I am a father of three children and our house is filled with toys.
My kids love them and play with them. They even have a toy room, not that they ever respect its boundaries. They are all under the age of 10, so toys matter, not videogames and the internet. Not much yet, anyway.
It’s all about cars, soldiers, teddy bears, bows and arrows and card games and dolls and tanks and costumes.
These take them into worlds of dinosaurs and wars and fields of wild horses. And to fairy castles.
The problem is that many toys are crap. They don’t last. They break, they fall apart and they get thrown out.
Some of the worst have proven to be those related to Hollywood, even though that are made by the global names in toy manufacturing. My seven-year-old son got a Ben 10 gun that shoots soft puffy balls. It broke in three hours. It was fun. Then it was gone. My youngest daughter enjoyed peering into a Disney princess mirror. Then the flashy lights stopped blinking a couple of days later. Remote control cars? My son’s first one lost its antenna in two hours and a back wheel in three. His remote-controlled motorcycle lasted a few days and then it stopped spinning.
I know the business model for these products. They are part of the merchandising cycle. Create a brand and spin it off into everything from dolls to perfumes and school pencil cases. Kids will want them and nag dad to buy them. And the cycle can bring relief to parents when choosing presents. He likes Spiderman, right?
The cycle continues with each new show and film. I don’t even know if kids movies are made anymore without merchandising potential. It keeps the economy going around. And a film that’s just good on its own. Well, that doesn’t cut it anymore.
Then there are those odd toys you buy on a whim for your kids at dusty old stores.
I bought my eldest daughter a small plastic dog when she was three. I’d been away for a few days at work and she loved dogs at the time. So I bought one at an independent toy store stocked with knick-knacks and thin on brand toys. There were trains and vintage cars, and soldiers and tanks. And a dog that barked when you pressed the belly.
That was six years ago and now my youngest daughter, who is four, is digging the no-brand dog.
And you know what?
It still barks.