There have been quite a few posts about toys lately which is only natural since Christmas is only a few days away and our children will be getting toys for Christmas. In our house the situation is always quite extreme because our son’s birthday is a week before Christmas. And though my husband and I try to keep it small there will be toy overkill. But that’s not what I’ve been wanting to write about in this post.
I have been thinking about plastic toys. I’m not particularly fond of plastic toys as such. On the other hand there are plastic toys that I loved when I was a child myself and that I still consider great toys. I’m speaking of LEGO and playmobil.
Last year my son received a huge amount of playmobil cars, a helicopter, a doll house, an ark, animals, and whatnot for his birthday and so I consider the playmobil department overflowing. I don’t think that he really needs more of that. Of LEGO he has quite a bit but only in the duplo size which is aimed at preschoolers. So I broke out the LEGO catalogue, and sat down with my son to see what he would like to have.
Okay, that was a lie. These catalogues are what he is usually “reading” every day. I always deemed this a harmless and nice pastime until about two years ago when I had to rip out all the pages containing bionicles because my son was so scared and fascinated by them that he couldn’t stop talking about them. He still thinks that bionicles are totally cool but I told him they are for bigger children only. So he’s looking forward to his eighth birthday because then he will have horrible black creatures throwing plasma balls and riding monstrous spiders.
Since I have been following these catalogues for a few years I have the impression that there are more and more of these bionicle-like LEGO toys. Do I want my then 5-year-old-son to play with hideous alien monsters of which every single one carries at least two weapons? No.
I feel a bit hypocritical writing this because it was me who gave my son a duplo castle with knights and armored horses and a fire-breathing dragon. I didn’t like the ferocious faces of the dragon knights and the amount of weapons that each single knight came with but in the end it turned out well, my son had the knights cooking meals and sleeping in the castle all of them together, caring for sick horses and the dragon. Mostly.
I know that children’s play has to include aggression, that it’s their way of making sense of the world, and that children everywhere incorporate scenes of conflict and war into their play. I only don’t want to give my son a toy that’s only a weapon. – Says she who gave her son a wooden sword last year. I don’t know what it is but somehow unarmed combat and sword-fighting seem more noble to me than pointing a gun. So far I don’t want any toy guns in the house (nor real ones, of course).
So, back to LEGO. There are several sets aimed at the younger children, most of them things like an airport, a police station, a hospital, and firefighters. And then comes a whole range of really cool sets, and “worlds”, all involving fighting. There are aqua raiders who are obviously doing research underwater. And then all their submarines come with guns, and they have to fight ghastly skeletons and sharks. The thing that I loved at first sight was the “mars mission”. Anything with space ships and astronauts has to be good, hasn’t it? Well, to my son and me anyway. So what do we find? Instead of research there are glowing-in-the-dark aliens and fighting over minerals. Aliens are imprisoned, and there is nothing but fighting between them and humans.
In short, almost every set of LEGO is about fighting and shooting. Apart from the sets that are for children age 12 or older that involve building cars and such. And every single thing about LEGO seems to be about vehicles or machines. And here I was, thinking that LEGO was for building houses.
Playmobil isn’t better, you have lots and lots of pirates fighting, roman soldiers fighting, vikings fighting, knights fighting, you get the picture. Of course, like with LEGO, there are real world sets too, houses, and a zoo, police and such. I probably should be very thankful that all those fighting scenes take place in a sort of fairyland. That there are no real soldiers with real weapons.
So I don’t quite know what to do. While I’m typing this my son is sitting on the floor building a tank out of castle parts. I’m not worried much because he usually quits this kind of play after a short time since he has to care for his pregnant stuffed bunny. But stuffed bunnies are not cool. Deformed machine-like people who let destruction rain on the world obviously are.
Girls, by the way, don’t get to play war. They get the double pink princess-unicorn-fairytale-castle. Where the princess gets everything her heart desires (including the handsome and brave prince) because of her beauty. Which poses another problem.
I know this post is totally ambivalent but that’s because I am too. I only wish that there could be toy sets about research and adventures that didn’t involve killing.
So, how do you feel about this? Anyone with bionicles in the house? Am I over-reacting?