“Toy Deserts”

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Desert(1)
Toy Desert: An area without access to creative or educational toys.

Do educational and creative toys give a child a step up in life? New York Times columnist, Ginia Bellafante, thinks so and has written an extremely important piece: “The Great Divide, Now in the Toy Aisle.” Bellafante points out that New York City’s affluent neighborhoods have access to independent toy stores and their rich, eclectic mix of toys.   Therefore, children in neighborhoods serviced only by Mass Merchandisers do not have access to the educational toys these stores offer.  Bellafante refers to these toy blighted areas as “toy deserts.”  Here is how she puts it:

In the way that we have considered food deserts — those parts of the city in which stores seem to stock primarily the food groups Doritos and Pepsi — we might begin to think, in essence, about toy deserts and the implications of a commercial system in which the least-privileged children are choked off from the recreations most explicitly geared toward creativity and achievement.

Bellafante blames the big mass merchandisers for the problem.  She notes that many smaller manufacturers and their wares do not show up on the shelves of the big box retailers.  In other words, you can have a Wal-Mart or Target in your area and still live in a toy desert.

Bellafante ends her article by stating:

The obvious counterpoint to these arguments is that there is no clear proof that toys intended to bolster cognitive abilities actually do so. At the very least, though, they signal to a child a parental investment in ambition and accomplishment, in active absorption over passive observation. It would take a very expansive view of the iCarly Truth or Dare Bear to believe it might do the same thing.


I think that toys do bolster cognitive abilities and much more.  I also think that “toy deserts” exist all across America in cities and suburbs; more on that in my next column

2 thoughts

  1. Thanks for your article…enjoyed the read
    To say that toys that have educational value and creativity at the essence of their design, have little to no sales ability for mass I don’t believe it true. Whilst there will be a market for “now” toys and fad products, children enjoy a number of toy that have an educational and creative value. The key is that they are not boring and become a class lesson in a box; they need to be fun too. Anyone interested should read articles by Sir Ken Robinson and watch his TED talk about the importance of creativity.
    I am currently working with an amazing brand however selling it into market is a challenge. The challenge is that getting the support by major to allow innovative companies to prosper and grow stops more if these FUN, creative and educational toys being invested in by companies.
    We are about to launch a range of that type of product targeting Mid to Mass market, so it will be interesting to see how brave and what support the product will get. Fingers crossed!!!
    Merry Christmas to all

  2. I agree with Richard’s comments. The large stores are only going to stock toys or games that appeal to the masses. It is not their job to educate children. There is not the money in it for them. Nor can you blame them. Store space is always at a premium. It is the same with newspapers. The more serious ones have far less readership. We have to educate the parents first then their children will follow.
    Mike Woods

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