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How about explaining THESE toys?

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  March 11, 2013 10:51 AM

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Last week I read about how Mattel (the toy company) flew in some "influential mommy bloggers" to talk to them about toy cars. Apparently sales are down--and since moms buy toys, they figured they should talk directly to them--especially since moms, being girls and all, might not "get" the whole playing with cars thing. So they talked to them about just how cool cars are, and about how playing with Hot Wheels can improve hand-eye coordination.


The Mouthy Housewives had an absolutely hilarious response (don't read it somewhere you have to be quiet--I laughed out loud), explaining to moms how to play with other Boy Toys such as balls, sticks, Thomas trains, action figures and play tools. But as I thought about it, I think that Mattel's approach has some merit.

I'm good with cars. I like little toy cars. Rewarding my son Liam with them is what clinched potty training for him. We have hundreds of them. Well, maybe not hundreds, although it seems that way sometimes when we are cleaning the toy room. We have a mat that has roads on it and it's fun to play with the cars on that, or on racetracks (although we always seem to lose pieces crucial to holding the tracks together).

I am, however, fuzzy on the value of certain other toys--and I bet some of you guys are too. There have been so many times that I've wondered what exactly the manufacturer was thinking; wouldn't it be great to have the chance to ask? I could write for pages about toys that puzzle me. But in the interest of (your) time, I'll just give three examples:

  • legos2.jpgWhat's up with the Lego kits? Whatever happened to, I don't know, using your imagination and building things? And why do the kits have to be so complicated? My son got two for Christmas, and we got in a collective family bad mood trying to keep all the bags properly sorted and follow the directions.
  • And those stuffed animals that walk or bark or do whatever--huh? Again, what happened to using your imagination? They always seem so cool, and my kids have asked for them over the years, but it turns out that not only are they boring (the one or two things they do get old pretty quickly) but the hardware that makes them do stuff ensures that they are Really Not Snuggly.
  • And (sorry, as a pediatrician, have to get this one in): why do so many video games have to be violent? Even many rated "Everyone" (okay, that's 10+, but the reality is lots of younger kids play them) like Lego Lord of the Rings are reasonably violent. "They are not actually people," my first-grader likes to point out. "They don't die--they can be put back together." This is true, but why do we have to encourage play violence? Wouldn't it be great if the games discouraged violence?

I'm likely not influential enough, but I would love to be flown in by toy manufacturers and fed brunch and have this stuff explained to me. What about you? Which toys would you like explained?

It's of course possible that I'm missing the boat, or just getting old. When I asked my two youngest children (they are 12 and 7) if there were any toys they thought were bad or didn't make sense, their response was quick and simple: "No."

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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