At the weekend, Mrs Rollo drove down the motorway to a toy shop, to do some Christmas shopping for our nephew who was born this year. Not having any children of our own, I haven't had much of a need to venture into a toy shop in a very long time, save for looking at board games. I certainly haven't needed to look at toys for very young children ever before and to be honest, I'm quite daunted by the process.
Driving down the motorway is perfectly fine and indeed a joy but going to a shop which I feel like an impostor and a great git, is decidedly unpleasant. This is yet another aspect of life which I feel like an anachronism. I'm sure that I was built for the late Victorian era but for some hitherto unknown reason, was placed in the late twentieth and early twenty first century. To wit:
When I was a wee lad, toys for very small children were either things that they could bite and things that they could hurl across the room violently. This usually meant that very small children had things like teddy bears, teething rings, wooden blocks and things like stacking cups.
Now I completely understand that in the twenty first century that everything will be branded to the eyeballs, and that children's toys are on the whole more colourful than the rest of the world but I did not expect to see what I saw at the weekend.
The first thing that I definitely did not expect to see was the unbelievable amount of things that make noise and have coloured lights. Even as long as twenty years ago, child psychologists were starting to make the connection between flashing and coloured lights and the onset of ADHD in those children who have a predisposition. Of course it would be completely hypocritical of me and very much remiss for me not to see the tremendous irony of my tapping away on a tablet computer to write this but the point remains that simply by walking about and seeing all the things on sale, I probably ended up with both ADHD and diabetes just by looking at them. One can not walk around and not witness the impossible visual saccharin that was going on, and I would not be surprised if the World Health Organisation classified all toy shops in first world countries as public health emergencies.
The next thing that I noticed was the sheer volume of brands and things with either television or film tie ins. I can only assume that Dora the Explorer has finished exploring because she was long gone, but in her place was a myriad of small animals that had television shows on either Nick Jr or CBeebies according to the packaging. I have no idea what The Paw Patrol is, nor what that show with the kid and his small pig was. I have a vague idea of what Iggle Piggle and In The Night Garden is but I am completely lost for words at describinyg what the heck that green dinosaur thing was.
Disney have apparently rebooted The Lion King with something called The Lion Guard, and I'm still unhappy to report that the ubiquity that is Frozen, still hurtles along like an out of control juggernaut.
There also seems to be something of a renaissance for reboots from the 1980s with My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake making a return to the toy shelves. I shudder to think that when 1990s echo nostalgia hits, that there's going to be an echo of the Tellytubbies and a whole new generation will be weirded out by a creepy looking baby staring out of the sun. Where's Skeletor when you need him?
As I walked around more, I was shocked to discover that you can buy a pushchair for carrying around your sprogs at a price which is more than a second hand car. To put on that in perspective, that means that if you parked your Commodore out in the car park, you could double its value by putting a pram in the boot. You could buy two kids bicycles, lash them together with some children's furniture and effectively build your own four seat pedal car and still have at least $500 change from the price of one of these pushchairs.
It makes perfect sense that a toy shop should carry baby clothes but I don't understand why there is some kind of excessive need to make children's wear deliberately obnoxious. I saw slogans on some baby clothes which would not have been acceptable on a big person's t-shirt; so I don't understand why they were magically acceptable on a small child, except to think that maybe it's all right because they can't read?
I was heartened to see that the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe is still in the stores, as is the obligatory aisle of vomit inducing pinkness which is in every toy store; where Barbie is still reigning as queen. I was also impressed that the toy doll aisle now includes dolls of colour, instead of just some weird leftover notion of the White Australia policy. The perennial heroes of Batman and Darth Vader are still in the toy store and it looks like Pikachu has joined the firmament of eternal merchandise. You can still buy everyone's favourite argument inducing holiday board game Monopoly and being summer in Australia, the whole front half of the store was devoted to inflatable everything. If you want a giant inflatable strip of bacon, there was one there for you to buy.
I'm kind of glad that I don't have to walk into a toy store all that often. In my ill-thought out opinion and entirely ungrounded in fact or research, the best toys ever are still soft toys which kids give personalities to, things like lego which build their imaginations and minds, cars and trucks for playing outside in the dirt, and balls which are for kicking and throwing and running around with.
I'm pretty sure that I would have preferred the days when everything was made of wood and when the paint was made with lead. Give a child a heap of blocks, a shovel and a bucket and tell them to play outside.