Every year we have the same challenge, trying to identify what toys and games we can purchase for our children that aren’t junky, horribly, ugly, plastic trash (obviously, that’s a value judgment. 🙂 One place I thought I’d start this year was with Amazon.com, since they have a huge range of toys and games, and with partners like Toys R Us, I figured they’d have a good organization too.
But here’s what I found weird. I searched for “vintage toys” and was surprised to find the matches were Star Wars, Yu Gi Oh, Pokemon and Neopets.. Why does Amazon categorize these modern, valueless toys as “vintage” in the first place?
To me, a vintage toy is dominoes, Monopoly or Checkers. A toy that I might have played with when I was a child, and that my Dad might have played when he was a child. Instead, these so-called vintage toys are much more ephemeral and I bet that outside of obsessed collectors, no-one will have a clue who Pokemon or Yu Gi Oh were twenty years from now. There’s some irony that these are described thusly “The timeless appeal of vintage toys makes them great gift choices for ‘particular’ owners and collectors of memorabilia.”
Here’s the key thing, and this relates to the toys we buy our children: do they foster the imagination, teach them some useful skill like cooperation, and help them recognize that life is about a lot more than just the acquisition of material goods? That’s a lot to ask of a toy, but I’m always impressed how my kids can integrate rocks they’ve found in the garden and similar materials into a train setup, a barn made of wooden blocks, and similar. With something like a “Yu Gi Oh Booster Pack”, though, I can’t see how there’s anything positive, and indeed isn’t the entire idea of trading cards the acquisition of stuff?
There are some really nice toys available on Amazon, don’t get me wrong. I particularly liked the Butterfly Garden Kitchen Center, Wood Unit Block Cart, Cutting Birthday Cake (from a great wooden toy manufacturer, Melissa & Doug), the Logging Adventure Train Set and Grandpa’s Wood Stilts.
For any toy purchase, I keep asking myself: how are they going to bear up to repeated play, how interested your children will be in them six months hence, and whether the toys are really reinforcing the values and style of play you want to nurture in your children.