Now I have a big box of Zhu Zhu's in the basement and no idea what to do with them. Zhu Zhu's, in case you never heard of them, are battery-powered hamsters that run around and make weird noises. They have houses and tracks that connect the houses, and you can build a whole city for these things.
My kid was ecstatic when she received them, years ago. For one glorious afternoon she played with them. And after that, she abandoned them, and now they lie in that box, collecting dust.
I've noticed that is usually the case with battery-powered playthings. In fact, the more batteries involved, the shorter the play-with-life, unless there is a lightbulb included and we're talking EZ Bake.
Perhaps it's different for boys, although I remain skeptical.
This lesson came home to me over the summer, when my daughter's friend invented the COOLEST TOY EVER. It was so much fun that she and my kid, as well as all of their friends, played with it for months.
Here's what the cool toy was: my kid's friend invented a planet, and her mother donated basement space for world-building. The kids made the houses out of old boxes and the alien inhabitants with cotton balls and swabs. Someone created a dress shop and sold fancy clothes made out of cupcake liners.
|image courtesy of mnn.com|
Other parents donated boxes and supplies. The houses and stores expanded, and one boy was in hot demand for his building skills. The kids started a message board near the planet, where they would leave notes for each other to create new aliens, to invite the planet dwellers to parties, to ask that boy to build them a new house.
The planet grew to the point where it took over the entire basement, and I had to applaud the mother for allowing it all to continue. Because, without a doubt, it was the coolest game / toy / playdate EVAH. The kids made movies of the aliens and showed them to each other. There were commercials for the cupcake dress shop, as well as reminders to frequent the boy's construction business.
At last the mess was too much. The basement had dissolved into a crafty, glittery, gluey nightmare, and the parents spent several days cleaning it up. But for one summer, the kids had interacted and built and experienced the fun of just being kids, without anything electronic to interfere.
I know my kid will always remember that summer when she created a planet with her friends. And I must add a word to all toy makers everywhere - how are you going to compete with that? A doll that talks, a dog that walks, a gun that shoots nerf darts - nothing is better than creating your own world.