Strange New Worlds Issue 9 - Jun/Jul 1993
Adult's Guide to Children's Toys and Collectables
by Adrienne Reynolds
What is it that makes us collectors? For many, it is a fondness for things
important in our youth. Why a science fiction collector? I cannot answer that globally,
but one thing that universally characterizes science fiction fans is a belief in the
future, whether we think in terms of Utopia or cyber-wastelands. We work towards making
that future full of the meaningful things. For us, that incorporates people who loxfve
learning, have a sense of our past, imagination, and the ability to believe in a future,
Some of these people of the future are currently very short, sometimes do not speak
clearly, and are perpetually embarrassed by things we do or say. Someday they will be the
ones to implement the future that we have been dreaming about.
This column is not about collectibles for you; it is about toys for them. Someday they
will remember a present you gave them with the same sense of affection and wonder you have
when you find that Thunderbirds
model or the Star Trek poster that used to hang in your room. Some of the toys in
this column will enable children to take joy in collections of their own, share an
interest with you, or allow them to play in fantasy worlds that will give them roots to
grow with and wings to dream on.
Information for the non-parent, too!
If you think you do not need this because you are not a parent, think again. I get to
be the coolest Aunt in the family because I know to get the 30th Anniversary Marvel Comic
for my comic-collecting nephew. Even if the rest of the family is mundane and generally
thinks you are regressing, the kids will probably think you are the best and want to talk
with you at family gatherings. (They are the ones worth talking to anyway.) You will be
the one they thank as they pick up the Nobel prize for altering the laws of the universe.
If you do not have any idea what kids like, at least this column will narrow the vast
array of toys down to a few recommended ones that coincide with your interests. All toys
in this column will actually be play-tested by real kids.
Tips on Caring for Your Toys
If your kids action figures are stiffening up around the joints, use dry
lubricant in the action to ease friction. Spray the lubricant on a paper towel first to
make sure that it dries clear.
To keep fashion dolls playable, but still collectible, the first thing to look after is
their hair. To protect their hair, use Johnson and Johnsons No More Tangles spray.
Follow the instructions for spraying on dry hair when applying to the doll. Comb
thoroughly and then braid the dolls hair for storage or play. My niece has Barbies
that are five years old; they are frequently played with and their hair is still flawless
Jurassic Park tie-in toys
The Jurassic Park toys have uniformly gloomy packaging, and ridiculous gimmicks.
The toys seem unappealing outside of the commercials, and the human action figures are the
only ones that seem to have any production values. I will not even get into the fact that
these things are marketed towards kids too young to see the movie. I do have to note the
unique sense of humor at the Toys R Us. They have a complete 1st aisle selection of Jurassic
Park merchandise right next to a large selection of Barney stuff.
Dakin is producing the most interesting Jurassic Park toys stuffed
animal versions of the movie dinosaurs. The skin almost looks like silk-screening and they
are very esthetic. Be warned: they are soft, but are too stiff to be cuddly. Two toddler
and preschool boys did not want anything to do with them. But boys and girls in first
through third grade who were "into dinosaurs" liked them. At $25.00 each, do not
buy them unless you are collecting or you are sure the kids absolutely love them.
Colorforms Jurassic Park Playset is the only Jurassic Park toy
seen so far that seems to have real playability. With Colorforms children can easily set
up the scenes and have the dinosaurs eating one another. T-Rexs mouth actually
covers the victim and the two stick to each other so if you shake them around, it looks
like a real fight. Unless the kid is particularly fond of Colorforms sets, I would not buy
this for anyone much over eight or nine. Do not buy it for children under four who will
want to chew them or try to figure how far colorforms stretch before they break. At $7.99,
its a pretty good buy.
Do not get Craft Houses Jurassic Park Magic Rock Set. You remember
Magic Rocks: drop the pellets in water and you get a crystal rock formation over a period
of time. Kids will initially want this, but the project ends up abandoned. (Plus the water
gets gunky and Dad throws it out.) The addition of the tacky dinosaur to the standard
Magic Rocks set is the only thing that makes this different from any other Magic Rocks
[See new Jurassic Park toys
Mattels Mighty Max
This is a boys answer to Polly Pockets. The entire set is the size of your hand.
The figures measure between ½ and ¾ inches. We play-tested Mighty Max Liquidates the
ICE Alien and its just great! Being the subversive influence on children that I
am, I play-tested it with a girl first. It kept her occupied through a four hour dinner
meeting. I strongly recommend it. (It was my meeting.) Next, it was play-tested at a
softball game when children aged four through thirteen were watching their parents
regress. The parents spent more time with Mighty Max.
The packaging is wonderful, bright, and explanatory. There is a comic strip in the back
that begins, "The story so far:" Each hand-held unit is called a "doom
zone." ICE ALIEN comes with Max in a green cap with a sling shot. He does not move.
The cygenoids torso comes off to reveal that he is just a cyogenic head in a tube.
The Iceasaurous has a mobile head and is a weird pink and blue. Grown-ups can stand
playing with it for about thirty minutes before getting bored. When their parents are
finally done playing with both girls and boys will have great fun with it. And its
Mattels Disney dolls
My four-year-old daughter is working on a complete collection of Disney dolls. We
currently have the complete cast of Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Sleeping
Beauty 11½ inch dolls. Mattel has now introduced Snow White and each of the
seven dwarves. Most of the dolls include reversible clothing and accessories. Some have
tiny Golden Books of their stories included in the box. Both girls and boys under the age
of eight play together with these dolls since no one thinks the prices are wimpy. Girls
over the age of eight play with them the same way they play with Barbies. Anybody, any
age, stops what they are doing to play with Aladdin toys.
Interestingly enough, the children do not limit their play to re-enacting the fairy
tales or movies that inspired the dolls. (One of our test-play sessions had Prince Eric
and Prince Charming fighting over who gets to marry Sleeping Beauty. Beauty promptly left
in a huff saying that she was not going to marry any of them because they were being
silly. Then the girl playing the little mermaid reminded Eric that he was already married
to her. And this was a play group that was under six!)
If you shop early, Snow and the Seven Dwarves make perfect Hanukkah gifts. (A dwarf a
night.) These dolls are great for parents who do not want to buy into Barbieland but still
want their daughters to have fashion dolls so they can play with their friends.
Obviously they saved this tie in for this summers re-release of the movie. Still,
this is one of the best examples of how to give the joy of collecting to children.
Mattels Disney dolls average about $15.00; the dwarves are about $6.00 each. You
grown-ups might want to save the boxes. The doll market is one of the strongest
collectors markets, and Disney memorabilia gets very hot every thirty years or so.
All of the toys in this column are available at Toys R Us and other mainstream toy
Collectible Kids Column:
About Educational Toys and Collectables that are Fun to Play With!
Articles written by Adrienne Reynolds:
ABOUT COLLECTIBLE KIDS: The Collectible Kids column ran in
Strange New Worlds in the early 1990s. It reviewed and recommended children's products
that encourage imagination, creativity, a love of learning, a sense of history, and a
belief in the future. Plus, any toys listed as "recommended-to-buy" should also
be just plain fun to play with. Products were play-tested by actual children. Testing was
performed with three different child groups: 1) Coed, ages four through eight, 2) Female,
ages eight through fourteen, and 3) Male ages eight through fourteen. Depending upon the
toy, a fourth group may be used: Coed, ages eight through fourteen. Following the
play-testing, all toys were donated to charity.
ABOUT ADRIENNE REYNOLS: Adrienne Reynolds is the
creator and editor-in-chief of "Gateways Past, Future . . . Sideways," a
quarterly magazine of character-based stories with a sense of the unexpected. A writing
instructor, Ms. Reynolds ran the Fantek Writers group.