What is a "real" toy and what is a "hot" toy? Does the answer lie in the eye of the beholder, an awards program or a retailer? Each Fall, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Kohl’s, Target, Kmart
and other retailers announce their list of “Hot Toys”. With a contrarian viewpoint, the Slow Toy Awards five us a list of what they consider to be “real” toys.
I think it begs the question: What exactly is a “real” toy and what is a “hot” toy? I am going to spend this posting and the next looking at that question. Today, I am focusing on “real” toys.
For the “Slow
Toys” movement, “real” means having these criteria: "Must be available in independent stores; must
inspire the mind; must not require batteries; must not be solely made from
plastic; has to stand the test of time; has to promise true play value and must be a
well made toy."
I applaud the Slow Toy people for establishing criteria
but I do question some of their qualifications for what comprises a “real” toy versus…well,
what really: “Not real”, “unreal”, “and
fake”? If you look at these criteria, in
some ways they appear more like a case of nostalgia than an attempt to determine
what makes for a quality toy in the 21st century for 21st century children.
In addition, the criteria seem somehow to be
contra-indicated. Can’t a toy inspire
the mind even if it has a battery? Is
plastic as a material just about being less expensive and synthetic? Doesn’tplastic exist at least in part because it
can be molded into unique shapes; is brightly colored and does not rust? And, frankly, what is wrong with toys that
are affordable to those who cannot afford higher priced, natural material
And, how exactly do we measure “true play value”? I mean, really, how do we do that? I would love someone to come up with a
formula. Here is one idea: Joy +
Durability + Scalability ÷ Cost = “True Play Value.” That is, of course, just an example of how it
could be done but I would love to hear your ideas. What is your formula for “true play value”?
And what does the Slow Toy Movement do with toys that are
intangible like Minecraft. A wonderful
construction toy whose YouTube Channel has over six million subscribers,
over 1.3 billion views and has a subscriber rank of 26; just ahead of Katy
21st century kids live in a world that is not
defined by the physical and the digital but seamlessly combines them both. I would like to see the Slow Toy Awards grow and prosper. I believe, however, that in order to do so they need to be
as much about relevance to modern kids as to nostalgia for their grandparents.
Next, I look at the “Hot Toy” lists.