Elle has reached the threshold where she knows about things like Wish Lists for Santa. When she was younger, I naively believed that I could, through fastidious teaching of consumerist morals, steer her clear of desiring useless crap. She will only play with non-toxic, not-made-in-China, Certified Green, hand-crafted, hand-painted, made from sustainable sources, and not packaged-in-plastic toys, I vowed to myself – back when she was barely a toddler and an empty cardboard box and a couple of nesting Tupperware bowls would hold her interest as readily as one of those expensive eco-snob toys.
Well, either I failed at impressing upon her the value of toy shelf simplicity, or it’s just plain impossible to make your kid eat oatmeal when there are Froot Loops and cherry Danishes on the breakfast buffet. I’m up against a formidable adversary: toy companies employ cunning, often outright obnoxious advertising techniques to lure the pure of heart towards the dingy morass of dolls that wet their diapers, and play sets that encourage you to “Collect all 586 pieces!”
Elle has added two of these kinds of companies’ wares to her Christmas list. I have seen the commercials myself, and while I couldn’t tell what Lalaloopsy or Squinkies were, or what they professed to do, the pig-tailed, pink-frilled little girls who played with them on our television screen appeared to be having the time of their lives. (And their theme songs are so darn catchy!)
So performing the expected duty of all American mothers on Cyber Monday, I navigated my way to these companies’ websites – Elle’s Christmas List in hand – to fulfill my parental obligation to purchase more things she will be thrilled to receive on Christmas morning, then promptly forget about.
This is what I learn about Lalaloopsy, the number-one selling doll in 2011: “Lalaloopsy are rag dolls that magically come to life from the fabric used to make them. They live in a colorful silly world! Sew Magical! Sew Cute!”
So… a $25 rag doll.
Meanwhile, I get this from the Squinkies blog: “OMG! We couldn’t be more excited to announce that the Squinkies Adventure Mall Surprize Play Set has been nominated for a Toy of the Year (TOTY) Award! The TOTY Awards are the ‘Oscars’ for the Toy industry – honoring the most outstanding toys to hit the marketplace.”
Most outstanding toy to hit the marketplace! Wow! What does it do?
“This is three sets in one: a mall with toy store, clothing store, and mini mart; an amusement park with roller coaster and light-up, musical ferris wheel; and a "water" park with slide and café. It comes with 11 accessories and eight exclusive Squinkies with containers. Kids can add other Squinkies play sets and Squinkies characters, sold separately.”
So… a $45 miniature mall, where my daughter can pretend to buy things, with her collection of tiny squishy figurines, of which there are hundreds more to buy.
To be on a Toy of the Year Award list, wouldn’t it seem that a company would at least need to spell “surprise” correctly?
My finger hovers over the “Add to Cart” button. Best selling doll of 2011…Toy of the Year Award list for 2012…they must be good toys if so many people are buying them, right?
My focus shifts from the computer screen to the living room. It’s like a graveyard of forgotten toys: half-dressed dolls crumpled into corners, plastic figurines kicked under the baseboard, play set parts orphaned beneath the art table.
I can’t do it. Not yet. It will be Squinkies and Lalaloopsy this year, and what next year? And the year after? And the year after that? The beauty of a 4-year-old is that although she’s reached the age at which she knows about things like Wish Lists for Santa, she will also forget by tomorrow what she put on that wish list.