Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bug-eyed birds make me crazy.

My kids recently received a handful of those oh-so-popular toy animals: tiny things, about 3 inches high, with huge heads and enormous eyes. They look like deformed aliens. And they have accessories, like hair ribbons, hats, glasses and there is even a little sun visor that J's lizard wears.

Much to my chagrin, the kids LOVE these things. These crazy, stupid little animals have moved into our dollhouse, and they go for endless rides on J's fire trucks. They take baths with the kids, go on imaginary trips to the grocery store together.

I'm glad the kids are having fun. Thrilled that they are using them for endless creative adventures.

But, come on now, what is it with toys? Why can't animals look like animals?

Why are animals-just as they are-seemingly "not enough" for kids? Look around any toy store, you'll see few if any realistic looking animals. Look for animals native to Minnesota or the northern hemisphere, and you'll either pull your hair out in frustration, or you'll find yourself in a so-called "natural toy store" shelling out big bucks for charming, hand-carved,heirloom-quality wooden creatures.

Here's what you will find:
- The toy animals that are available are, more often than not, tied to media in one way or another, whether it's popular cartoons, or books, movies, etc.
- The animals also generally have a whole arsenal of additional "stuff" such as clothing, townhomes, amusement park rides, or vehicles. These are things which, I am sure, animals in real life do not have.
- The animals generally do not even look like animals. They are often found in very strange colors, they might have psychedelic hair, huge heads, or other distorted features that, if encountered in real-life would set off a scientific sh**storm.
- I've also noticed that their facial expressions are generally designed to make the animals look either 1) sinister: red eyes, long teeth, and the like; 2)stupid: buck teeth, crossed eyes, big butt; or 3) sexy: long eyelashes, a hint of cleavage, and racy accessories like short shorts or midriff tops.

I want my kids to have access to authentic images of animals. Is that too much to ask?

I want my children to play with animals that look like like real animals, the kind that they might see around the great state in which we live. I want them to have toys which demonstrate a respect for animals, toys that don't depict animals as stupid or evil or any of the things I mentioned above. I want them to be inspired to create adventures that aren't some confusing amalgam of human/animal experiences. I want them to hold these animal toys, look at them, and then think about actual, real animals.

I believe this will give them more connection for the natural world than will, say, a big-headed turtle who roller skates. And isn't that one of the reasons children play with toys? To make sense of the world around them?

Am I overthinking this? You tell me.

1 comment:

  1. You are not over-reacting, IMO; this drives me crazy too. For me, it's not just the anthropomorphizing, it's the ugliness, the kind of ugliness that is designed by marketing professionals to drive a wedge between us and our kids by manufacturing a separate culture for them. But there are very few people willing to say anything about any of it, so thanks for being one of them.