by Jim Layne
I guess it must be my rapidly advancing age talking, or perhaps my innate ability to be a curmudgeon, but I just don’t think the last few years’ offerings from the toy companies have been up to snuff. The teaching toys have come a long way, but there have been steep declines where toys that require imagination are concerned.
There are now cars that drive themselves, construction toys that simulate cutting, drilling, and assembling projects, but Nerf’s beloved football now has fins. There are no Marx Big Game Hunt dart guns. No lawn darts or chemistry sets with saltpeter, and phosphorus. No drinking bird, which is good; they were boring and easily broken.
A few years ago we bought one of the girls a baby that she could feed, change diapers, read to, and put down to sleep, but the dagnabbit little monster couldn’t be quieted no matter how many times that said needs were addressed. The beloved fashioned dolls that little girls used to love are more Frankenstein’s bride now with ridiculous makeup, grossly proportioned figures, and limbs that pull off to accommodate the changing of tragic clothing.
I remember electric trains, firearms, and knives as Christmas gifts. I remember listening to my father swear as he assembled a bowling machine with automatic reset. And Big Yellow Tonka toys and that heavy plastic called Tuff Stuff that kids could not destroy by conventional means. Back when toys were played with by kids who were not bolted to the couch.
Nowadays they get a blinking gizmo that requires seven other gizmos before it will work properly. Then the blinking’ gizmo requires a battery of obscure size and shape that is not currently available to the public. All of it is sewn, stitched, stapled, taped, fastened, glued, gum banded, or otherwise fastened into the package in such a way that you must destroy the packaging in order to free said toy. Only then do you discover that is it broken or has pieces missing, and returns will only be accepted if the original packaging is intact.
The one bright spot to all this new fangled whizbangery is that old-fashioned board games like Life, Monopoly, Checkers, Chess, and Mousetrap are now available as software for the video game platforms that everyone seems to have these days… Why is that a bright spot? Why, there is no sharp little wheelbarrow to discover on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.