Monday, July 12, 2010

How Marketing Gimmicks Are Turning Our Homes Into A Playhouse......

To all those of you who have a young one at home, an infant, a toddler, or a young little one, if I ask you how many toys your kid has, what would you say? Probably your answer will be 'Many' 'Loads' 'Too many to count' 'Cant say, its just too many' 'The room is always filled with toys' 'No space for any new toys anymore'....and more variations of the same thing that means that your little one has so many toys that you have already lost count.

So have I...a long time back.

As my little one is growing each day, I realise the difference between when we were little and now that we have our own children. I still remember my toys from my childhood days. One of my most favourite toy was a boy-doll who I had named Anand, well the name just came out of the manufacturing company's name, that's all, I didnt do too much fancy naming ceremonies for my dolls back then. Then there was a doll which was a favourite too. So I had two dolls that were my all-time favourite, apart from a select others that I now don’t remember, and my books and colouring tools and blocks and all. And then there was my tricycle. Remember those red Tobu cycles.... 'aao chalein hum, lekar apni, Tobu cyclein...' I still remember that jingle, and I guess most of you from those times will remember it too; maybe you too had one back then.

When I was young my parents did not take me to the mall each weekend. Well, to begin with, there were NO MALLS in India at that time. I was born in the 80s and now, a mere 20-30 years later, if someone were to look back and think of those times, it would seem a different era altogether. My parents did not take me to the movies then, precisely because there were hardly any 'good' movies that were to be watched with kids that time. The 80's were, as it is, a crappy time in the history of Bollywood. And there was still no sign of the Disneys and the Barbies and the other kiddie movies in the theatres that our little ones are so fortunate to take for granted these days.

Now it is different. When my daughter was just a little over one-and-half years old, we began taking her out to the movies. I personally was not comfortable taking her to a dark and noisy hall before that. Of course many people are okay to take their babies out much earlier than that, even a few months old. We took her out too but not to movies. It was to restaurants and parks and malls. She soon began enjoying her time at the malls and became a pro at window-shopping. So much so that we would end up spending almost 2-3 hours more at the mall just because a particular mannequin happened to catch her attention. The malls soon became a weekend thing, an outing she looks forward to the entire week, knowing that her ma papa will take her out to the mall as soon as papa’s office is off (meaning weekend).

I still remember my fifth birthday. My parents had arranged a grand celebration. Our home was filled with guests and my ma had made the choicest and most tempting menu ever. Everyone was having a great time and I was having a special time receiving gifts and getting all the attention. It is the one birthday that I still remember to this day.
I can’t say the same about my daughter though. I am not sure how many birthdays she will remember. We celebrated her second birthday at the kids’ zone in a popular mall near our home. The place was filled with kids of all ages and parents, a big Minnie mouse birthday cake, lots of balloons, presents and of course the games that were there in the mall – the rides, the carousel, the toys, the music, everything. Food was handed over to the caterers to look after and everything was planned. I had even made hand-made cards as invites. It was a fun time and everyone loved it. But after the birthday, the charm of the place is now gone.
The mall has become such a weekend thing that this year even if we decide to celebrate her birthday at the mall, she will already have gotten too used to it, even before she has turned three…so you see, this is why I am in doubt whether she will remember any of her birthday as being special, they are too much a part of her life anyway now already.

Each time I enter in a store with her now, the things that first catch her eyes are the Disney and Barbie products. Of course there are other things too, but the sales guys are much too smart to know that once you display a Disney in the front, no kid will even bother to look what is behind that Disney. Maybe an even more interesting toy is hidden behind. But who cares? And that is the magic of Disney and that is the strategy of the companies and the stores. They are here to almost wipe out all the remaining products that are still brave enough to exist.

My home now is a toy paradise. So much so that there is hardly any space for any more new toys….and all this even before she is 3. I can take responsibility in leading up to this. I have a hand too in going for lots of soft toys for her and getting her dolls and things. But then, who wouldn’t want to do that when there are so many temptations out there. And trust me it gets really difficult after a certain stage to control your impulse to bring that toy home.

When a kid in our building gets a new cycle, all others end up having the same, when they get a new car or a new toy or gadget, the others follow too.

Of course we parents are to blame for giving in to the demand and the temptation and the sulking and crying and the manipulations…..but then, will someone tell me how to keep a straight face and keep refusing when the world around is flooded with all these fairy tale characters now ?????

I am still trying and am of course not able to control all this….so if you figure out something, do let me know 
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