A Little Dab of This & A Little Dash of That

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Today's Toys: Kids' Dream; Parents' Nightmare

Maybe it's me.  Could be.  I may have reached the point that I have the patience of a boiling teakettle and no tolerance for anything less than complete serenity.

If that be the case, allow me to share with you my thoughts on today's toys.

      As you know, I have two daughters, ages 8 and 5.  Between them they have acquired over the years a boat load of goodies.  Since they are both girls and are both now past the age of swallowing small parts, seems to me they have exponentially added to their goods within a very short period of time.  We do our part as parents to make sure they are sufficiently spoiled, plus we have enough doting family and friends that can push it over the edge for any gift giving occasion.

So where should I start?

Howzabout them dolls?

      I remember back in the 70's and 80's there was always some controversy about Barbie.  If real, Barbie would be 6 ft tall, 100 lbs, and have the following measurements: 39 bust-21waist-33 hips; a size 4.  Furthermore it's been pointed out, if she was real and was blessed/cursed with this body, she would be unable to menstruate, as well as have a slew of other medical problems.
     Well, now it's 2013, and the dolls my girls are begging for have figures that would give Ol' Barb a complex.  If you have sons and haven't been down this aisle at the toy store, allow me to enlighten you:
     There's Bratz: 11 inch dolls -same as Barbie, although these dolls look like they've had some work done, and might I add, not by one of LA's finest.  Then there's Bratzillas; cousins to the Bratz characters, who also happen to be witches.  Oddly enough, aside from the funky hair color, the Bratzillas don't look nearly as scary to me as their "Muggle" "cousins".
     The Bratzillas were MGA's competition for the other line of scary beauty dolls, Mattel's Monster High dolls.  Each character, is the teenager of a classic horror figure, such as Dracula, the Wolfman, Mummy, etc.  As if being a parent of a teen wasn't scary enough.   Seems to me that since Mattel is also Barbie's source, Monster High's characters might be Barbie's cousins.  Although distant- maybe twice or three times removed.
     If you have ever seen the movie Love Actually, there's a scene where Emma Thompson's character asks her husband, played by Alan Rickman, which doll should go to one of their daughter's friends;
"the one that looks like a transvestite or the one that looks like a dominatrix?"   This is not an exaggeration of what's on the market today.
      Along with the ones that I have mentioned there are Winx dolls, LaDeeDa dolls, and Novi dolls, which are actually aliens, so I don't even know whether or not to include them.  That was my daughter's argument, when I told her she already had enough dolls.  "She's not the same Mommmm; She's an alien."  For the record, I stood firm.   Let me state, that not all of the aforementioned dolls have invaded my home.  There are also many other fashion dolls out there.  Good ol' Barbie is still going strong.  I shouldn't even refer to her as good ol' because not only has Barbie received several makeovers, she also has stints as a princess, mermaid, and a rock star.  For each of these Barbies, you can bet there's a television show or movie to help promote each of the characters and the full line of accessories entailed in the stories.  Clothes, cars, guitars, furniture, pets, pets' clothes, etc. etc.  Most of the dolls that I mentioned, also have their own shows or movies, to help promote the dolls.  Or do the dolls help promote the shows and movies?  It's a "catch 22" that would pickle the brain of Mr. Heller.  To date, I don't believe the LaDeeDa or the Novi dolls have any tv shows.  Yet.
     I am in my 40's, but still retain enough of my mind to remember the days with my Barbie collection.   I had around 6.   All of them could wear any of the Barbie fashions, which had snaps for the closures, that were easy enough for little fingers to maneuver.  Plus they all withstood several "head exchanges" - that for whatever reason was popular among my friends and me.
     Today's dolls work like this.  You buy the doll.  You buy extra outfits.  Two weeks later Clawdeen has visited Paris or gone to a beach party and thus, another doll appears on the shelf at the toy store, super store, book store, or super market.  As well as the required clothing and accessories for such an adventure.  The companies are cranking these out so fast, that I think the dolls aren't as durable as the dolls of yesteryear.  When my daughter tried to change clothes on Aisha the Winx doll that graces the intro of this article, it was necessary to bend the doll's arm to a degree that it obviously was not designed to withstand- the arm broke.  I mended it, but not as good as new, and it still falls off regularly.
      The thumbs or hands on the dolls are another source of contention.  Perhaps it was the toy designer's plan to give the dolls "pretty hands", but those pinkies and the thumbs get caught every time you change an outfit, and often rips the fine gossamer fabric.  Neither my 8 year old, and especially not my 5 year old, has the manual dexterity to dress her dolls.  I think by the time they do, they will have reached an age where their interest in fashion dolls has waned.  Unfortunately, I have had no luck finding customer service for any of these issues.

     Now, onto Lego bricks.
     Lego bricks have been around since the mid 1900's, are from Denmark and the name was derived from a Danish phrase that translates as "play well".  These building bricks have always been a big hit, I remember my set.  They too along with the fashion dolls of today have evolved into a production that boggles the mind.  Well, at least mine.  I have no complaints on how they are made; just now they are made in even more sizes than were available when I was a kid.  Smaller- so that I need my reading glasses to decipher WHAT!?  -after I get through restraining my blue streak I let rip when I step on what remains one HARD  "little darling Lego."  If you are a first time or an expectant parent, you need not wait till your little bundle of joy is past the age of 3 for fear of swallowing a Lego.  Lego created Duplo blocks that are big enough so you can get your toddler on the road to what will  be an obsession that will last their whole childhood.
     When they do reach the age of big kid's Lego bricks, prepare yourself.  To state that Lego has "branched out"- is putting it mildly.  Whatever show or movie has tickled your fancy in the last 30 years, good chance there's a corresponding Lego figure.  That obviously did not do enough for business, because they have created in the last few years fantasy action series such as Ninjago and Chima.  Complete with television shows of their own, as well as many desirable individually purchasable sets.  My daughter bought through her school's book club order, The Ninjago Character Encyclopedia, that has pictures of each of the characters and their backstory.  It also serves, as I feared, a catalog since it also features photos of all the Ninjago sets as they are available.   Fortunately, I have no problem with saying the word "no"; and sticking to it.
      Also, for all you kids out there who are closer to my age, are you aware that Lego offers a Business Consultant Service?  Lego Serious Play offers their bricks to companies to help with creative thinking and team building exercises.  Now what do you reckon Lego charges these companies for Serious Play?  Methinks it might be a tad more cost effective if the companies were just to tell their employees to go home and play with their kids' Lego sets.  If a coworker is sans kid- there's your team building effort- share yours.  Any ol' way, doesn't it just make you feel warm and fuzzy knowing Lego's got their metaphorical bricks in everything.

      Newest on the block so to speak, pun intended, is Nanoblock.  Created in Japan it claims to be 1/8 the size of a standard building brick allowing for greater detail in the completed project.  Oh, goody!  They use soy based ink so they're good for the environment too.  Nothing to gripe about these so far.  May be because we don't have any of these.  Yet.  Momma still likes to build as well, and given that my daughters are often reluctant to let me build whatever, I may at some point get my own Nanoblocks.

     While we are on the subject of small, it's amazing to me, and annoying, how unbelievably small some toys are.  Squinkies are these amazingly small cute play things that come with their own clear sphere, reminiscent of the toy machines at the supermarket.  Don't worry, the toy machines at the supermarket are still there.  Apparently they weren't small enough.  Next came Zinkies, clones of Squinkies, just less than half the size.  Still have their own sphere.  Yea; good luck finding the missing Squinkie, (not to mention a lost Zinkie) to all who succumb.  
     Polly Pocket and her offspring are another to hit the cute and tiny market.  Think Barbie, just one fifth the size.  Again, parents good luck finding Polly Pockets Cinderella's glass slipper.

    Lastly, the electronics.  I am putting this off for as long as I can for a couple of reasons.  I find it interesting that there is a commercial out there that shows 5 or 6 kids inside comparing the days of before and after Wi-Fi.  Meanwhile we hear regularly that one of the nation's top health concerns is childhood obesity.  My girls are both active, so this is not really a concern.  However, both of them spend up to 1 hour a day on the family computer, and I feel that's enough.  I know in the not far future, a lot of school work will be done via computer as well.   My oldest will turn 9 soon, so their may be another electronic gadget in the near future.  Once you cross over, probably there's no turning back, thus my putting it off.

     Hope you enjoyed reading.  Feel free to let me know your thoughts on today's toys
 That wraps it up, for now.

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