Mat and I decided to take the kids to Toys R’ Us over this past rainy weekend to see if we could find some things for them to do. “Toys” per se were not really on the list for Katya; we were looking for crafts and maybe a science kit since she has expressed interest in “making potions.” This was a mistake, by the way, because you can’t enter a place with TOYS in the name and then expect your kid not to bring you every type of toy imaginable for your approval claiming it as a “craft” so it meets your criteria and then not proceed to throw a fit when you say no. But I digress.
We head over to the craft section, which is pretty large, and I’m thinking, great! We’ll for sure find something interesting to do here. However, I start to become discouraged as I review one ENTIRE wall of crafts filled with a brand called Totally Me! (the eighties-esque moniker should have tipped me off immediately.) This is obviously the fashion craft section. Which, by the way, I didn’t know existed, and also constitutes nearly the entirety of the craft section. How many different ways do you need to create beaded bracelets? Apparently an entire wall’s worth. There’s the Totally Me! glow in the dark bead kit, the Totally Me! glitter bead kit, the Totally Me! charm set, the Totally Me! paint your own bead set. Want a necklace instead? Here are 15 more kits that have…longer strings in them! Totally Me! floating bead set (WTF? Why do they need to float?), the Totally Me! Surfer Girl bead set. I wasn’t sure of my goal, but I knew it did not include having more random plastic beads from China lost around the house.
Kay…next. We strolled through the rest of the craft section. Lots of coloring sets, which we don’t need anymore of either. And then you get to the section for Play Doh and a thing called Moondough, which is supposed to be infinitely better than Play Doh but looks suspiciously just as disastrous. God help me if I lose my brain and venture down that black hole for a repeat, where you never, ever get all the Doh! out of the carpet. There’s also the unfortunate paper doll section. The last time we did paper dolls it took me literally 4 hours to cut out with tiny scissors all the pieces (no perforations to just pop ’em out! WTF truly) and then a few days later I found them stuffed into a soggy gym bag in the back of her closet.
So, in essence, I find nothing. Nothing that looks of any interest at all to a 35 year old mom who wants to do some friggin’ bonding with her daughter.
What bothered me the most about the section, apart from the heavy emphasis on ways for my child to look cuter, get glitterized, or in any other way tarted up, or alternately create the biggest mess since the Discovery Channel Pottery Wheel,
was that there was nothing that stimulated any original thought or creativity. Everything came with very specific instructions on exactly how to do or make or color the thing, with no variance. It’s all – this is what color this should be! This is how you dress the doll! These parts are only to be used for this one purpose, and if you want to do something else you need to buy the set for THAT! When I was a kid (yes, here we go) you got Play Doh in a few different colors and you made some shit with it. Play Doh now comes in sets with plastic things that squirt out very specific shapes (hot dog maker! popcorn maker! cookie decorator! teeth! hair! Yes, it’s true – the Dr. Drill the Dentist was slightly off-putting) that totally direct what you do with it.
I even came across a truly disturbing toy, the Doodle Daisy. Seems now, kids, you don’t even have to draw things yourself! Just watch Doodle Daisy draw it for you, while you kick back and use your fingers to do some real work, like shoving cookies in your face!
Dissatisfied, we head over to the science kit section. Where, to my dismay, the only science kit she likes is the one in the pink box with the girl on it making lots of spa treatments for her and her friends. The other boxes, although in gender neutral green, prominently feature a boy -either real or cartoon – doing his thing with the beakers and the microscope while the girl looks on admiringly. Oh, and they also look BORING.
I’m exasperated at this point and go find Mat and Noah, who are playing at the train station. Katya goes off on her own, and comes back with Legos. I like Legos! Legos are good. When I was kid, I could spend hours building things out of the (gender neutral) red, yellow, green and blue bricks. But of course, Katya does not bring over the nostalgic Legos of my youth. She brings back Legos Friends.
This is Legos attempt at tapping into the female market, which they have largely ignored until recently. If you haven’t seen these, they are ‘sets’ of pink and purple legos that make very specific shelters where the five Lego girlfriends can “chill with the girls.” Here’s an interesting article on the Lego Friends phenomenon .
One of the problems I have with these, apart from the new big-headed Bratz-like dolls that are the Friends (not regular lego people,) expense (nearly 2x more than similar ‘boys’ sets,) stereotypes (beauty shop, cafe, convertible or bakery!) and fact that nearly half of their pieces are not really Legos but “accessories,” is that once you build the thing per the very extensive instructions, there is nothing else left to build. You can’t really take these sets apart and use your imagination to turn Emma’s Design Studio into a hot pink space ship. To me, they’re a big fat waste of money. A waste that I’ve already wasted 3 times in the past, thank you very much.
So, am I being hypocritical here? Probably. I’ve spent a frustrated hour and a half in this store and can’t find anything that meets my standards. My sister has been quick to point out that when I was little I also loved big boob Barbie, glitter, Pepto Bismol pink stuff and fashionizing. As I got older, I also spent a good portion of my early twenties making smelly body potions to sell and a good portion of my income on makeup, clothes, accessories, and all other female accouterments.
But now that I have a daughter it just all seems too much! Mat made me finally pick something, and to my chagrin I ended up getting Katya the Legos Friends and some puffy gel paints. Noah got some matchbox cars. At home, Katya finishes her Legos set in about 30 minutes. She then starts playing with Noah and his cars. For hours. There’s a car family that’s heading on a road trip and they drive all over the house. She’s the mom car, the dad car, the baby car, and the teenagers cars. Which leaves Noah with one car to play with. I have to reprimand her for trying to hide the cars from Noah so she could play with them. “I LOVE cars!” she protests. What do you know. I could have saved myself $50 and a lot of time and heartache. I guess maybe I don’t have to worry so much – about the pink stuff or her imagination.
Now…about that learning to share problem….