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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Politically Correct Children's Toys?

No longer manufactured, although still available, Playmobil’s Security Check Point, pictured above, reflected the age of heightened caution and security following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York. Handout No longer manufactured, although still available, Playmobil’s Security Check Point, pictured above, reflected the age of heightened caution and security following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New ...

The vehicle that many children are asking for this holiday season is not a fire truck. It's not a school bus or a race car. It's a bright green, clunky recycling truck, made of recycled milk jugs and stored in eco-friendly, cardboard packaging.

The truck's popularity on major toy lists and gift guides is a sign of the times, and an example of a growing trend among toymakers to try to make children's playthings fit into larger societal concerns and even political agendas. They include an American Girl doll, which retails for US$95 and delivers a lesson on the harsh recessionary reality with her back story of living in a car with her single mom; a Playmobil airport security checkpoint; and a baby doll that demands breastfeeding, not bottle.

Some experts say these kinds of toys are important because they can help children better understand larger social themes and their parents' values, but others say it is merely parental meddling in children's play, and that even with the best of parental intentions, you can't necessarily influence how your children play.

Christine Williams, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas and author of Inside Toyland, said that studies have found that middle-class parents see toy giving as an opportunity to cultivate sophisticated tastes and refined opinions in their children.

"Middle-class parents would say a recycling truck conveys the right kind of values that I want my child to have," she said. "Every toy bought is an educational opportunity to cultivate the hothouse flower that is their child."

The recycling truck, made by Green Toys, is featured in all kinds of gift guides, including Dr. Toy's list of 100 best products for 2009; its virtues are often extolled in the almost breathless manner afforded by SavvyMom, a national online parenting magazine: "It's a truck, it's a lesson in recycling, it's an example to us all."

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Share your thoughts? Do you think parents should purchase toys for their children that teach a political agenda or issue or purchase toys based on children's interest and learning ability?











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