Last year in the US the Toy industry generated $21.8 billion in sales. They included childhood favorites like Legos, Play-doh, board games like monopoly, and one of my personal favorites Nerf dart blasters. The toys we buy for our kids, the ones we hold onto in our basements and attics, and even toys that are yet to come to market say a lot about who we are.
Missing from this year's sales will be nearly 650,000 toys seized by the Consumer Product Safety Commision at US ports this past month. It seems even our beloved childhood toys are not free from the domination of foreign imports and the ever revolving list of threats to our health such as lead poisoning. Although even with a speculated 90 percent of toys being made over seas there are still great companies making toys here in the US. Little Tikes and Knexs are both produced here in the US. Some US toy companies like Channel Craft outside Pittsburgh, PA may cost more but the quality greatly exceeds any import.
The National Museum of Play in New York does not have a collection featuring defective or dangerous toys of the past, but they should. A collection of re-called or toxic toys would highlight just how important quality is over quantity. Some of my favorite toys growing up where the smallest like yo yos and lego blocks. Things that could fit in your pocket, whether it be something as sophisticated as a gameboy or as simple as a super bounce ball quickly became prized possessions.
I never felt any great attachment to the numerous numbers of cheap plastic dollar store toys short of perhaps toy soldiers. But even then I preferred the tin kind my grandfather had on his shelf. Parents should realize that more is not better, that fewer toys of a higher quality are what create lasting memories. There are a number of great blogs to help you find the right toys. Try www.drtoy.com/, a site with lots of great ideas. Or if your really want to make some memories get creative and make some of your own toys at home. Check out www.custompapertoys.com/ or dirtandboogers.blogspot.com or search around for your-self, the internet is full of sites about making your own toys with your kids.
Toys can quickly become a lot more than the sum of their parts. Jose Gomez -Marquez’s Little Devices Lab at MIT explores the toy world to find DIY medical devices to use in places like Africa. Bicycle pumps power nebulizers and lego sets become spectrophotometry kits saving lives and helping doctors to track diseases in places where hospitals may be out of reach and traditional labs simply don’t exist. Toys are the inspiration for young minds to, whole worlds are opened up through the types of toys we interact with. So who do you want the kids in your life to be like? What kinds of toys will you pass down?
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