Today I’m thinking about toys, I’m a parent and I work in a toy shop so it happens a lot I suppose. But today I’m thinking about one type of toy in particular, this is a kind of toy that we as parents probably think of as fairly insignificant: they are those small purchases made for any number of reasons. The reasons could easily include buying a toy one day just because you’re in a shop and your child has been especially good, or you may pick something up because you’re on holiday and want your child to have something fun to do while you’re there or perhaps (as is most often the case) these toys count as part of your weekly routine as a reward at the end of the week when you give them their pocket money. Despite the various reasons behind such purchases the most frequent is the last one mentioned and so these innocuous little items have gained the name ‘pocket money toys’.
The main thing that popped into my mind when I decided to start writing about toys was how surprising it can be to see which toys in particular win a place in your child’s heart. What made me feel the need to write this particular post was the recollection of a particular set of toys which my son got about two years ago on a quick trip into the toy shop with Granny. They had just nipped up the road to pop in and visit me at work and while they were there Granny got him a wee thing just to keep him occupied. The toy he chose was a set of four zoo animals in a plastic packet that had sat in the pocket money section and sold well for weeks, if I remember correctly they cost something like £3.99/£4.99. In short neither Granny or I expected Logan to consider them as something particularly special they were just bought as a little keepsake that we thought might keep him occupied for the afternoon. How wrong we were.
The characters in the packet developed, they became extensions of Logan’s personality, he would say things in a different voice for each of the animals, they opened up his imagination and gave us access to some of his inner thought processing. Three characters in particular began to stand out; he named the lion, the elephant and the baboon after characters from ‘Ice Age’ (his favourite film at the time). In these little characters we gained three new additions to our household. These characters could not be left behind even on a quick trip to the shops, and their personalities became more pronounced as time went on: Diego (the protective and sometimes fierce lion), Manny (the subdued and friendly elephant) and Sid (the excitable and often frightened baboon) became members of our family.
We got caught up in the drama on the day that Manny got run over by a bus, thankfully he came through unscathed (though a week or so after a tusk fell off which we peg up to the bus accident). Diego went missing for a fortnight and I would genuinely sit up at night worrying about whether he was lost for good and how we would break it to Logan. Happily he turned up and I shared in Logan’s excitement and relief at his return.
Over the course of the past two years Logan’s characters have touched our lives and it just goes to show that you can never predict just what toy will be taken to heart and become beloved member of the household. The thing that scares me a little is how simply I could have initially dismissed these little characters and lost the opportunity to have them in our lives. Perhaps I might have suggested an alternative: a colouring book or a die-cast car and I would never have known how many hours of fun, heartache, excitement and joy those little pocket money zoo creatures would have given us. I see parents in the shop doing this all the time: “No you don’t want that, why not go for this instead? It’s much better value.” The truth is that we really can’t predict the value which a toy will acquire, toys can quickly gain a kind of sentimental value that money can’t touch.
Do you only look at toys in adult terms, weighing pros and cons and likelihood of potential for play? If you do you’re not alone but keep in mind that your children and the toys they pick can easily surprise you. If it’s just a wee thing why not just let them choose their own without interference? We can be more fiscally responsible when we go for the big items at Christmas and for birthdays but if we’re dishing out pocket money surely it’s up to the one with the money in their hand exactly how they’ll spend it. You never know when a pocket money toy can change your life.