The toy store is the one that used to advertise with a giraffe, and whose middle initial is Yah. When our own kids were of toy-buying age, this was one of our family's favorite stores. As grandma and I were wandering the aisles yesterday, I made several observations.
1. We have barely set foot in the toy store - in any toy store - for about 8 years. Those 8 years represent the gap between when we stopped needing to buy toys for our own children and when we started needing to buy toys for our grandchildren. Seriously: can you imagine not going to a toy store, especially one of the largest toy-store chains in the nation, for eight years?
2. The classics never die. And I happily blame this on the baby boomers. Seriously, there was a time when I wanted desperately to buy Lincoln Logs for my own kids, and I couldn't find them anywhere. There was a "progressive" faction during the 1980s and 1990s, that insisted that all children's toys had to have one or more of the following characteristics:
- covered with stickers, which parents had to apply from a sticker sheet the size of a gas-station road map (and this was scarier than "some assembly required")
- so utterly safe as to suck all the fun out of them
The classic plastic ones are still around, like Easy Bake Ovens, Legos, and Frisbees.
3. Some old classics have been improved or redesigned for the new century. That Fisher-Price telephone is now available with a dial or touch-tone buttons. Some Easy Bake Oven alternatives use the family's microwave oven instead.
4. Not everything needs batteries anymore. For a while, it seemed like every toy in the store came with a limited set of features, all of which required batteries to power blinking lights, sounds, or moving parts. It's gratifying to see the toy world going retro. Not relying on electricity or electronics can free a child's imagination.
5. Some of the new toys are stupendous and will join the classics in the hall of fame. The wooden Brio train sets that came over from Europe ten years ago have been imitated over and over, so they're now affordable to everyone. Most of the imitations are compatible with Brio.
6. The Thomas the Tank Engine franchise and the Disney's Cars franchise are merrily going head-to-head. I wish them luck and hope they both win, because that means the children will win, too.
7. There's still a lot of garbage on the toy store shelves. I can't believe some of the junk that toymakers try to shove off on consumers, nor can I (sometimes) believe that people actually buy this junk. Oh well, the marketing department has never overestimated the gullibility of the American (or Canadian, or ...) consumer.
(Well, there have been a few massive failures, such as Baby Uh-Oh and the Stinkor action figure, but only a few.)
8. Red rubber balls will never go out of style.