Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Product placement

"Thomas train!"


I thought my kid was having delusions, but there, in back of the shopping cart at Babies R Us, were two pieces of cardboard from someone else's Thomas toy. My son insisted on taking them with us when we left.

We don't have trains. For his first birthday, my sister and her kids gave E one blue Thomas, which I hid for months until I remembered to ask her when she got it relative to the recall. Her son's trains are the highlight of my son's visits to my mom's house, where I get the distinct impression that my mom feels sorry for my son not having a train set at home.

Even if we did have the room for a train table, which we don't, I doubt I'd want to go there. For one thing, branded stuff like that is not at all in line with ideas about play and child's brains that you hear about in Waldorf education, which I'm thinking is a path I want to pursue, at least to some degree. That doesn't mean my son doesn't recognize the Geico gecko from commercials that come on during weekend sporting events. Thankfully off the Yoga Kids kick I wrote about a while back, he enjoys see a little TV here and there with his dad. They've watched on PBS animal show together and a bunch of sports. So far, that seems manageable.
But as we round the corner into getting closer to three than to two, I'm still leery of starting down some road with infinite possibilities for products. I didn't mind E looking at the Plan toys catalog (until we lost it), but once he gets that concept of being able to ask for things that he sees representations of, well, I'd just rather avoid too much of those representations. It does seem to me to narrow the possibilities for play, but then again, there's something about connecting and familiarity that must develop some part of the brain, right? I guess I'd rather he get that from seeing the same faces of people and doing the same activities with some rhythm, but I have a ways to go to provide the latter.

I have no problem with him playing trains at other people's homes, and I think it's kind of cool that there's this special activity he associates with my parents and brother at my folks' home. It's a treat, something to look forward to.

I don't love that he sleeps on Thomas sheets when he's there or that he loved the battery-powered train he played with while visiting my sister so much that it got caught in his curls next to his ear. But he's a toddler who's supposed to be into stuff, and it's fun to see the joy of recognition, the flash of excitement.
I just don't want stuff to rule his world. As evidenced by a recent analysis of my MasterCard bill, I've got that covered for the whole family.

1 comment:

MamaBird said...

You could go the Brio route with no mechanized trains. Not that you have to have trains at all! But if you want to, there are non-commercial options. And you don't need to go crazy. In fact, one of the reasons I love to go to Child's Play in Chevy Chase DC is that the owner there stopped me from doing so. He asked me about my preferences (ie non commercialism, kinda crunchy) and then steered me away from the (more expensive) mechanized trains. He convinced me to just get a simple figure 8 of track and a couple engines. We've had it for 2 years and don't plan to get either a train table or to add much more. And my kids love it! If you get lucky, you could get some used. Good for you for choosing to buy less tho. I could stand to do more of that!