Back at school a few weeks ago, all the offices in the huge Admin building on campus had a big contest to see who could do the best job decorating the doors for the holidays.
There were lots of neat doors...most with some variation on butcher-paper snowmen or cutout snowflakes. But one group outstripped them all...the DFA tech support office.
Their office was big enough that they had two adjoining doors, which gave them a push, but the design itself was unmatched anyway. Each door was surrounded with sparkling garland and twinkling Christmas lights. Both doors were covered in wrapping paper. One door had a life-size snowman design made out of old CD's, while the other had a huge CD Christmas tree, from which hung an old keyboard with all the keys ripped out and replaced to spell "MERRY XMAS FROM DFA SUPPORT."
To top it off, each door in the Admin is unusually tall, and has a square window above it. DFA used old CD's to build platforms under under each window, and then ran wires under the window to feed two computer speakers sitting on the platforms above each door, blaring Christmas carols into the hall.
It was merry.
So, I went to one of those little gift trees in the Commons and picked a couple of tags for some toys for little kids. One of the tags read "a learning toy for a 6 month-old child," so I headed to KB toys in the mall.
The toy store had what amounted to one long aisle of toys for kids in that age range, so I set myself out to pick something.
Guess how many items out of that entire aisle were operable without batteries?
One was one of those plastic spindles with the colored rings you stack on it (I had one when I was little). The other, which I bought, was one of those plastic boxes with different-shaped cutouts in it, and matching blocks to be fitted to the cutouts. Both toys also had a battery-operated twin.
Of course, the whole aisle had long packages of batteries convieniently hanging from shelves and racks, and most of the packages had Duracell stamps and friendly reminders like "Don't forget the BATTERIES!"
A lot of these toys obviously required batteries to operate. But many others, like the two I just mentioned, were just normal, operable toys with batteries unnecessarily added to make the toys light up or make noise. Again, many were toys I recoginzed as battery-free from my childhood. Maybe this is more appealing to your kid, but wouldn't you get sick of that light and noise after a while? Isn't this a huge costly waste? Do you know what happens to batteries in landfills?
I probably sound like some old codger going on about how all I needed to be happy in my youth was a stick and a piece of string, but really, it wasn't that far off. Little kids love to play and they make their own fun with whatever they have. I don't know if it's necessarily true, but it seems that simpler toys might be more condusive towards building a better imagination, while kids with more active, mechanical toys will just let themselves be entertained. My mom babysits two little 5 year-olds, and one of them lives in a house utterly carpeted with toys like that. The other kid is happy playing by himself or going outside, but the kid with all the battery-operated toys hates going outside, doesn't play well by himself, and constantly bugs my mom because he's bored (we don't have many battery operated toys in our house, aside from the huge crate his mom brings over every day). I'm also scared about the sheer amount of STUFF these kids have. Talk about a healthy economy.
Am I making a big deal over nothing, or does anyone else think this is a little unfortunate? When I complained to the clerk at KB toys as I bought the box, he gave me an understanding laugh and told me he goes through $20 worth of batteries for his son's toys every week. Don't you see anything wrong with that? I wanted to demand.
If I ever become a parent, I'm seriously considering banning all battery-operated toys up to a certain age. I'm sure someone is going to knowingly laugh at me and tell me my opinions will change if I have kids, but I'm pretty serious and I don't think they will. I don't think these toys are necessary to raise happy, healthy children, like so many people seem to think. It's probably the usual explanation of loving our kids and wanting them to have everything, but I don'twant my (hypothetical) kids to have everything. I want them to be happy.
And as the old saying goes (I think it's old), the best things in life aren't things.