Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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Who Are Today’s Toys Really Designed For? What Kids Have That Adults Don’t

Now that it is getting closer to Christmas, the frequency and volume of television commercials about the latest toys has gotten underway. Some of these are truly amazing, others simple imitations of much better designs, and still others are as sure to disappoint as any badly designed gadget can be. But the element that seems to be lacking in so many of these modern toys is the one that the child himself brings to the table: imagination.

The complexity of these toys is often truly stunning. But like any device that has too many moving parts, so are the chances that something is going to break. Taking a simple idea and then ‘improving’ it by adding all kinds of modern features often ends up defeating the very improvement that was sought in the first place.

Take the lowly water-pistol. Once upon a time this was a simple pump device that required a few flicks of the finger before a short stream burst out and shot a few feet. They often broke after a short while, but they were generally easy to fix, since the pump and trigger assembly were simple. Contrast that to today’s super-soaker type toys. A battery operated pump and large volume chamber shoot water twenty feet or more. Sure they are impressive. But I’ve seen more adults having fun with these than kids. That is, until they break and the complexity of the components means they can’t be fixed.

How about the simple GI Joe of the 60’s? Essentially a doll for boys, GI Joe could be dressed up in various uniforms. Later innovations included ‘kung fu grip’ that allowed guns and knives to be placed into his hands. Those guns and knives were invariably the first thing to be lost by the kids. GI Joe shrunk in size sometime in the late 70’s, and lost his realistic hair and beard. The doll itself became less important than the accessories that goes with it. Now you can have any kind of device you can imagine for Mr. Joe. Never mind building a jeep out of a cardboard box. You can buy one! Never mind building a fort for Joe; you can order 自慰杯 the full HQ accessory, complete with maps and radios and more.

What so many of these toys remind me of is adult hobbies. Just like model trains were never really for children, so too are most of the toys designed for kids. Kids don’t need ultra-realistic details, in miniature. That is something adults like. Kids don’t need it to work just like the real thing. Again, that is something that adults see as a cool feature of their ‘toys’. Kids don’t need it to be powered, remote-controlled, voice-activated or anything else. Sure, they appreciate it. But ask any parent, especially those with young ones: did the presents go over as well as the boxes they came in?

Even with many of the toys designed for young kids there is an element of ‘adult supervision’ built-in. As if playtime has to be learning time, and all time spent by children should be adding up to some way of furthering their goals. Well it is. But not in the way an adult sees it. Kids need to have time to learn for themselves, and they do that through play. It is built into our genes, just like most youngsters of most animals. The best toys are merely props to the child’s imagination. That is why certain types of toys endure so much better than others.

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