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Editor's Notebook

Gotta, gotta, gotta...

Heather Kenyon

Now don't get me wrong I love the toy store. My favorite birthday gift this year was an interactive Tuck and Roll from A Bug's Life -- have you seen them? They carry on conversations with one another and even respond to you, all in their funny, made-up language -- but something seems a bit wrong to me with the entire collecting craze. When I was small I was bought model horses on special occasions. In the final years of childhood this collection was in its heyday with an accumulation of 23 plastic horses. However, I had one collection and I didn't have to get them all. Today a disturbing trend I see among children and parents tearing through toy stores is this literal buying into the collecting craze.

A few months ago it was Beanie Babies. My goodness, everybody had to have every single one of them and have them right now. However, the last time I was at the mall there was a line weaving along in front of numerous shop fronts leading up to a game store advertising with huge Pokémon banners. Currently Beanie Babies are out and Pokémon is definitely in. Collecting is not necessarily evil. As someone furtively seeking the Yoda in the new Star Wars figures line, I cannot say collecting is bad. There is a certain joy in not only having the full set, but in finding the entire set. However, what I think parents should be careful of is this market created drive to collect all of one thing quickly before the next best thing to collect comes along. Beanie Babies are probably all up on shelves now collecting dust or worse yet, in toy boxes. (Everyone knows the toys inside the toy box are not the cool ones, because of course the cool ones are outside the toy box being played with.) This rush to collect one entire set of something, before moving on to collect another new, well marketed collectible is not the best habit to form at a young age and can get quite expensive! (I always feel sorry for the kids on the playground who don't have the money to purchase that "gotta have" toy.) Sure, being a part of the game everyone is playing is fun, but, it ties into a new mentality where every community has a "town center" which is a shopping mall. Shopping has become a pastime, a recreational sport. Shopping malls are becoming less of a place to buy essentials and more of an entertainment complex complete with arcades, movie theaters, restaurants and other amusements. Keeping a portion of the populace constantly seeking must-have collectibles, feeds into this mechanism, as folks return time and time again to the mall to find that elusive must have, which truthfully isn't. Let's face it, Beanie Babies and Pokémon playing cards are not exactly essentials.

Is this year's new crop of toys an evil conspiracy ready to spring and take over the minds of our youth? No. In fact, I am looking forward to my next trip to Toys R Us. It is like a trip back to childhood -- but this time I have the checkbook! My point is just to watch a pattern of behavior, a repeating collecting frenzy, that is based strictly on a marketing campaign, instead of what one is truly interested in, likes and wants.

Until Next Time, Heather

P.S. The really scary ending to all of this is .... lately I've been thinking that Pikachu is pretty cute.