Friday, August 12, 2011

Open letter to toy manufacturers

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my son Liam's second birthday. It was a multi-day extravaganza that featured three parties attended by various elements of our extended family, lots of cake consumed, and plenty of gifts. For a while most of the gifts sat in several bags in our basement, but earlier this week I got to the task of sorting them all out, compiling a list of who gave what, and extricating the toys from the boxes they came in.

In regards to the latter I feel compelled to ask: Has the theft rate of childrens' toys gone up so much in the past 20 years to really require all of the layers of packaging, tape, cardboard tabs, twist ties, and little plastic thingies, some with screws to take out, one now encounters in the process of taking said toys out of their boxes? Working with my pocket knife, scissors, screwdriver, or whatever else was necessary to open these toys up, it often took me a half-hour on just a single item before it was ready to be played with as intended. Maybe I am some sort of ignorant fool and these things are just to hold the toy in place so it looks good on the shelf or have to do with some other marketing strategy, and are in no way a security measure, but whatever the reason behind this explosion of packaging paraphenelia it annoys the frak out of me as a parent when I need a Swiss army knife just to get the toy out of the box. Then there is dealing with all the unnecessary waste this generates and making sure none of the small parts in the elaborate scheme end up in either the kid's or a pet's mouth. In short, toy companies, you are taking something that should be simple and joyful (at least I hope some parents find joy in opening and setting up toys given to their children) and turning it into a complex, exasperating slog. Just the fact that I need to use terms like "process", "elaborate scheme", and "slog" to describe the experience should indicate something is wrong. And while I don't know exactly how much all of this extra material costs, it ain't nothing and someone (manufacturer, buyer, or some combination) is ultimately paying for it. As a result of all this I will not be buying toys that come packaged in this manner, not for my child or for anyone else's. I hope you're happy.

Amid all of this there was one notable counterexample. One of the items Liam received was a recycling truck made by the aptly named Green Toys. In addition to making all of their products from recycled material (primarily milk cartons), said products come in a simple cardboard box with no other extra fluff. So the next time you are looking for a gift for a young child, check them out. 

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