Trendy toys like Zhu Zhu Pets come and go, but classics like Play-Doh give us lasting funFrom the Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 20, 2010
This year, the Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters are all the rage.
The little furry robots caught on like the Cabbage Patch dolls of yesteryear.
The American International Toy Fair took place in New York City this week, and the stars of the show established a theme of affordable high-tech. The Zhu Zhu Pets hamster was cute and amusing, but the price point was attractive, too. It came in under $10.
Among other new toys that received high marks was a plush Dance Star Mickey. For $69.99, this Disney mouse walks, talks and dances. The Star Wars All Terrain Armored Transport is a model from “The Empire Strikes Back” film. It holds 20 “Star Wars” figures. For $99.99, it includes an action figure and a separate space bike rider.
The Food Network is clearly making its mark on youth culture. The Easy Bake Oven has been retooled for $29.99. Dairy Queen has created a stir with the Spin Master Blizzard maker, also for $29.99.
But while the trendy playthings come and go each year, there are iconic toys that have been around for generations. Board games like Monopoly and Clue are still strong sellers. Jigsaw puzzles still leap off the shelves. The Hula-Hoop still sells. We spoke with Stevanne Auerbach, a toy expert and researcher from California who goes by the moniker Dr. Toy. She is the author of “Smart Play Smart Toys: How to raise a child with a high PQ.”
We asked her about the appeal of board games and other toys that stand the test of time.
Dr. Toy: “The classics are the oldies and goldies, the ones that endure and provide lasting pleasure. Monopoly is great and continues as a favorite. As does Scrabble, Careers or Life because of getting together and connecting in person. That’s what makes playing games special.
PD: Why do people return to these toys through generations?
Dr. Toy: “Classics remind people of their childhood joys. Family together. Playing with friends. Throwing a Frisbee. Jumping rope. Want to reduce obesity in America? Give every kid a jump-rope, a Hula-Hoop and a Frisbee.”
PD: Will the pendulum swing away from tech toys and toward action toys?
Dr. Toy: “It’s time for a resurgence of fun and playfulness, based on what’s good, safe and solid. The joy of play is not determined by how much you spend. Like the fun of creating with a cardboard box. It’s the quality of the playfulness of the players. The interactions, spontaneity and humor. The fun together and surprises.”
PD: The classic toys seem to stay with kids as they grow up.
Dr.Toy: The power of play brings out the inner child . . . regardless of age. Play helps the players flourish at home, the workplace and school.”
PD: How is playing with toys or games instructive?”
Dr. Toy: “Play builds thinking and teamwork. Kids solve problems when they play by working together. Chess, construction toys or creative pursuits like creating a game are just some of the values of toys that are classics.
PD: So the classic toys are good for grown-ups too?
Dr. Toy: “Get a Frisbee and start throwing it. See how fast the smiles come back. Start building with an Erector Set or playing with Play-Doh, and see how fast you can solve problems. You will quickly be more relaxed and less stressed.”