We B Toys

I hadn’t been in a Toys R Us for at least 2 decades but I had to go the other day. My, my, how far we have fallen.

When Daniel was a tot, Toys R Us was all the rage. In the 80s, it was brand new to Ann Arbor and as we first began to acquire Duplos, well, that was the place to go. It only took a couple of visits to learn that we had to go right at 10 am, after breakfast, before lunch, before naptime and definitely before dinner and the wear and tear of the day took it’s toll. Even at that early age (or maybe especially at that age) too much stimulation was, ah, too much. Not unlike his mother, the poor child was rendered senseless by those vast, high, over lit ceilings, by sounds bouncing around the cavernous walls, by the sheer enormity of decision making. "You can choose one thing" was the beginning of the end, the end being a helpless, hopeless, screaming toddler squatting in an aisle, wailing, "I doan decibe! I doan decibe!"

By the time he was 6 we were frequenting the place because it was guaranteed that they would have the latest Lego Knights or Outer Space set. He enjoyed lingering in the Lego aisle but still, his hands would open and close anxiously at his sides while he searched out just the right small box to add to his collection (that we still have, stored away with an eye to the future).

When he was 7,8 and 9 we had to make clandestine trips, with just one parent taking him, while the other stayed at home with baby Snarl. This was because I had decided early on that she would never come to know the existence of Toys R Us. I had already had enough. We swore Daniel to secrecy: he couldn’t say anything about Santa, the Easter Bunny or Toys R Us. The Snarl was really pissed off when she found out, via preschool friends, that such a place existed. You would have thought we had been withholding milk.

So, you know, the store never has been a destination on my list. I wouldn’t have gone the other day if I hadn’t needed lots of little inexpensive toy animals for the shelter children.
I have a small collection of nice toy tigers and such  that I use to talk about the big cats with children, purchased at the zoo gift shop, but I needed the kind of plastic ones, about the size of toy soldiers, where I could give out a dozen handfuls and they could keep them in their camouflage boxes they made. So Toys R Us it was.

I went at 10 am and first off, there wasn’t an employee in sight. I started getting that old familiar twitchy feeling as I wandered front to back, side to side looking for someone wearing a blue shirt embroidered "I don’t want to be a Toys R Us kid" or whatever it is. No clerks. Nada. Nary a soul who worked there. That was so annoying I might have been tempted to walk out the door with plastic animals, except, you guessed it- I couldn’t find any. B000fsw85w01_sclzzzzzzz_v43752167_s

I spent half an hour wandering around that store looking for toy animals. Not Barbie Fairytopia and DVD Rainbow Adventure Elina, not Ben 10 Alien Voice Changer and not Tamagotchi Connection V4. Toy animals. I did not want Digi Make-Over ("You look great on TV!") or Air Hogs Storm Launcher or Bratz Forever Diamondz. I wanted toy animals.

But, no. The toys this store carries must be the toys that are shaping our children’s minds as their play. You know, play. Make believe. That thing children do as they practice for life. As they develop a self-image. Like play house, play school, play swimming pool (thank you, Raehan! Your home is a breath of fresh air!).

What Imus said?  Firing was too good for him. But what do these toys say? Here’s the really maddening part: It’s not just that children in middle class American end up wanting these toys. The audience for these toys is not just a class of children who also have sports and music lessons and summer camp and intact families so that the message gets moderated by more balanced experiences. The children at the homeless shelter want these toys.  They’ll say to me, "You know what I want? I want Bratz!" This is what they aspire to: a life of diamond studded tight pants. A life where you can get endless makeovers to change yourself. And although we might rage against Imus or gangsta rap, to me these toys are screaming "enough bling and life will be fine" long before they listen to Imus or rap. They convey clearly the message that a female’s worth is in her physical appearance to an audience of children who will have less opportunity to find their worth in academic achievement, in sports, in the arts and sciences.    B000epfeuw01_sclzzzzzzz_ss500_

When I finally found a clerk and asked where the toy animals were, she said, "you mean, like Butterscotch Fur Real Pony?"  I explained what I was looking for, fur real, and after considering for a long moment, as though puzzling over quantum mechanics, she said "no, we don’t have those." I thought surely this is not possible, you ignorant airhead, and went off again to look on my own, with all the early symptoms of a seizure. I did finally find one (1) small tube of plastic jungle animals and one
(1) small tube of forest animals. That was it. I bought, for 10.56
cents, the entire stock of make believe animals at Toys R Us. I wonder how long it will be before that item gets restocked?


On a more playful note, for those of you without toys- well, here’s a delightful video. Nothing but hands and it won’t give you warts.


16 responses to “We B Toys

  1. Ok, Vicki. You made my day:

    “I thought surely this is not possible, you ignorant airhead, and went off again to look on my own, with all the early symptoms of a seizure.”

    You have the funniest way with words, lady!

    I should visit a toy store although they traditionally give me a headache. I ususally run and out very quickly, just to buy hula hoops for Bella :o)

  2. I only go to Toys R Us under duress as well. My kids are 7 and 8.75 and have been maybe 3 times a year. They have always handled TRU very well — I got SO lucky in the baby genetics lottery! I can’t stand the other families with screaming, demanding kids.

    Anyway, the toys are depressing there — especially for girl children. We have banned Bratz from our household. Icky images — they make Barbie look like a feminist role model for young girls and that is a hard thing to wrap your head around, I’ll tell ya!

    On the Lego front . . . my husband saved ALL his Lego from when he was a boy. His parents valiantly stored it lo these many years. We gave it to our kids a couple of years ago . . . what a HUGE hit. The kids love it. It lives in Gage’s room in tubs. Greg built them a Lego table to play on but mostly it gets played with on the floor. He also saved all his Matchbox cars and a bunch of old tanks he had — they are also Gage’s favorite toys.

    On the plastic animal front . . . we have managed to find a fantastic collection of pretend animals for Ruthie who has always preferred animals to Barbies or dollbabies. But it’s cobbled together from other other weird sources like Barbie’s Vet Hospital Set and My Little Pony crap. She loves it though — playing with her pink and purple dogs and cats and horses. She creates families for them and sets up scenes. You know, she PLAYS with them. 🙂

    Hang in!

  3. Oh, yea, off-topic.

    – It is funny how one person’s ecstatic lifebird is another person’s backyard feeder hog. 🙂

    – Also, I see you have “My Whim is Law” on your blogroll. She and I have known each other (on the Internet) since before she started blogging. Our daughters are the same age and we are on a mailing list that has been together since we were all pregnant at the same time. Small World Moment.

    Back to your regular programming!

  4. This made me giggle. It’s so true, about the toys and imagination. We’ve never been a fan of that store. Being children with computers, we learned early enough of the joys of ONLINE shopping.(And we hate to break to it Al Gore: but WE invented the internet.*snort*) However, that means you don’t get to be spontaneous or ever have anything planned last minute. (living at the coast teaches that too, btw!) Our kid now gets excited about the UPS truck. Hee.

    Poor, poor Snarl. You’ll hear about this again, you just wait! 😀

  5. Toys Be We? Haven’t been there in years. Blocks… get them those blocks, not necessarily the ones with alphabets but those rectangular, triangular, cylindrical blocks they can build with. Oh, might try Oriental Trading Company…. I think they have them and they are delivered to your door… although with the Chicago mail system you might suggest they send it UPS.

    How sad to know ToysRUS has become the “gangsters in training” place.

  6. I spent plenty of $ and time in Toys R Us for a few years, especially at Christmas time.

    My Toys R Us epiphany came after the first Austin Powers movie came out and Toys R Us had an Austin doll that said, “Let’s shag baby!” when you pulled the string.

    As for Bratz and other trash toys,the power of Advertising and Marketing Gurus is incredible when it comes to kids.

  7. We have a small, cool indie toy store just around the corner, so I NEVER go to Toys R Us. Thank gawd.

    Great story, V! You should come read the article I wrote recently (and blog linked) about the latest toy craze–Webkinz. They’re stuffed animals, but with a twist.

  8. I hate that store! Luckily, my grandchildren are into money instead of toys with absolutely no redeeming value. They buy video games.

    I truly loved that hands video, Vicki. It is so creative and unexpected.

  9. Yahoo is not working so I am forced to communicate using comments. I think the cookies are terrible but John says they are good. I’m trying to get cat hair off the exercize ball but I am having a terrible time of it. I might just put this thing in the dryer under “fluff”.

  10. I have 3 kids, and I don’t do Toys R Us. Bad mommy, but even Super Wal Mart sends me into a state of panic and rage. But it’s alright, my kids know how to bid on ebay! Mostly for video games and Pokemon cards, not trashy plastic toys.

    My daughter has that Bratz doll in the picture. Ugh. My stepdaughter gave it to her. Oh well, she meant well.

  11. Toysrus are one of those places I avoid like the plague. The video is incredible. I have tried to do handshadows, they make it look so simple. Next time we lose power I will have to practice!

  12. “Butterscotch Fur Real Pony” Ha! Children can read this as “real fur”, which probably was the intent. I never believed in Toys Aren’t Us.

  13. Toys these days are all about electronics, gadgets and action–not so much about thinking, imagining or creating. We had legos, blocks, lots of drawing paper and dolls with elaborate made-up lives when our girls were small.

  14. oh that saddens me that Toys R Us no longer has the things we loved as kids and what saddens me more are these toys that make girls think this is what I need to aspire to. *sigh*

    and btw, tip for next time- big lots and those kinda places might have what you’re looking for 🙂

  15. I haven’t set foot in a Toy’s R Us in ages. Mostly because we go to Target. But even the toys that my kids have, they don’t play with that much. Mostly because we’re doing stuff. Either as a family or for one of the kids or something. But why does my 2nd grader want to wear eyeshadow and colored lip gloss like the other two tarts, er, little girls in her class? Because of those stupid Bratz dolls and the like. She cried. I did not relent. No makeup until 8th grade, just like me. And even then, nothing but baby pink.

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