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The onslaught of recalled toys and food originating from China continues with yesterday’s recall of nearly 1 million Fisher-Price toys sold between April and July 2007, due to lead paint. When looking at the sea of toys, one thought pounded in my head: I would never have bought any of these products for my daughter. I wrote about this topic last year when I saw an Etch-a-Sketch cheapened by Dora the Explorer imagery. For my own time-wasting edification, I was going to create a pie chart showing the small percentage of recalled toys that did not feature licensed TV characters. In lieu of that, I wasted my time examining which characters marketers want our children to bond with.
Our 2 year old has only two battery operated toys, neither of which features a licensed character.
One issue with licensed characters on toys is that my kids often outgrow the characters before they outgrow the toy. Just the other day it occurred to me how weird it is that Sesame Street characters are all over merchandise, while the show itself is on Public Television (is Dora, too? As I read more of the comments to this post, I am struck by the conspiratorial motives we’ve assigned the toy companies who produce licensed character products. The Thomas the Tank Engine Pedal Train is Child Safety Approved for the United States and exceeded all of its testing requirements. Our son is a HUGE Thomas the tank engine fan and the look on his face Christmas morning made the price of this train well worth it.We preferred this over most of the cars that are made these days as kids have to actually pedal for this to move so they get some exercise.

When we buy out-of-context licensed characters we are following a marketer’s agenda for our children. I too have begun to resist buying anything that has a specific character, and I’ve found that shopping at teacher resource stores provides a great selection of non-commercialized toys. I guess I see these toys as a problem mainly when parents are knocking each other over each holiday season because their kids have to have the latest battery-induced-shaking red ball of fur. The only reason that it is only licensed toys however is that Fisher Price outsources its licesced toys to other factories, while its unlicensed toys are produced on one of the most hi-tech, strictly regulated and great toy factories run in China. Being a publicist, I’d like to know the inspiration for the New York Times talking to the company on that topic in close proximity to the announced recall.
When I think of FP, I envision licensed TV characters slapped on toys to make them sell better. I found this blog when I did a search on Playtown figures, which I recently discovered and was completely charmed by.
Aren’t the decision makers at these companies also parents, friends, neighbors, and family members — just like the people who continue to purchase these toys and perpetuate the demand? The Thomas the Tank Engine Pedal Train is made from heavy gauge steel and features three position adjustable pedal assembly, sealed ball bearing drive, lead-free rust and chip resistant powder coat finish and high traction tires. My son and daughter-in-law were just as excited as my grandson when the Thomas the Tank Engine Pedal Train was delivered to the door. I also have a child who has no interest in television, so I guess that makes the avoidance of certain charaters a lot less painful!

Still, to be fair, the safety issue was detected relatively quickly instead of a year or two from now.
They are reminiscent of the old-school Fisher-Price little people that I used to play with as a child. Does the fact that Children’s Television Workshop wants my son to like Elmo diminish Elmo’s good qualities? RSS feed is provided for personal private use, not full-text syndication on public third party sites.
I’ve seen (and when I was a child, been involved in) more tantrums and arguments related to toys than probably most other issues combined.
I would not buy a branded butterfly net when a non-branded version is available, but at least it’s exploration-themed. As parents it is our job to make effective choices when choosing playthings for our children.
It really is rediculous that it’s actually difficult to find toys that encourage unstructured, imaginitive play. I don’t think the fact that my son worships at the altar of Thomas the Tank Engine as a three year-old is going to prevent him from growing up to be a functioning, happy and healthy member of society.

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