Monday, December 7, 2009

'Tis the season to buy plastic stuff

The Troll and I have finished most of our holiday shopping, but we still don't have any idea what to get for our two-year-old nephews. With adults or older kids, you can always ask, "What are their interests?", but in the case of these two little guys, their main interests are climbing on things and hitting things. Hard to translate those into something that will fit under the tree.

So, searching for inspiration, yesterday we wandered through the toy aisles at Target and BJs. We both had the same reaction to this experience, one that can best be summed up in a single word: ick.

It's hard to explain exactly what was so off-putting about it. Maybe it was the fact that there were just so many mass-produced plastic objects crammed into that one space, row on row, box on box, until they all kind of blurred together. Most of the gifts we're giving to our family members were accumulated over the course of the year, as we came across them at sales and stores and concerts and thought, "Oh, this would make a good gift for so-and-so." Picking a gift off those shelves would have felt like the exact opposite of that: "Oh, we need to get something for so-and-so. Here, this will do." It would be like hanging an empty pizza box above your sofa because it's about the right size for the space. It would so obviously show no creativity, no real thought for the recipient, that it felt like more of an insult than giving nothing at all. As we emerged from the toy section at BJ's into the grocery section, the Troll grabbed a butternut squash off a rack and declared, "I would rather give each of them a butternut squash than give them one of those toys." (Well, why not? They'd probably have just as much fun with it.)

Now, it is of course possible--even probable--that we're overthinking this. After all, these kids are two years old. It's unlikely that they would be offended at being given a gift that was obviously selected at random off a shelf in the toy aisle. As long as they have a box to unwrap, they probably won't even care what's inside it. But in that case, why not just wrap up an empty box for each of them? They could climb on them, sit in them, hit each other with them and not do too much damage--hmm, I think I might have something here.
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