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Toy store headache

I'm not anti-princess. I'm not anti-branded merchandise (to the contrary, I think it fuels imaginative play and continues favorite stories in real life). I'm not against gender-based toy aisles actually makes it easier to find some things. (I could do with less obnoxious pink.)

But it does frustrate me spending an hour or two wandering around a toy store trying to find something suitable for a 4 year old boy. "Bingo!" you'd think. Key demographic. Easy as pie! What could be easier than shopping for a little boy?

The Mama totally understood my general bad attitude upon arriving home. She avoids that place at all costs after getting stuck doing birthday shopping last year. But I won't mention the name of the store. It's actually not the store that is the problem, per se.

It's what passes for toys for our kids that is the problem. It's all cheaply made to be breakable and fall apart despite the extravagant price. If it doesn't require batteries, the manufacturer still probably figures out a way to have it make noise.

Of course, some of it is my weird (love him) son who can't just like dinosaurs and superheroes like a normal little boy. He's currently obsessed with hummingbirds. And otters. And robots. Which can be head scratchers. Try finding a stuffed hummingbird to cuddle. Though I did find--and nearly buy--a kind of cool "at the zoo" playset with penguins, a zookeeper, a bucket of fish, and a brush to scrub the exhibit.

I've heard the cries of many other fathers online as they work through their love/hate relationship with Lego. They love building. They hate stepping on. But that's a logical next step for us.

Some of it is an internal fight between wanting to go ahead and just get the ninth thing in a series you know your kid will love. Versus trying something new. Maybe those walkie-talkies? Maybe those real bugs in resin with the magnifying glass? Maybe that kids' digital camera?

Maybe I want to say "screw it" and tell my kid he's lucky he's getting a cake?

There's nothing wrong with toys. I'm anti-materialism...but not that anti-materialism. What bothers me is how few options there are far parents who want inexpensive, well-crafted gifts for their children. Notice I didn't even use the E word--educational. Not every toy has to help learning, reading, or math skills. Especially for preschoolers.

Why aren't there more realistic police stations? Fire stations? Hospitals? Libraries? He wants a US Mail truck for his birthday yet not a one to be found--large or small. Kids could be pretending to checkout books, catch bad guys, put on their special hat and drive a vehicle to a "burning building."

I ended up with a few vehicles from Cars and Thomas, a very nice wooden logging truck, and starter set for Lego Junior. He'll love it all. He doesn't really care. Fortunately, there is still plenty of time before he thinks that what the gift is matters more than the fun of receiving it. We could wrap up a rock and he'd think it was amazing. And isn't that the way it should be?