I've been wandering through the toy aisles again. We live in a sea of toys, but as the boys are getting older, it is starting to be time to start combing through the ocean and sorting out seashells we just don't need or play with anymore. The point is to thin the tide, so that we can be awash with a whole new wave of toys.
Most toys out there don't look like much fun to me. I mean, there are lots of the toys that you thought were cool for ten minutes at a friend's house, but not really, super fun, hours of playing kinds of toys. Toys seemed designed to play with one way, and that's how you play with them, no imagination required. The whole world is expected to simply memorize episodes of TV shows designed to sell toys. Except that the shows Joey like to repeat like that, they aren't marketing right now (such as Magic School Bus, Franklin or Little Bear), or never did (ie, Oobi).
Another problem is inappropriate themes and designs. My kid doesn't need to be playing with stuff covered in Harley-Davidson tattoo themes. The attitudes in the designs seem meaner, harsher, harder. Pirates and dinosaurs and jungle animals aren't enough to just be these things, they have to look tough and mean. Why? My kid is six. A lion should look majestic, powerful, noble... but why make it look mean?
If I had my druthers, I would bring back toys that I played with, hours and hours on end, so my boys could really enjoy them and get those ever-needed creative playskills. Here are a few:
Fisher Price Little People, Old Style. The new style are so specific, they're no fun. Also, they are all little kids. The old style stiff was a little more abstract, and included lots of grown-ups, so you could play lots of different things with them. The new figures hold things like tools, frogs, books, etc; the old style ones didn't even have arms, o you could pretend they were holding whatever you needed them to. What's with the move to less abstraction in toys? Abstraction allows the mind to fill in the details.
Fisher Price Adventure People. I have been looking at action figures, and I find them totally inappropriate for children. They muscle-bound hulk-bodies are not just stupid-looking and ugly, they aren't any fun. Besides, I think making the world seem like it is full of pro wrestlers is not appropriate for children. Adventure people looked like people. Normal people. People you saw around you. That made them fabulous for everything from dollhouse families to jungle-rescue make-believe to... anything. Get those old molds out, Fisher Price, and bring us toys that are actually appropriate for kids!
Old-Style Star Wars Figures. See Adventure People. The new figures have the same problem. Crack out those old molds, those older designs were great for really playing. Luke and Leia aren't body-builders.
The Ginghams. As a kid, I just loved paper dolls. I had several sets. I also loved Sugar And Spice paper dolls, and had a great set of international costumes. paper dolls made today don't seem to be made to be played with, just looked at. But the Ginghams were the best. They had playsets you could get, and furniture, and they were pretty easy to cut out. I just adored them. They were simple enough to make up your own play. Of course, i also adored Holly Hobbie, which was certainly part of the attraction. Still, they weren't wildly funny-looking, and were not over-elegant. They were playable paper dolls.
Fashion plates. They have some similar products out now, but the original plates were by far the best. You mixed and matched the figures to make the outfits, then did the rubbings, then turned the plates over and they had patterns on the back for rubbing over the pictures. I spent hours creating "magazines." Days, even.
Color forms playsets. No, I mean lots of them. Lots of selection to charm your kid. We need Little Bear ones, Franklin ones, not just Dora and the Bacjyardigans (shows that don't charm my kids at all... but if they charm yours, go get the colorforms sets!)... ones with lots of small pieces and stuff, like the old Holly Hobbie sets had, or the old Snoopy sets. I even recommend those older sets. Bring them back. They'll sell. Why? Because they were fun. They were quiet. They were something you could take with you in the car or to grandma's, without taking any batteries. The new sets don't have the little detail pieces, the freer settings.
I know it is hard to find simple, big buckets of legos these days, but they are still made. Its harder and harder to find large, plain wood blocks, but hey are out there. So let's bring back some of these old classics. They were fun... enough so that I still remember them, and miss not being able to give new sets to the kids in my life. I know they'd just love them as much as I did.