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Recalling my recent toy shopping

Posted on | October 26, 2007 | No Comments

Our daughter turns 2 years old tomorrow. Yesterday, we went out to buy some birthday presents. To find out what interests our child, we take her to several toy stores and turn her loose. She’ll run through every isle making mental notes then return to several places once she’s completed her first ‘sweep’.

I have been advocating that parents resist buying “TV Toys” for months. I don’t advocate not buying them entirely, just ensuring that other toys that don’t come with pre-programmed adult created plots find their way into the toy box as well.

My daughter headed for a bunch of Diego dolls, I resisted. I’m glad that I resisted because I’ve just learned that Mattel has recalled an additional 55,500 toys (globally) due to lead paint contamination.

In light of this, I’m not going to purchase any more Dora or Diego toys. I’m now as concerned about the safety of those toys as I am about the impact of “TV Toys” on my daughter’s imagination and development.

First, the lead contamination issues. At this point, I’m not quite sure what to think of Mattel, so I’ll reserve forming or expressing an opinion on their ethics and suitability as a company to serve our children’s development. Mattel saved quite a bit of money by shipping some of its manufacturing process to China, they did not anticipate these kinds of problems. The reason that companies hire experienced, responsible people to oversee outsourcing efforts is explained by the simple premise “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”.

Mattel could (and should have) had more supervision and controls in place.

On the flip side, Mattel appears to be diligently checking every single thing that rolled off the production line and being responsible about getting safety recall notices out and syndicated quickly. They made a mess, they’re cleaning it up. Every company “drops the ball” from time to time, I form opinions based on how quickly they get back up and running and adopt proactive change to avoid future fumbles. At this point, as I said, I’ll reserve forming an opinion.

My biggest concern with Dora and Diego toys has nothing to do with the toy makers. I’m really wondering, am I stepping on my kid’s imaginative toes by handing her a doll that comes with a name and speaks for itself? Will this toy spark imagination or cause her to regurgitate adult created plots that she sees on television?

A few weeks back, I was delighted to see my little girl pick up a Beanie Baby (a lion, to be exact) and begin talking to it. Further delight rushed in when she began assuming the role of the lion and having a conversation with it, all permitted by a healthy, developing imagination. She’s named the doll “lion” (appropriate, I think), she’s welcome to change his name later, or even make Lion a ‘her’ when it suits her play.

As you can see, the ‘spark’ is a two way street. Children personify the toy, half of this process is becoming the doll that becomes your self created play mate. Would this be possible with a doll that spoke for itself with limited phrases? What happens when the batteries die during play? I just don’t think this milestone would have been reached with a “TV Toy”.

Dora is a girl named Dora. Dora dolls speak in Dora’s voice, not the mind’s voice when you push on their stomach. Diego is a boy named Diego, his dolls do the same thing that his cousin Dora’s do when you push on his stomach. How can these toys possibly be any better for early development than standard, cheap, run of the mill dolls and stuffed animals?

We got our daughter an Elmo doll, because she loves Elmo. Finding one that did not talk, wiggle, laugh (just a cuddly stuffed red fur ball with huge eyes) took quite a bit of work.

Our Elmo is not nearly as entertaining as the one that giggles and dances, however that’s why we have imaginations, I’d like my child to be able to entertain herself :)

I’m not getting into Barney, I’ll save that for a day that I feel less inclined to gripe.

We have enough (safe) Dora stuff, I’m not getting any more. We’re in agreement that toys that boost imagination are indeed the best. Since we’ve introduced simpler toys, our daughter’s Dora collection has been collecting more dust than play time.

Just food for thought, holidays are getting near :)

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