Love them or loathe them….there is no getting away from popular branded toys that saturate our letterbox catalogues and TV ad space.
Millions of advertising dollars are poured in to achieve the exact result we all wish it didn’t….kids just HAVING to have the latest toys based upon their favourite characters.
Now don’t get me wrong – my own kids love their Toy Story toys and I have finally succumbed to the Barbie world after resisting for MANY years….but I do find it interesting how kids related to these toys as compared to the generic, unbranded ones.
Branded toys will always bring with them a pre-programed personality – Dora is always Dora and Woody is always Woody. Kids find it hard to assign them with new identity and therefore will copy and repeat the toys behaviour from what they know from the movies or TV show. Generic toys allow kids the artistic license to create any character they want, as often as they want. When was the last time you saw Dora dressed up as a nurse called Alice?
So what’s a mum to do?
Here are 5 ways to sway your kids into alternative choices:
Don’t get sucked in
What mum wouldn’t love a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s in her wardrobe?? I don’t even need to tell you what they ARE for you to be swooning already! But how many of us have actually even SEEN a pair?? TRIED a pair on?? I have no idea what they are really like but Carrie Bradshaw and clever marketing have told me they are the best and so I must have them. Kids are no different – don’t let them fool you – remember that they have NO idea what they are actually asking for – they just know they should have it. End. Of. Story.
Cost is a HUGE consideration!! Branded toys cost the earth and quite often, you can buy more if you swap to generic items. Try and get kids to see past the packaging and focus on what they are actually getting. Don’t be afraid to point out that ‘X’ is $5 more than Ý’ which means “we can’t get a vegemite scroll on the way home – what should we do”?? It doesn’t have to turn into an in-depth discussion about finance in the middle of Toys-r-Us, but pointing out that they can have both a generic Barbie car AND a scooter – meaning TWO boxes instead of one – will no doubt win out every time.
Bells and Whistles
This is the best point. Don’t get the toy with EVERYTHING. Leave something for the kids imagination to ‘fill in the blanks’ so to speak. Avoid the train track that has every sound and light available – try an old fashioned wooden one instead.
Research identifies that instead of being surrounded by the noise and atmosphere of loud toys (leaving nothing to the imagination), kids will create the scenario in their own mind, hearing the right sounds and imagining what each character will say. This in turn has shown to result in a quieter, more relaxed yet equally as stimulating play environment – and anything that promotes a moment of peace is worth trying in my book!!
Don’t peak too soon
Consider the developmental stage your child is at. They may THINK they want a Barbie when they are 3 years old…but very few kids of this age have the dexterity to dress and manipulate these dolls by themselves. All that happens is they get frustrated, it gets tossed aside (you end up buying something else) and then when they ARE ready for a Barbie – you have to fork out for a new one as the old one is now ‘boring’. Don’t hesitate to let them know they can have the toy when they are a bit older – the element of anticipation and proving they are a ‘big kid’ helps with their own motivation and self esteem.
Lead by example
I’ll admit it – we all take the easy option at times when buying birthday party gifts and its just too easy to pop into your local department store and grab the closest Barbie / Ben 10 / Elmo toys that comes to hand. But most mums will secretly be giving you a thumbs up for not adding to their already bulging toy box of plastic crap by selecting something slightly more traditional. And trust me, it may not be the first thing that lights up the kids eyes when its opened, but it will be one gift they remember once the party is long over.
I’ve yet to face the teenage years as a mum but hopefully my girls will continue to appreciate a wide variety of fashion and toy choices. I know we will have to pick our battles and give in at times for the sake of sanity – we all want our kids to feel confident and happy which often means treating them to the latest gizmo EVERYONE else has. And who knows? We might just end up with the same size feet and be able to afford those Manolo’s after all…….
Amanda Woods is an NICU nurse, busy mum to two daughters, and the owner of Moppet Poppet – an online store dedicated to gorgeous dolls and stylish clothing to fit most popular 18inch dolls.