Although Christmas is more than 10 weeks away as the calendar flies, every retailer in the country is rushing to stock toy shelves with the hottest items available.
And even in this tough economy, doting parents will once again strain the family budget to insure that the toy-of-the-season waits under the tree for each youngster.
This year’s list of must-have toys include such pricey, but sure-to-please, gems as a remote-control flying fish, Let’s Rock Elmo — the latest addition to the endless Elmo collection — the Fisher Price iXL — an electronic gadget designed to “help young children with reading comprehension, number skills, etc.” — and Stinky the Garbage Truck, which according to the manufacturer is so entertaining it “may change the child’s mind about becoming a garbage truck driver.”
All of these hot new battery-powered toys are a tribute to today’s technology. Unfortunately, they draw little of their entertainment value from the most important talent kids bring to their play time — their imagination.
Through the years, the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, N.Y., has honored the superstars of the toy world. Unlike the list of this season’s hottest toys, two of the most recent additions to the Hall of Fame have been of the no-batteries-required kind. In fact, these items were never even intended to be toys.
The new inductees into the Hall are the simple stick and cardboard box. These longtime favorites have taken their places in the museum’s collection beside such childhood treasures as the baby doll, Mr. Potato head and the Slinky.
The lowly stick has been a favorite plaything of children down through the ages. Available everywhere, this all-purpose, no-cost recreational star can become a wand, a fishing pole, a medieval knight’s sword, an arm for a snowman or a drawing instrument at the beach. In addition, the stick has the added advantage of totally uncomplicated “operation.”
Including the cardboard box in the Toy Hall of Fame was an obvious choice, since every parent recognizes the play potential of this unpretentious item that’s found everywhere. Like the stick, a box can serve as anything the child’s imagination dictates from an Indian’s teepee to a NASCAR racer to the cave where the pirate hides his gold-filled trunk.
A spokesperson for the Toy Hall of Fame explained that “longevity is a key criterion” for an item to be accepted into the collection. Every toy included must be widely recognized and inspire learning, creativity or discovery through play. And, those inducted have to maintain their popularity over generations.
As another gift-buying season gets underway, manufacturers across the country will be working non-stop to develop the must-have toys designed to light up a child’s eyes on Christmas morning.
But, after that morning’s excitement dies down, after the torn wrapping paper and debris settle, it’s a safe bet the kids will put aside those pricey toys with their spent batteries and return to such imagination-fired stand-bys as the stick and the cardboard box.