Halloween is just a few days away, which means American retailers already have Santa waiting in the wings. Although it feels like months until Christmas, smart shoppers know that we need to get our gift lists together pronto.
It’s not clear whether an early jump on holiday shopping will help us deal with two priorities that are sure to create headaches for this year’s Christmas shoppers, and that’s whether our children’s holiday gifts will be safe from toxic Chinese paint coatings and whether the toys will be “green” enough to mollify parents and grandparents.
It occurred to me during the first, second, third, and fourth recalls of Chinese toys that a lot of the toys involved didn’t really seem all that interesting or necessary. Sometimes more toys is just… more toys. Many of the “Made in China” items were bubble-packed plastic geegaws that, rather than promising any serious “play value,” just looked like more junk to pick up after playtime was over. The recalled items also shared a love of small pieces, which are hazardous to the youngest children and prone to loss in the Toy Twilight Zone usually located under the bunk beds of older kids.
Since this column is always looking to help readers, I thought it wasn’t too early to advance some holiday toy shopping tips. Below are some new toys you may not be aware of. Each of them reflects in some way a desire to make a toy gift longer lasting and more valuable to the lucky child who receives it. Give this list a quick look, and since it’s still October… let me be among the first to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
The Prius Tricycle
Like its bigger Mommy and Daddy counterpart, the Prius Tricycle is sweet news at the gas pump. In fact, it’s even better than the car because it’s completely child-powered. No switching over from gas to electric… the child just keeps on pumping those legs, which is great for kiddies’ health and beating back early onset diabetes. Just like the Prius vehicles, the trikes come in a variety of pastel colors and are shaped like a lunging computer mouse. (NOTE: Trikes will not qualify for yellow carpool lane decals, but you can decorate them with “nature” stickers depicting dolphins playing banjos and panda bears roller-skating.)
Barbie’s Resale Shop
Parents who have burned through most of the college money attempting to keep Barbie in hip clothing will love this new Barbie accessory, which is basically a recycled cardboard box with a fashion doll-size door cut in it. Children can fill the box with the Barbie clothes they already own, and then play for hours as the neighbors’ Barbie dolls come over and get hot designer looks at fantastic savings. Tell your child they can now spend their own resale-earned cash for any new Barbie clothes… and watch the fun.
The Green Bookshelf
Bringing back the classic “college days” bookshelf materials of yesteryear – cinder blocks and some scavenged wood – the Green Bookshelf sets up in minutes and lasts a lifetime! And nothing looks better on a bookshelf than… books! Books, the best use ever of the paper made from felled trees. It’s green, it’s lean… it’s filled with stuff to read!
The Unsolicited Catalogs Playhouse
Here’s a great toy you can make yourself! Simply take the three to four tons of unsolicited merchandise catalogs you’ll receive in the mail between now and December 24 and build a playhouse for your children. The materials are free, and because of their expensive shiny printing the catalogs are easily shifted to build in either a simple Craftsman or painfully angular post-modern style. (WARNING: Remove catalogs from Victoria’s Secret and Swinger’s Lifestyle before construction.)
Although he contains some recycled material, we have a pretty good idea exactly what George is made out of. And since solid documentation proves that GI George has never actually served in the military, he’s the first “action figure” who will never personally be damaged or broken by combat. Other Army toys see a lot of rough play, but not GI George. (NOTE: “Talking” feature malfunctions regularly. Body and vehicle armor sold separately. Not to be used near “Blackwater Bob” dolls.)