Wednesday, June 18, 2008

kiddie consumers

You know we recently had hard waste here in the eastern foothills. I wrote about how we aimed for a zero waste verge, but were, sadly, unable to achieve it. Seems the locals in sfgirlbybay's neighbourhood ain't waiting for collection day, but rather are just letting loose their unwanted on the streets. I love her approach in dealing with the rubbishing of her homeland. Check it out here.

What I did notice during the build up to hard rubbish were the number of children's toys on people's verges. The number of plastic children's toys. My theory is that less of the more open ended space for creativity type toys that children have, the more likely they are to appreciate, and thus play, with them for a longer time, both in the length of each instance they pick up the toy to play with it throughout the day and the number of days/weeks/months/years that toy is of interest to them. I've certainly noticed this with my own small folk. The plastic aeroplane simulator which makes noise and flashes lights when you press the 'right' buttons, gifted from Nana, is in the cupboard after merely weeks. The wooden farmhouse with wooden farmer, farmer's missus and farm animals, gifted from same nana, is played with nearly every day in some way. Today the farmer's missus was being chased by tigers in the morning, she is now Alice's baby's baby and this evening she could be a lady whale in the bath for all I know.

But I'm scared of it all, folks. I'm scared that most of the toys on offer to my small folk are designed to encourage brand loyalty, fashion consciousness and groupthink. I'm scared that all the research indicates that contemporary children spend less time with toys and games than we did, and that most of their time is now taken up with pre-programmed computer toys and games. I'm scared that marketers directly appeal to my small folk, inviting them into consumerism as soon as they can. Wasn't it the home economics movement of the 20th century that counselled women, once the quilters, the sewers, the preserve makers of the home, to abandon this handicraft culture and instead become a modern, smart shopper, buying these things, once made with love in the home, at the shop? Isn't that what's happening to my small folk now? I feel like I need to don a cape and throw it over their eyes when we head out into the big wide world. Or at least to the shops.

I say: give a boy a glass egg and see where he goes with it.....he's currently looking at the open fire through the glass egg, telling me that the egg is getting warm and that the egg is holding the fire within it.....I'm off to share in that joy.

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