When the Christmas season rolls around, as early as November in these parts, companies start rolling out the newest toys and gadgets. Masses of children are mesmerized by the images of shiny Tonka trucks and Barbie dolls dancing across the screen, caught in a whirlwind of masterfully crafted advertisements. I remember sitting down in front of the television, pen and paper in hand, ready to compile my famous wishlist. I was not watching for a particular program, but instead for the commercials, that would tell me what the best toy development was, what I should ask Santa for that year. I recall gorgeous Sky-dancers and ballet-dancer Barbie topping the list, as I dreamed up the fun I would have on Christmas morning with my new toys. Children are consumers in our mass-consumption society, of this there is no doubt.
Fads come and go with each year, snowballing like the white stuff we all hope to be on the ground by the time the holidays roll around. I’ve been known to reminisce over the toys of my youth and compare them to the high-tech gadgets available today, somewhat jealous of the capabilities of the fancy toys of today. Just 10 years ago the Easy Bake Oven was reserved for simple goods baked with the magical lightbulb, which usually resulted in a goopy mess of impatience. Today, the oven can apparently cook macaroni and cheese, pizza and french fries. Oh domesticisty, you continue to appeal to the homemakers of the future.
The Easy-Bake is not alone in its technological advancement. So many toys we know and love have been reinvented to endear the apathetic youth of modern society. Every year, it seems, Barbie has got a new job. Reflective of the tendancy of my generation to change career paths at the drop of a hat? Perhaps. More likely, the doll needs to continue to evolve to suit the desire for the status of new, cool and groundbreaking toy innovation. And I won’t even begin to chronicle the brief evolution of video gaming, and not just because I can’t see the appeal of this type of toy. The lightening-speed of the transformation from the Atari to the Wii is mind-boggling at the very least, and a topic of its own.
So with all the child-oriented consumerism, where do the simple toys fit in? Is there a place for a tinker-toy or a yo-yo in the ever-evolving realm of youngster interest? I certainly hope so, or I’m old beyond my 20 years. I think my 4 year old self’s Christmas morning excitement speaks to the joy of simpler toys. Upon pulling a present from my stocking, I exclaimed “Goodness! Goodness! A colouring book!” with joy, promptly forgetting the shiny advertisements I’d seen on TV, happy to pick up my crayons and dive in.