Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Point About The So-Called Hot Toys

One of the most amusing things to observe this holiday season is the non-stop hurdles people go through to buy those hard-to-find gifts. Never mind the new Wii system, what's relevant here are the seemingly non-existent TMX Elmo dolls that is the supposed hot toy for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Who can't get a kick out of reading the reports of people waiting in line before dawn for the stores to open only to find out the store's inventory was woefully inadequate for the Elmo dolls? Meaning they waited in vain. It's easy to sense the disappointment shopping parents feel in seeing the rows of other Elmo toys but not the TMX Elmo. Their babies just had to have it. That is just the epitome of the shopping madness. All too often parents have this need to get the latest and the best toy for their developing babies. And the manufacturers are all too eager to sell their goods as the best thing ever invented to help develop a young mind.

Well after observing my child's recent birthday celebration, I am now convinced not to give in to that insanity. Sure my child loves Elmo but I doubt he'll discern one Elmo doll from the next. In fact, I know he cannot. Elmo is Elmo no matter what. What he is attracted to is the character's very bright red color. For instance, I purchased that giggling Elmo chair and he doesn't even use it to sit on, never mind that as a one year old he doesn't grasp the concept of a chair (though he can sit up). To him it was just a toy to chew on and toss around his play pen. My spouse and I spoke to a sales associate at a toy store last month and asked about the TMX Elmo out of curiosity. She told us that only a handful were released during the summer and that toy company's purposely hold back production to create demand when the potential for profit is the greatest. That happens to be during the holidays. By the way, she put aside one of the TMX Elmos for her infant nephew only to find out that he was terrified of it.

But it isn't just the Elmo toys, my spouse and I bought a few large gifts for our child's birthday and the holidays. After seeing his reaction to the few large gifts he received on his birthday and what happened the day after, I stand by this observation. Parents are better off not giving expensive toys to their infants and letting them play with the wrapping paper instead.

This does not mean I'm advocating that babies be allowed to play with potentially harmful objects like plastic bags. No but if the baby is properly supervised it's fine to let him or her play with a good sturdy box that is colorful. Many kinds of containers make for interesting toys and they can be modified to be as such. I took a cardboard cylinder used for popcorn, cleaned it well, sealed the top and voila a little drum for my infant to bang his palms on. As long as the object is safe and colorful and noisy it will keep your infant's attention for quite a while. I have not done any research on this but I think these kind of makeshift toys are good for the imagination. If this does not make you comfortable then try making toys for your baby. The time spent on crafting them makes for a wonderful experience that is enriched by your child's enjoyment. Also do not be afraid to get an inexpensive toy from a ninety-nine-cents store, those toys can be just as good as the so-called hot thing that honestly your child will not care about.

The morale of this story? Save the bucks for something more meaningful like a trust fund or a college education, those will last longer. It's okay to give a few toys and such but do not go overboard and besides this constant showering of abundant toys will probably just spoil your child and it's so easy to get into the habit when your children are so young and impressionable. Think about that before letting guilt drive you into spending hundreds online for the latest Elmo toy.

And for those who want to get something for a relative or friend's baby, contribute to a trust fund because let's face it; babies outgrow clothes overnight and toys will go either way in attaining an infant's (or older child's) interest. - - J.L. Soto

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