An Adult Guide to Children's Science Fiction Collectibles
Strange New Worlds Issue 11 - December 1993
Passing on the Ideals of Your
Hobby to Your Children
What do we want from the kids in our lives? Usually, we want quiet.
When I was pregnant, I said I would accept anything healthy, but please, dont let
it grow up to be a movie critic. Being a realist I figured that all of the cutting edge
things I was into would look old-fogeyish to my daughter Caitlin. "Oh, Mom,
youre not going to go to another LARP are you? Youre embarrassing
[Editors note: LARP is an acronym for Live Action Role-Playing games.]
Maybe she wont like role-playing games, science fiction, conventions, or my
friends who wear heavy eyeliner. Maybe she will treat us the way offspring of the Flower
children treat them. Maybe she will grow up to be an accountant at least
shell be employed.
What is a realistic science fiction fan to do? If you cannot pass on your love of SF,
you can at least pass on the ideals that your hobbies stand for.
If your kids dont like conventions, dont take them. If, as a visiting
relative, you want to make an impact, take them to a museum. Planetariums and laser shows
make an amazing impression on just about every kid. I find it shocking that many kids
never set foot in a museum without being on a class trip. Science is great all on its own.
Places like the Museums of Natural History and Franklin Institute prove it.
My mother took me to art museums as a kid, a young kid. I cannot tell you much about
art history (Im terrible with names and dates) but today I truly appreciate good
art. Not the way my mother does, but enough of the value was passed down. Plus, I learned
the proper behavior in libraries and museums, a valuable social skill!
Little Tikes Microscope Science Set
The only toy on the market that actively encourages the preschool set to become
involved in real science is Little Tikes Companys Microscope Science Set. The
set contains a toddler-proof ten power microscope, three specimen slides with seven
samples each, a beaker, test tube, tweezers, and a pretend Bunsen burner. The set is easy
to store and is self-contained. It was great in both directed and free play. Kids
pretended to be mad scientists and took a great deal of interest finding things around the
house to look at in the Make-Your-Own-Slide. (Onion skin is the coolest!) At under $40.00
this is a great investment, and its fun, too! Plus, you get to hear your child tell
people she wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up.
Little Tikes recommends the set for ages three to seven, but it play-tested well with
our groups up to age ten. Older and younger siblings will play together with it. Like all
Little Tikes toys, they built it to withstand nuclear holocaust and kindergartners. It is
available in toy stores and Childcraft catalogs.
(Shop for children's
Disneys Sound and Story Theater
Most of us are media buffs, as evidenced by the things we talk about in Strange New
Worlds. How many of us realize that our kids are already involved in the love of media
collecting? I thought I gave birth to a daughter, what I really have is a marketing branch
of Disney products. Kids will retain a lifelong fondness for their movies and toys, much
as we did. Many toys they play with today are already marketed as collectibles.
Disney Audio Entertainments Sound and Story Theater includes an audio tape,
two collectible figures, and pop-up books that open to become a circular stage displaying
four movie scenes. Our groups play-tested the Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow
White sets. The only downside I saw was an absence of dwarf figures; the dwarves were
just a heavy paper cutout. But you can always hop down to the Disney Store and buy extra
figures. The kids played with the Sound and Story Theater for an average of two hours at a
At Grandmas house we put a Walkman on Caitlin to avoid hearing the Snow White
tape for the sixth time in succession. The audiotapes relate the movie plots; the kids can
use the figures to act out the stories along with the tapes. Without the tapes kids still
engaged easily in free play. The Sound and Story Theater sets are not just fantastic
gifts, they are gorgeous.
Disney does not market these toys as collectibles. But Ill bet my eyeteeth that
the little ones will be collecting them when they hit thirty. Sets sell for $16.00 to
$22.00. Remember, this is a paper product; it will naturally show wear as it is used. Do
not hover over your child to keep the toy in mint condition. If you are interested in
maintaining the condition of the toy, buy another and keep it sealed.
Aliens Action Figures
In our rush to share the things we love with our children, we sometimes make
inappropriate choices, such as giving an Aliens action figure to a toddler. Many
people swear that taking their toddlers to Road Warrior had no ill effects on them.
But I have noticed that younger children, under the age of seven, who are exposed to
horror films and Scarface lose something childlike. I found it very disconcerting that a
six-year-old was unimpressed by Jurassic Park because "there wasnt that
much blood and only one arm got ripped off."
Do not be fooled into thinking children are unable to differentiate between real and
make-believe. For them, the line between reality and fantasy is quite clear. Many studies
show that after viewing violent news programs, children play as normal. Real life violence
is terrible. Children know it is wrong; grown-ups react to it with shock, horror, sadness,
or disapproval. Movies, however, are grown-ups playing. After violent movies,
childrens play becomes violent. The message to them is that all of the actions of
entertainment are okay, because that is what the grown-ups are pretending.
The only kids I have met that are truly all right after viewing scary or violent
entertainment are actors children. These children know that the people on screen are
actors like Mommy or Daddy, and acting is a job. These children have seen their parents
transform into someone else and return as themselves. Perhaps this helps them make a
crucial separation between playing and entertainment. I am not sure.
I do know that despite their advertising, Kenners Aliens Action
Figures are not for young children. Besides, kids tell me they are not even that much
fun to play with. These toys are for adult collectors, maybe for the over thirteen set
that still plays with action figures. It is irresponsible for us to get children the
promotional tools of a movie that most of us would not let our young children see. If an
adult has nightmares for a week after seeing Alien, then it is not cute or avant
garde, or counter-culture to let a grade schooler see it. I doubt seeing a horror film
will do permanent damage, but I would rather have children identify real dangers of the
world than foster false fears.
You want to raise a worldly, science fiction savvy kid? Sign them up for a self defense
class. Caitlin starts next year.
This months tip:
Help your children organize and save those fast food toys. Sealable storage bags work well
for storing small items, as mentioned in last issue. l
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.