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Toys Aren’t Just Toys! What’s Really Harming Today’s Children
From:
Michael J. Herman  -- Mr. Motivation -- The World's Biggest Motivational Force Michael J. Herman -- Mr. Motivation -- The World's Biggest Motivational Force
Granada Hills, CA
Wednesday, November 9, 2022

 

Toys Aren't Just Toys!

What's Really Harming Today's Children

by Michael J. Herman

©2022 Michael J. Herman All Rights Reserved

With the Holiday Shopping Season upon us, I recently found myself in the toy isles of some big-box department stores. The more I walk the aisles, the more sentimental I became; and the more somber I grew for today's children. The toy aisles were short. The variety was sparse. The innovation was missing.

Where is the imagination?

Where is the creativity?

Where is the curiosity?

 

Toys are more than trinkets and tchotchkes. They are the fundamental building blocks for great minds and keen intellects. They help to shape the imagination and they mold the personality.

 

I grew up a child of the 1970s. It was still a time of innocence and fun. It was a time when children sat for hours just playing with toys. I remember the excitement that I used to have simply walking down the aisles at Bradley's Department Store on Main Street, in New City, New York or at any Toy World anywhere.

Going to Bradley's for me was like going every week to the Super Bowl. When you first entered Bradley's, there was the outdoor decor. Patio furniture, barbecues, aboveground swimming pools, gardening, etc. Then you pass through fashion, shoes, and of course house wears. But then once you crossed the Rubicon, there it was… Aisle, after aisle, after aisle of bright, beautiful toys!

Wonderful, brand new, fun toys!

Every kind of thing for a child you can imagine. Lunchboxes, board games, coloring books, reading books, dolls, toy guns, bows and arrows, Easy Bake Ovens, slip and slides, pogo sticks, bikes, even some baseball gloves, and millions of cars.

With the demise of Toyland and ToysRUs the best one can hope for today is a single isle at best with limited selection and limited variety, but back then there were entire stores devoted just           to toys.

When I was 5 years old my grandfather took me to the Bradley's Toy Department and said, "Get anything you want. Anything… But it can only be one thing." My mind was blown! My imagination on total overload. He and I went aisle-by-aisle looking at so many options that my head began to spin.

Sit 'n Spin, Frisbees, water pistols, toy from my favorite TV shows like Lost in Space, The Wild Wild West, The Brady Bunch, and Bonanza filled the shelves.

At first I couldn't decide. There were so many options to choose and only one thing to pick. But then, there it was… On the top shelf, too high for my reach. It practically glistened in the light. Johnny Lightning 500. The racing car and track set I'd seen advertised on Saturday Mornings for months.

I barely lifted my eyes but when I did, Grandpa was smiling broadly at me. "Is that what you want" he asked?

I nodded my head, he reached up and he put that giant box of joy in my arms. It was so big I couldn't see where I was going. That was one of the greatest days of my boyhood.

Here are a few toys that I wish still remained in the marketplace because they made my childhood so memorable.

*The early 1970s were filled with stories about rockets, space exploration, and spaceships. I loved building model rockets and blasting them into the air.

I don't remember the name, but I remember one toy I loved. It was a helicopter, at the end of a rod, mounted on a center base that flew in circles up and down in altitude and speed. It was connected by wire to a controller that the operator held. The object was to pick up items like splashed down space capsules, astronauts, and aliens. It celebrated the successes of the Apollo Missions and it helped fuel a surge in patriotism.

We don't make toys like this any longer.

The memory of sitting in my parent's den making the helicopter circle round and round again is so ingrained in my childhood consciousness that it shines is one of my happiest            childhood experiences.

*Action Figures. Not just the iconic line of G.I. Joe, but            Action Jackson, Evel Knievel, the Lone Ranger, Dick Tracy, and every kind of super hero and villain you could think of. Stretch Armstrong, Starsky & Hutch, and Biff the Bear, too.

In the category of action figures, there was a short-lived brand of action figures called The Best of The West. The Best of The West featured 12 inch, die cast plastic, articulated Western themed characters. Basically cowboys and Indians. Every action figure has a story, and every action figure came with cool accessories.

Holsters, guns and rifles, bullets, knives, pelts, canteens, coffee pots, hats and boots, bows arrows and quivers, cannons, tomahawk, teepees, headdresses, axes, shovels, horses, saddles, covered wagons, buckboards, and more.

For a period of time, it seemed like every week a new line of toys born out of creativity, ingenuity, and imagination landed in the stores. The 1970s was a great decade in which to grow up.

I loved Lionel Trains, Hot Wheels, water rockets, building blocks, Slime®, and kites. But there was a toy I think it was made by Hasbro that was a shot gun. You laid it on your shoulder, you loaded it with toy cars, and it shot speeding cars across the floor. In retrospect as a grown man, it may not have been the safest of items, but man, was it cool and a     great toy!

The 1970s were also great because we played outside until after dark shooting baskets or chasing each other in a raucous game of tag… Knocking unannounced on friends' doors to play, or just sit and play records.

One thing that defined the toys of the 1960s and '70s that remains absent in today's market are the ingredients of engagement and problem solving. When your hands, eyes, and brain are ensconced in the same problem solving activity, it's a lot different than pressing a button a hundred times at an electronically generated amorphous shape. A child's brain needs to solve problems and learn. Games like Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Boggle, Chinese checkers and Chess were dominant time occupiers.

Toys offered a world of engagement that is missing for today's youth. They don't play and they don't engage their imaginations and we as adults wonder why they're depressed and despondent? A department store with a single aisle of toys is an abomination and a sad commentary for the future of PLAY.

Young minds need stimulation and reward which sitting indoors and isolated playing video games and watching TikTok just cannot remedy. The saddest thing about it all is that there were so many great toys. So many that have been forgotten and now languish in obscurity.

No more kickball in the street.

No more climbing trees just because.

No more running bases, or catching frogs in the stream.

Most of all, no more innocence.

Children today have to contend with real threats of fear and violence, of pandemic, and of isolation. If that's not a demand for new and inventive toys, I don't know what is?

But what if we could reverse this kind of maladjustment? What if we could reignite children's imaginations? What if we could make childhood a place to cherish and not a place to flee? What if we helped children rediscover toys and rediscover what it means to be a kid? They're only children for a short time, but they're adults the rest of their lives.

It's not the children's faults. It's the fault of the adults who put the devices in their hands. And the question now becomes… Can you take away the technology from a generation once you've given it to them in the first place? Isn't it worth even trying?

Correction, I'm not somber… I weep.

Michael J. Herman is a Professional Writer and Critic who as a grown adult remains in touch with his child-like mind and still marvels at toys. How about you?

 

Connect with Mike on Twitter @michaeljhermasn. For interviews or reprint rights, phone (818) 894-4610

Please let me know if and how I can be of value.
 
Michael J. Herman, Speaker-Writer-Author-Entrepreneur
(818) -894-4610  |  M: (818) 441-9288
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