleaners and irons as sexist, but she really does like to play with the real ones, so it is the safer option, plus they require less muscle strength.

Her joy at playing with her new Baby Born doll is a marvel to watch. Does she have a maternal instinct already or is she copying what Mummy does with her? I won’t analyze that here and reduce her fun to an anthropology case study, but choose to end this article with an important reminder: Don’t forget to buy enough batteries!

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Sand2006-12-13 09:41:48
I look back in regret at the lack of really dangerous toys I had like working with molten lead to cast toy soldiers and the chemistry sets that unfortunately never had the right ingredients for making nitroglycerine. I had had high hopes for the radioactive set which could, if not making possible a modest atomic bomb, at least generating enough radioactivity to glow in the dark. Apparently only Iranian kids get to fool around with really interesting stuff.

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