Let’s All Be Kids Again
Having it Made Then and Now
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 15:10
I was trying to think of something to write for a while and was crap out of ideas. Today was kind of a bummer, and I was thinking about how easy I had it as a kid. I had a lot of cool toys and a little sister to play with and pick on. Life was pretty easy. My first big toy was the swing set in the back yard with a slide, trapeze bar and swings for my sister and I. My family has a picture of me when I was three years old while we were putting it together. In it I am sitting between two pieces of wood, attempting to nail them together with the plastic hammer from my Fisher-Price tool kit. I can imagine being frustrated trying to figure out why it wouldn’t work, but two-year-old me has a smile on my face, probably just happy to be helping daddy put it together.
As I got older, I started building things for myself. Lincoln Logs were pretty cool, but Tinker Toys were even better. Every couple of weeks or so, my sister and I would make our parents sit down on the living room couch as we put on a demonstration of our latest invention. I guarantee you that they were amused if not also a little bored, but good parents that they were, they applauded politely and encouraged us to continue using our imagination. This continued in the form of Legos. I was given my share of sets, which remained as they were for a couple weeks at most, before I would inevitably break them apart to build, among other things, a rocket launching station, fishing boat, working submarine and church complete with Lego man crucifix.
Those were the toys of my day. They were a step up from the Duncan top and Boy Scout handbook that entertained my dad, but overall they remained simple. I’ve been out of the loop of the toy world for some time now. Of course, video games have been a big source of entertainment for kids everywhere, and even though I haven’t been an avid gamer, I’ve been kept up to date on the newest games and usually know a little about each new release. What has surprised me most when going to get essentials at Wal-mart or Target is the array of other toys that kids today have.
Take Nerf guns for example: remember the Nerf guns from when we were kids? I remember having Nerf wars with my friend Ryan in the halls of his house in 3rd grade. I thought they were the coolest things back then, but they could only shoot one at a time, and the coolest thing about them was a laser that barely worked. Whenever I look at the shelves at a store now, I see Nerf guns that are full-blown machine guns and sniper rifles complete with bipods and batteries. There are Nerf swords too, and enough Nerf armament to start a small war. It’s not just Nerf, either. All the toys which we used to play with are beefed-up versions of their former selves. Where there was Atari and Sega, there are now graphics that come close to picture-perfect. Where there were teddy bears, there are robotic, remote-controlled pets. If a Rough Ryder BB gun could poke your eye out in “A Christmas Story,” there is a pellet gun that can take down a 200 lb. wild boar. Look it up if you feel you need to.
So what’s the point? I’m not sure if I have one; if that causes you some cognitive dissonance, you will have to figure that one out for yourself. I am simply amazed and slightly envious of today’s kids and how good they have it. If it amounts to anything, maybe it’s this. British journalist and co-host of the world-famous “Top Gear” James May hosted a series of specials called “Toy Stories,” in which he took some of the simple toys of his day and reintroduced them to modern kids through super-sizing them. Imagine a house made entirely from Legos and a life-sized model kit of a Spitfire fighter plane, and you’ll understand the concept. He wanted to show school kids the enjoyment that he got out of simple toys and imagination. Using imagination, he said, is a part of the fun of play, and by playing with these simple, small toys, which are just tiny versions of the jobs adults do, or play house or firefighter or church, children discover what they will do, and are inadvertently prepared for life in the “real world.” Complex toys and video games may be huge advances and lots of fun, but they leave little to the imagination, and we should consider that they may stifle some of the fun of being a kid. I would certainly not say “get rid of it all,” but just remember, when you are bored of video games and down on the tedious times in college life, remember the good times of being a kid, how good you had it, and how that brought you to now.