Saturday, 11 May 2013

Classic Playthings

"You will always be your child's favorite toy." -- Vicki Lansky

We have a large orange telephone-shaped plushie that has a huge smile on the front.  It was originally mine - a gift from my older brother when I was about four, and I referred to it as my "long distance telephone".  I thought of it today when I saw a commercial for yet another inane comic book-inspired plastic gizmo, and wondered how many young people will keep their possessions in good condition and pass them on to their own kids?

Most of my own childhood toys and stuffed animals were given to my young nephews before I moved away from home.  However I kept a few very special items that include the plush telephone, a set of plush Ninja Turtles, a pair of maracas that I had bought with my own money on a family vacation to the Bahamas, and a framed whimsical print of a tiger with an owl sitting on its tail by an artist named Margot Johnson.  These are now on prominent display in our daughter's room.

Classic playthings such as unique stuffed animals, hand-made dolls, and wooden blocks are becoming increasingly rare.  Take a look at almost any children's toy now and it will be made mostly of plastic, and might contain some kind of electronic component that flashes lights and makes sounds.  We all know that plastics are made from oil.  Electronics contain gold and other valuable elements that are necessary for their function.  These substances are removed from the ground in vast quantities every day to create make mundane objects, including childrens' toys.  However those same substances are finite.  Should people really continue to use vast quantities of limited resources to make flashy toys for children, toys that might end up in a landfill somewhere when they break because it's next to impossible for the average person to fix them?

Read "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas and you'll find that many children were happy with hand-crafted wooden toys and cloth dolls (plus treats of fruit and candy).  They didn't need fancy accessories to make their own fun.  Even today, there are kids who can find more fun with a cardboard box than with most other things.  So why do we continue to bombard children with advertisements featuring the latest moulded plastic figurine to roll off a mechanized assembly line?

Never mind, I know the answer.  Money.  Plus harried parents who are too quick to satitate their kids' desire for instant gratification.  It all reminds me of the scene from the film 'Babe' where the grandfather has made a beautiful doll house by hand, only to be tearfully told by the child that she wanted 'the one on the television'.

One day the oil will run out, and people will be far too occupied with survival than with plastic toys.

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