M. Giant's
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Monday, November 28, 2005  

Toys in the Attic

Once I showed a toy to a three-year-old kid and he asked me, "What does it do?" I didn't say anything, but this was my unspoken answer:

What does it do? What does it do? It's a toy, you ungrateful little beastie. You play with it. Sure, it's just a little wooden truck, but look! The wheels spin! Not by themselves, or anything, you have to make them do that. But since when do toys have to do anything for them to be fun? When I was your age, I was an early adopter of technology as well, in the form of Matchbox cars with doors that opened. But not all of them did, and even that was okay, and once I'd lost them all under the furniture, I played with sticks and rocks and I liked it!

"What does it do?" Why, I oughtta…

Did I mention that this was about fifteen years ago? Now that same kid is old enough to vote, and he was probably all disappointed when they sent him into the booth with a marker instead of a VR helmet that showed him interactive footage of all the candidates.

Toys are "doing" even more than they were then, of course. I've got this one-year-old living in my house, and he owns several bins of toys which are distributed among various rooms. And I'm embarrassed to say that the vast majority of them "do" something. Even things that don't look like they do something do something. Like blocks. Blocks, right? Not wooden ones yet -- I don't think he's ready for those -- but soft, squeezable ones. What could be more basic and low-expectation-setting than a block of foam rubber sewn into a fuzzy cubic cloth envelope? And then you pick it up and squeeze it harder than you meant to and it quacks at you like a duck. Unnerving.

I think this has not only to do with advances in technology since I was M. Small's age (and I hope I'm not dating myself when I confess that there may have been one or two), but also newer manufacturing techniques that make it possible to mass-produce cheap electronic devices that can survive being dropped, thrown across a room, stepped on, rolled over by an occupied rocking chair, vigorously gnawed, and tossed through the window of a moving car without ceasing to function.

Or maybe it's just because of the breakthrough that occurred when somebody in the industry realized that you could put screws on battery compartment panels.

Whatever the case, my son already has more electronic devices in his possession than I owned in my entire first two decades on this planet combined. They range from educational toys that play classical music and teach children about numbers and colors, to items whose sole purpose is to make a godawful racket.

ZV's brothers have kids, and the very first thing one of them used to do when the tots got a new noisemaking tool -- before even putting in the batteries -- was to take it apart, find the speaker, and put a piece of tape over it beneath the shell to muffle whatever's going to come out of the thing before the kids get a hold of it. I could do that, but now so many things come with the battery already inside (you can spot these by the "TRY ME!" sticker) that I'd probably electrocute myself. Hell, with my level of technical aptitude, I'd probably juice myself even without batteries by touching the wrong capacitor or diode or whatever. So our kid's toys are twice as loud as they should be thanks to my ineptitude. Screw the biological clock; the main reason you want to have a kid before a certain age is because you want to be young enough to be able to stand the levels of random cacophony that can burst forth at any moment.

The trickiest bit is cleaning up the living room after he's gone to bed. You know how on TV, whenever a harried mom or dad slumps into the couch and there's inevitably some toy under the parental ass that gives an offended little squeak? I wish. Some of these things are on a hair-trigger to launch into their lengthy sonic productions at the slightest lateral movement. Naturally, those are the same ones that don't have off switches. You heard me, no off switch. There's one thing in particular that plays "This Little Light Of Mine" on synthesized bass clarinet with farting alien accompaniment, and once it starts, you have no choice but to let it play through and hope it ends before it wakes up the kid. But then we found out how to stop it in mid-tune: you slam it down hard on the floor. Great. Much better.

So what all has he got? Maybe you'll get to see later this week. And maybe, if I can figure out how to get Audioblogger working, you'll get to hear as well.

In the meantime, I take great joy in the fact that of all of his stuff, his favorite items appear to be his books. That's my boy.

Today's best search phrase: "Can goldfish eat oatmeal." I don't see why not. But I'd advise you to let it cool down a bit before you drop little Blinky in the cereal bowl.

posted by M. Giant 8:32 PM 9 comments

9 Comments:

Hee. We haven't had the singing toys for a while, but we do have a "christmas decoration" my aunty bought us a few years ago. A dog that barks Christmas carols and simultaneously waggles its ears if you clap in front of it.

If you sneeze on the other side of the house, it goes off. We have to remove the batteries every year out of sheer irritation.

By Blogger Antipodean, at November 28, 2005 at 9:29 PM  

Just WAIT until the batteries start go dead on these things that come with impacted batteries and are too difficult to open. Some of my favorite memories are of my kid and I cracking up at the last few distorted rounds of Old Mac Donald coming out of the plastic cow.

I would like to say, there is hope. My son is 8-1/2 now, and although he has a stockpile of electronica, yesterday he spent hours playing with plastic army men from the dollar store and a harmonica (not at the same time...but wouldn't that have been funny). He's also never gets tired of Lego's, which trips me out, but makes me happy. QUIET entertainment ;-)

By Anonymous bonnie, at November 29, 2005 at 10:16 AM  

You do realize that all of these things pale in comparison to a nice big cardboard box, right? That, and bubble wrap. Oohh, the joy M. Small will experience with BUBBLE WRAP!

By Anonymous Lisa, at November 29, 2005 at 11:43 AM  

M. Giant and Trash lurve me because of what I got M. Small for his first birthday. I seriously hope there is audio, because... come on! Awesome!

By Blogger Linda, at November 29, 2005 at 2:28 PM  

My three-year-old son wants to take apart every toy he gets. Everything. He has always been more into sticks and rocks and tools than any child I've ever met. People give him too many toys and at the inappropriate age. A perfect example of this is the bicycle his maternal grandmother bought for him before he was three months old because she had a dream she was going to die. This is the same grandmother who filled my yard with every broken down gaudy plastic garage sale toy she could find. It got to the point where she was told that for every additional item brought into the yard something had to leave. She doesn't care for me. I am fine with that.

By Blogger just sayin', at November 29, 2005 at 2:30 PM  

We have friends who decided to give Lucas some toys that their son had outgrown. How much fun is it hearing "If you're happy and you know it..." blasting, I mean BLASTING, out of an obnoxious Blues Clues alarm clock, over and over and over again? Lucas seems to think it's a ton of fun, judging by the way he keeps hitting the "snooze (by which they mean "repeat") button" before the song is even halfway done.

I can't wait to hear the sound it makes when I throw it against the wall!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 30, 2005 at 1:44 PM  

So... not okay if I get the kid a drum set, then? Harumph.

Thanks for the link, yo!

By Blogger Febrifuge, at December 1, 2005 at 10:46 AM  

The ones that get me are the books with sound effects on the side. My sister never reads the book, she just taps the most annoying sound over and over and over.

I just know that the people who make these toys make it a point to be sure that each and every sound will be just as annoying to everyone around the kid as the last one.

My favorite toy WAS a cardboard box... it was the best little house.

What ever happened to kids' imaginations? I guess they have been taken over by the country like the rest of us.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 1, 2005 at 7:33 PM  

Hee. I don't have kids, but my husband and I have Disney's Lion King sound effects book like you described above. When you press the button corresponding to the Rashiki character, he sings out something that sounds very much like "squashed bananas up my ass! squashed bananas up my ass!" Comedy gold at parties.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 2, 2005 at 8:57 AM  

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