Traditional/’retro’ toys, who plays with them? We sell a lovely range of ‘retro’ toys and games in the shop and today as I was unpacking a delivery I came across another blast from the past: ‘magnetic fishing’. This made me feel pretty old to be honest since I remember playing with this when I was wee and now it’s ‘retro’ (does that mean I’m retro? I’m only twenty-*eherm*). But aside from the reminder that I am by all accounts, in the eyes of kids and teenagers everywhere, a ‘grown-up’ it also got me thinking about the play involved in these kinds of games. There a few factors that seem to be in place in these kinds of games: First at least the first couple of tries kids will probably need a bit of adult supervision and this is what I wondered about, parents seem less into supervised activity now than when I was a kid. Second these games are highly unlikely to turn up in an advert on TV.
I’ll often be told by a parent in the shop that they don’t want something which they have to supervise for the whole time, parents are more into child-independence and trying to get their kids to figure out things themselves now than they were about ten years ago. As a result craft sets and games seem to suffer since in these cases since these kinds of toys are pretty themed towards supervision. Of course not everyone is as into this style of parenting (if they were we probably wouldn’t stock much in the way of crafts and games) but for those that are we’re unlikely to see many sales.
The second problem (the lack of TV advertising) goes against ‘retro’ toys/games in a different way. Parents (and grandparents) will remember playing with these kinds of toys when they were kids but because they’ve never heard their kids talk about them (not seen them on TV) they worry that their kids wouldn’t like/want them. Along with this is a kind of standing assumption that kids are very different now in terms of tastes and activities than they have been in earlier generations. This is really odd, of course it’s a completely obvious tautology that every generation will, in some way, be different that the last one, but to go from this to form the belief that this somehow makes modern kids fundamentally different in terms of what they might like to play with is kind of bizarre.
Of course I’m different from my parents, and from my grandparents even more so, but this didn’t stop me from enjoying pick up sticks with my mum and dad and Chinese checkers with my granny when I was a kid. I had a games system and I had a good collection of transformers that I played with regularly but that didn’t make more traditional toys and games any less fun, the only difference was that as a child of the eighties I was bombarded with adverts in a way that my parents and grandparents had never dreamed of. As a result of this advert saturation I needed to be persuaded to try something I hadn’t seen on TV, it must have been a bit of a hassle for my folks but I’m glad they did it because I got to try out even more things than some of the kids from my class.
Roll on an extra twenty-something years and parents seem even more reluctant to take the time to show these old things of to their kids. It’s hard to compete with the adverts but kids trust their parents about what might be fun (at least when they’re fairly young) so it shouldn’t take too big of a push and the bonus is that these ‘retro’ toys aren’t seasonal, they don’t suffer from the same loss of interest that their TV advertised brethren do. Whilst, for example, the ‘best’ action figures match the latest, most popular, film or TV show, the retro toys are classics, less subject to whim but still catered for whimsy. It’s a kind of win win in terms of the money you spend since retro toys are often cheaper and importantly they’ll stay in the background getting played with for years unaffected by changes in trends.
So out of interest who still plays with ‘retro’ toys/games, who’s taken the leap with their kids and tried to introduce them to something a little unfamiliar? Please let me know in the comments or over on the shop’s facebook page. Also don’t forget to catch up with the exploits of Sto and the Dulthans in my continuing story cube story over on my other blog (a new chapter is coming soon).