Toys, no age bar

It is likely that the toys parents buy for children reflect some of their own desires.

The Oxford dictionary defines a toy as ‘an object for a child to play with.’ In today’s context, I feel the word need not be restricted to the word ‘child’.

Recently my wife and I were travelling on the metro in Hong Kong. Most passengers were playing either ‘Angry Birds’ or ‘Candy Crush’ on their smartphones.Thus, an item of utility during working hours had turned into a toy later.This scene is replicated even in India.

Despite all the hi-tech playthings like Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo, there is still the excitement and thrill of playing with conventional toys. Generally, a child starts with building blocks and then progresses to activity books; then throws tantrums unless he or she gets the items that are displayed in toy shops. In fact, the biggest mistake parents can commit is to let their progeny run loose in a toy store. Through generations, it is also presumed that a boy needs cars and a girl her quota of dolls.
As adults graduate to parenthood it is likely that the toys they buy for their children reflect some of their own desires. As my sons were growing I used to love browsing through toy stores and eye longingly at the remote control cars and trucks.The Americans are adept at trying all types of marketing gimmicks to make you spend your hard-earned money on useless toys, particularly if they are connected with movie promotion. On my trips to the USA I ended up buying a large rubber head of Godzilla (my grandchildren play with that now), and replicas of the gadgets used in the Star Wars series. Young parents have also found an easy route to keep their childen out of their hair while going about their chores at home. The iPad-generation kids seem to thrive on using the touch screen for hours without losing interest.

My wife probably has an unfulfilled desire to become a doctor like her parents. Recently she came home with a toy doctor set for our granddaughter, Janvi. We presumed that the little girl would enjoy playing ‘doctor, doctor’ and treat her grandparents. On her visits every Saturday we found she preferred being the patient. Later I realised that I was the culprit. As a pretend-doctor I would operate on her stomach for a mysterious ailment. The treatment included either a jujube or marshmallow as ‘medicine’. This acted as an incentive for Janvi to become a patient every time.

The corner of my TV room is Janvi’s toyland. Almost every item from the time she was born is stored there in various conditions of disrepair. Most children who visit our home make a beeline to that hallowed place and freely use the toys. Now there are some additions to the collection courtesy our grandson, Shantanu when he makes his yearly trip from London.Thanks to the TV serial, we now have the complete collection of Chhota Bheem miniatures, too.

But, I am yet to fulfill my grand dream. On my compulsory trips to Toys ‘R’Us in the USA or Hamleys in London I make a beeline to the train section and eye longingly on the electric train sets. I picture  a room in my home with rail tracks complete with stations, crossings, tunnels, signal cabins… Heavenly.

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