Toys have gotten complicated

Published 1:24 am Saturday, November 5, 2011

Last year when my great-granddaughter visited, she picked up the DVD player remote, waved it around, and started punching buttons. I cringed, bit my tongue, and walked away. Her parents didn’t seem to notice what she was doing. I just knew she was messing it up. I didn’t have a clue how to work the thing. I envisioned calling in someone to set it right. But guess what? That busy little two-year-old knew exactly what she was doing. Ever since then, if I have a problem with remotes, I smile and tell myself I need to call Ericka.

Apparently, most children are technology-savvy at an early age these days. I recently opened a newspaper and a thick toy catalog fell out. Ordinarily I would have tossed it in my recycle basket, but the bright cover caught my eye. As I turned it page by page, I was amazed that toys were so different from the ones that dazzled my children in the 50s. On one page among various beautiful dolls and Muffet kits, was a dance-on piano keyboard that played pre-recorded songs, records, and original compositions. Flipping a few more pages, I found three toys with radio-controls suitable for ages two and above.

Toys in the three and above age group included a cycle racer with pedals that connected to a television monitor to teach letters, numbers and more. Featured on that same page were cameras and a digital book reader, again for ages three and up. Wow. I was flabbergasted.

A couple of pages, labeled as the “characters kids want most” had colorful pictures of the Elmo doll: one that sings and rocks, the other that talks, counts and sings about colors. Those and the Blue Crunch Cookie Monster were for 18 months and up. If you buy Rock Star Mickey for children two and older, you get a free Rock Star Mickey microphone. Then there were some touch tablets for slightly older children. No doubt about it, many of the toys were learning tools. I noted none was cheap.

If I could have had a glimpse into all the toy delights available today when I awaited Santa Claus, I would have slipped away into a dream world. When I was little, several pages of beautiful dolls in the Christmas Sears Roebuck Catalog kept me mesmerized for hours. Now I see a glitzy catalog offering a $300 wooden doll playhouse fully equipped with modern furniture.

Are plain old Tinker Toys still around? And you should see how different Lego building sets are—things beyond imagination. There is nothing simple about crayons and coloring books these days either. Picture an art case with 200 art supplies (that includes crayons) with a price tag of $24.99 on sale.

I felt much better when I saw Scrabble and Monopoly games, bicycles, radio flier wagons, and rocking horses still commanded space in that catalog. At least no electronic wonders, etc., have pushed them aside.