My daughter has decided to be Red Riding Hood for Halloween. The only part of the costume we need is a cape. This is easy enough to make, but we decided to check a major toy retailer while we were out on a shopping trip. The only costume items displayed were full ensembles with no “parts” available. Since we were already in the store, we decided to look around. Most toys today are based on television or movie characters. What I found interesting is that these toys take up the majority of the store and, like the supermarket, are given prime shelf location and space. Nondescript, generic, simple toys are relegated to the outskirts where they sit unnoticed by most. What is unfortunate is that these are the toys that require more imagination and free-thinking. They also aid in the development of motor and social skills. It seems simple play has gone the way of pre-programmed sets with one outcome which, in my opinion, limits the development of a young child’s mind and leads them to the believe that there is one way to arrive at an answer.
Ok, I know some are going to think that I am going overboard with this idea. There certainly are a number of toys and games on the shelves that still lend themselves to imaginative play. But where are the blocks? Why do so many coloring sets have a few sheets of designs and colors to use? How come so many baby dolls are now Disney characters? Do you notice that entire aisles are dedicated to one brand so that comparisons can be prevented? This definitely has an effect on the shopper where the display fools us into thinking that the toy provides a greater learning experience and/or more fun than the plainer, simpler versions.
Smaller, independent toy stores are better at providing toys that are creative and educational. It is also nice to be able to support local businesses that provide a difference in service. There is room for all kinds of toys and games, but parents should not rule out the importance of crayons, blocks, dolls, cars and trucks. It is fun to hear kids make up their own stories and adventures. It is great to see how their pictures change from a few scribbles, to grand designs as they age. If you need any proof of this, give them a big shipping box, some markers, and tape (oh yes, they looooove tape), and watch them create a little world of their own. Have fun.