Jewish World Review August 9, 2004 / 22 Menachem-Av, 5764
Toys 'R trouble
Let's hear it for some of the "Generation-X" moms.
Gen-X are those of us who came right after the baby boom, 1963 to
1975. (I've seen that first year defined as being later - say, 1965 -
but I like this definition because it includes me.)
Anyway, here's why we have to give a couple of cheers to these
moms: Ira Hernowitz is general manager of First Fun, a division of
Hasbro toys. He recently told The Washington Post that when it comes
to Gen-X moms, "They want smart children ... but they think it's more
important for them to be emotionally and socially ready than
educationally prepared for school. The number one thing they want in a
toy is fun."
These moms, Hernowitz said, "are concerned their children will
grow up too quickly, so they want to do more things with them" as the
Post put it.
The Post was reporting on the American International Toy Fair held
in New York earlier this year.
The folks at the fair love the Gen-X moms. That's because these
moms control almost $750 billion of spending power. At the toy fair,
one seminar was titled "Capturing the Gen-X Mom," where experts
offered insight on "'getting into the psyche' of this demographic
cash cow," as the Post put it.
Though fully 75 percent of Gen- X moms work, "they value family
time more than their parents did, the marketing analysts say. 'They're
less driven to break the glass ceiling at work and more willing to
drive the kids to soccer practice - and they expect the boss to
understand,' Robert Chimbel, president of Tracy Locke toys, said.
'Part-time work is the Holy Grail for these moms.' "
And more and more they are, apparently, walking right by the "Baby
Einstein" toys and the bilingual baby products, and all the
complicated, electronic kids' things and heading straight for rubber
balls, play kitchens and construction sets and pedal cars.
This all makes perfect sense to me, and not just because I think we
push our kids way too much anyway. Look, I buy electronic stuff for my
kids, it's just that it never works.
I don't think that came up at a seminar at the toy fair! But the
hours I have spent on Christmas mornings and after birthday parties
putting together electronic toys that at best do not get anywhere near
meeting expectations, and at worst literally fail on the launch pad,
are incalculable. I am sick of painstakingly putting something
together, only to have my crushed children say, "Gee, Mom, it worked
great in the commercial."
In the history of Western civilization, I am not sure that any
electric toy has ever done what it promised to do "in the
Once, when my dad was visiting, he brought the children an "easy
to launch" rocket, guaranteed to go hundreds of feet into the air.
After three hours of intense work putting it together, 3 ... 2 ... 1
...blowup. Right on the launch pad. One of the kids said, "Gee, Papa,
it wasn't supposed to do that." No kidding.
And what happens after that? We know what happens. They go to play
with the box.
The only thing I might hate seeing come in the door for a gift or a
toy, even more than something electronic, is something with a million
pieces. I know such things can be good for their little fingers, and
their imaginations, too, but those little pieces never stay together
in one place, nor am I typically motivated enough to sit with them for
hours and put together whatever it is anyway.
One year my little boy got a toy roller coaster, with about a
million pieces to it. I thought, What a great project for him. A year
later, it was still half-completed. I finally had had it. I paid a
college-level baby-sitter extra cash one time to finish putting the
He never plays with it.
I'm also opposed to "singsong" toys, like drums that play tunes.
Those dopey tunes keep going through my head.
I know, I sound like I went to "mean-mom school." (That's what I
tell my kids sometimes when they complain about things and I tell them
the "complaint department" is closed.)
Anyway, I do like big, unbreakable, single items. Rubber balls and
The problem is, I have every other kind of toy in my house besides
rubber balls and refrigerator boxes. I guess I'm an optimist. I keep
hoping the NEXT electric thing that comes in the house will work, or
the next thing with a million pieces will stay together.
I wonder if I could give a seminar at that toy fair next year?
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