Hold the Disney Princesses, Please

October 30th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 11 comments

Finding birthday presents for children under six should not be difficult. Both of the children for whom I’m seeking gifts are blessedly unspoiled by electronic addictions or parents who think that their children need every new toy on the market. Still, even though a box of crayons would be appreciated, I was hoping to find something slightly more exciting.

I started my search with a modest budget in mind. After some internet browsing and physically visiting four stores, my list of requirements grew exponentially. I discovered that I had more prerequisites; in fact, I am a very fussy shopper.

I am open to crafts, books, games, puzzles and construction toys. I would be delighted with a gift that stretches the imagination, improves fine motor skills and that can hold a child’s interest beyond five minutes. If the toy is sturdy enough to withstand use, that would be a plus.

However, I found out that I am not keen on expanding the Disney franchise or requiring hours of TV watching so that the character on which the toy is based means something. I do not like toys that beep, hum, or burst into music. If my grandchild wants a cow to moo, he or she can say ‘moo’ himself or herself. If a budding sense of humor suggests that a cow says ‘neigh,’ I don’t want to preclude that possibility. I abhor toys whose main function is to teach gender neutrality. Who knew I was so demanding?

It turns out the good old-fashioned toys do not come with retro prices. A piece of junk with embedded electronics that would have wowed Albert Einstein costs less than a sturdy wooden building set. A pre-political-correctness children’s book commands a high price.

My carrots don’t have to be grown locally, my clothing don’t have to be 100% organic and my phone doesn’t need to be the latest model. Is it too much to ask for reasonably priced toys that expand skills and develop the imagination?

This won’t work for a four-year-old,
but it makes a great present for someone older – and it’s on sale right now!

Buried_Treasure_book_cover 750x1001 pixels

11 comments

Jonathan Steele says:

Dear Rabbitin Lapin,
About gifts for 4 year-old girls: I believe that if you’re not a stickler for brand new items in wrappers, then you might give the girls used items you have already. A “tea set” can be made from a plastic table that you might find at a second hand store, and the unbreakable plastic plates and teacups you might get there also. Put down a small handtowel cut square, and you have a dining set. You can provide “dress up” costumes from a short skirt made for an older girl and a fancy hat or a homemade bonnet. In the children’s section of almost any bookstore you can find books suitable to read TO a child, and if the vocabulary is simple enough, you might encourage reading at an early age. Good pictures helps. You may know reading is encouraged if the adult reader follows the material being read with an index finger, in easy sight of the child.
If you know a crafty adult, they can probably construct a simple toy from plans on the internet. “Google is your friend.” One just enters something like “DIY young child toys” to Google, and presto!, you get references.
I think you can avoid Disney and the buzzing toys.

All good ideas, Jonathan. Thanks.

Shannon says:

One word…Lego. I loved them when I was a little girl, and still love them now at 42. They make the big duplo blocks for the little ones and they still fit with the Lego bricks for the older kids.

Agreed, Shannon. But they already have the Duplo blocks. My husband and I still have a huge collection of Lego.

Leah Rosenstein says:

I shop at a store that gives a grandparent discount. I also sew so I have made lots of costumes. We also need toys that don’t have electric components due to Shabbat restrictions. I went to a dollar store and found that they sell packages of interesting plastic animals and have sent those. We have also bought packages of little people that the kids call their “mentchies”. My grandchildren love to play educational games and also there are bridge workbooks that help children with the next grade in school and those make them feel smart. They like books in general and I find that kids can never have too many of those. We also subscribed to a Jewish monthly children’s magazine for several sets of grandchildren. Our grandchildren also like Jewish themed toys such as toy Shabbat sets, plush lulav and etrog, Torahs, and the like. I helped one of my sons build an aron kodesh for his kids so that they could play “shul”. That was quite a project and not really that cheap.

A grandparent discount? I’ve not heard of that. Sounds like a good idea. As are your other suggestions. Shabbat Shalom.

James says:

It is indeed a fascinating question whether the plethora of electronic toys prepares tiny minds for an electronic world, whereafter they can manipulate computers, wheeling circles around their stodgy, obsolescent parents. OR whether all the programmed buzzers and beepers merely deliver them lock-stock-and-barrel into the jaws of the artificial intelligence machine, at the expense of genuine imagination and creativity?
When we were raised on Flash Gordon and Dr. Zarkov as a spark plug we had limitless landscapes, aliens and villains to conjure up. But today the Lucas machine seems to have subsumed all alien landscapes into its own, and all heroes and villains wear standard uniforms. Nothing wrong with this, but are little minds rendered more imaginative thereby or are they merely tractor-beamed down into well-worn and deterministic Lucas Film channels? And as for The Force: ‘trust your feelings’ as a mantra can go several ways, not all of them godly or even benign.
With Disney it seems much the same. Their movie plots are endearing and seductive, but can also contain other subliminal messages that are a bit ‘off,’ and can steer little imaginations into fairy-tale alternate universes, i.e. away from how the world REALLY works. When purchasing a gift for our two-year-old granddaughter, my brother reached back into his own childhood and found a large set of wooden alphabet blocks like we all used to have. It was a grand present. She (and her older sister!) sat mesmerized and played together with them for hours.

Our older two daughters purchased our children’s hands-down favorite toy for their children – Omagles. It is a large size Tinker Toys – you can actually use the things you build, like wagons or slides. It isn’t readily available but there was a special run last year. I’m not sure who has more fun playing with them, the parents or children.

Susan Hylton says:

Have you checked out Discovery Toys? They are awesome, and I am NOT a representative!
http://www.discoverytoys.net/catalog/

I remember them from my homeschooling days. Good idea.

Freedom-of-choice (in general) seems to be yet another casualty of our increasingly homogenized society.
…or, rather, homogenized world for that matter.

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