The stick as a toy is a hard(wood) sell

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Proving yet again even my dog is more forward thinking than I, the stick has recently been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame.

The lowly stick, a universal plaything powered by a child’s imagination, landed in the National Toy Hall of Fame on Thursday along with the Baby Doll and the skateboard…Curators said the stick was a special addition in the spirit of a 2005 inductee, the cardboard box. – Associated Press

I can’t say I saw THAT one coming. I mean, seriously? The cardboard box makes some sense. It’s a playhouse, a rocket ship, whatever, but a stick?

Imagine

OK, I’m down with the whole “imagination” thing. I am all about toys that DO less and inspire more. Toys that foster creative, free thinking in children.

In my experience, toys that beep, buzz, whine, whirr and move through a series of pre-set (and imagination limiting) “tricks” tend to be the first to end up lost under the bed about a week after Christmas.

My children and their friends have blown through — and blown off — a variety of toys that danced, sang, read and played for them.

Toys that jumped and bumped and did cartwheels before falling over in hilarious grinding spasms were all rejected for more imaginative play.

Forgotten until they are finally tossed into the charity bag with a helpful post-it note saying “needs batteries” to lend a dash of hope someone else will get even a nanosecond of play-value out of them.

I applaud this return to a kinder, gentler, simpler and yes, CHEAPER time.

Overreacted

That said, the museum’s public relations may have been overreaching just a smidge when they touted their inclusion of the stick thus: “This toy is so fantastic it’s not just for humans anymore. You can find otters, chimps and dogs — especially dogs –playing with it.”

Alrighty then. There’s your five-star rating. At the risk of causing offense in a family publication, let’s just say that I’m not entirely convinced these animals are our best arbiters of good toy taste.

Sure our dog adores his stick, logs, timbers, entire trees he attempts to drag into our home in his endless pursuit of bludgeoning my toes.

That said, he’s also fond of cat box “treats” so his recommendations are generally taken with a grain of salt (and the sound of gagging) around here.

Suffice it to say I rarely take as the gospel any product recommendation by a species that regards feces as a toy too.

Nonetheless, the economy may (sadly) be leading parents to thinking outside the (cardboard) box and entertaining the notion of passing off a stick as a toy is the only way to save Christmas.

In truth, I think it’s going to be a hard(wood) sell.

PR

Does the stick have a marketing campaign? Will stick action figures be offered with children’s “value meals” at fast food emporiums?

Does the stick have a spin-off television program, very special stick holiday special, a plucky stick sidekick or stick sticker book?

What about tiny outfits? The stick should have accessories! A naked stick will never sell.

More importantly, does the stick have web presence? These days toy marketing is all about Internet interactivity.

Build-a-Bear, Webkinz and their ilk offer not only the toy itself but a Web site where children can sign up, log on and tune in to a virtual world showing them even MORE stuff their toy(s) could — and should — have.

Until you can create a virtual world for your timber, I fear this thing isn’t really going to take off.

Although speaking of taking off we can always fall back on this old saw: “What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?”

Give up?

“A stick!”

(Trust me, you’re laughing on the inside).

Doom

I’m here to tell you inclusion in the Toy Hall of Fame or not, the stick as a toy is doomed to failure.

Some klutz will inevitably do what every mother who has ever lived warned you about and poke his eye out (but he better not come running to her!)

Then we’ll end up with a messy, massive consumer recall, sticks will get a bad name, and that will spoil it for everyone, not the least of which would be the Toy Hall of Fame.

In the interest of safety they would then be forced to include only safer, softer things in future halls of fame.

Coming soon: Cotton balls… and air.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

1 COMMENT

  1. Kymberly,

    Believe it or not, a well loved game from my childhood was what we called “the stick game.” We had concrete slabs that formed a walk from the front porch to the driveway, maybe 30 slabs total. We invented the stick game, sort of a take off on Hopscotch, where you toss the stick and proceed to the slab, etc. You must never underestimate the power of the stick!

    Jennifer

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