Retail industry reports are bringing the good news that holiday toy sales are expected to have the highest increase in sales in the last ten years – hooray! We parents are supposed to think this is great news because kids are finally turning back to the tried-and-true toy, not relying on their iPads and other electronic devices to find fun. But these aren’t exactly the toys we grew up with (well, except for the original Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, unchanged since 1966. I can still hear that sound they made when their heads popped up!). The toys of Christmas 2015 are all about incorporating technology – think Elmo, but now with 150 responses and eight games built in. And there’s Barbie, featuring speech recognition and the ability to have a 2-way conversation. The Barbie Dreamhouse is almost three feet high, with a slot for children to insert a cellphone that becomes Barbie’s living room TV. Star Wars is huge this season, and if your kid is asking for the hottest Star Wars toys, you’d better shop soon – the $199.99 lightsaber from Hasbro, which features motion sensor-controlled sound effects and a real metal hilt (whatever that is), is already on backorder.
And guess who is selling all of these toys to our kids? Other kids – on YouTube! If you haven’t heard of this phenomenon, you soon will, and if you have, names like EvanTube are all too familiar in your household. I feel like Evan, the YouTube dynamo who turns ten this month and makes well over a million bucks a year with his little gig, is part of our family, as often as I hear his voice around the house (I must admit, I was star struck when we saw him at Legoland in January, and I was pretty excited to get a picture of him with my boys.).
But then came the ultimate sellout – a knife to my traditional heart. In a paid promotion for Target, Evan told his fans all about the Target Kid’s Wish List App, and the tradition of writing a letter to Santa promptly went out the window forever. My kids couldn’t wait to show me the app on their secondhand iPads, complete with games and even a scanner feature, should I allow them to go to Target for some Christmas scanning fun (not happening!). They had spent the morning browsing Target’s online inventory, and with the push of a button (or fifty), had populated a list of over fifty items each on their lists to Santa (I never circled fifty things in the Sears Wish Book, did I, Mom?!). “You know you’re not going to get all of these things from Santa, right boys?” I reminded them. “Yes we are! Look, there’s a button right here to send the list to Santa!” Click. Send. Done!
Well-played Tar-ZHAY. You have successfully mined tons of great data from my unsuspecting children and may have even one-upped Amazon when it comes to reeling in the kiddos this holiday season.
I guess that’s what I get for leaving them alone with their electronics for too long. Now let’s all try to unplug and enjoy the real meaning of the holidays, with our real families (and a good magazine) by our side.