New Toys: The Changing Play

New Toys: The Changing Play

Children have changed the way they have fun - instead of toys and games, it's computers, and the stores are suffering.
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As with the once-great Sears, it was announced that Toys R Us has gone bankrupt, officially filing for Chapter 11. Now this isn't entirely a nail in the coffin, as Chapter 11 is done to be able to restructure the finances and work on finding ways to recoup the annual losses. In the Bloomberg report, one of the reasons their sales have been low is because children are moving away from actual toys and preferring things like iPads and video game consoles. And that's totally understandable, it is 2017 and technology is literally everywhere. However, this is not necessarily a good sign for the future, and it won't be long before kids don't even have access to physical toys and can get them via apps or downloads.

The slow switch from kids wanting the big toy of the year to wanting a gaming PC is a sign of the reliance we have, as a culture, developed on technology. I personally do not have a problem with video games or laptops or whatever else electronic that kids want – I play games regularly and write most of these on my laptop. But I also grew up with highly-detailed, poseable, and well crafted Star Wars action figures – and since 2013, Hasbro has focused on simple, “classic” style: limited movement, decent paint and design, but a focus on features. Of course they have access to the market researchers that can tell what the kids want to play with and what they don't, but it is sad that the mainline toys are of a lesser quality than what they were ten years ago – and yet they cost exactly the same. Perhaps that's just their way of a two-pronged approach, one line for kids, one line for adults. But at the same time, kids want to be able to completely reenact the scenes from the movie, and when the figure can barely move, that's not always the easiest thing. It also shows when kids would rather play with the Star Wars app or Battlefront to get their personal fix – which isn't really the fault of the company, just that of a changing society that focuses more on tech than on plastic.

Toys R Us is not the only toy company having financial issues. The Lego Group recently announced massive cuts to employees, laying off hundreds of workers from their factories in Denmark and China. Now this an even sadder question to ponder – why are they of all groups having issues with money? Once again, it's because of the fact that not everybody (read: not every kid with Internet access) wants to spend the time building the set step by step, they prefer to have instant satisfaction. Recently, Lego has been promoting their new app, Lego Life, where users can make a profile, watch cartoons based on Lego themes, play games and design sets, like a cross between YouTube, Facebook, and Lego Digital Designer. And a fun app isn't a problem, but children are moving away from the actual building with the bricks and instead using a program that has practically every brick right at their fingertips. Lego's adult fans can't keep the company afloat forever, and much like Star Wars toys, kids would rather use their phones than sit down and play with something that isn't connected to WiFi. Now, it should be noted that Lego hasn't filed for bankruptcy, but if their sales continue to fall and their product doesn't catch on as much with the kids, then it is entirely possible that the international company may face difficult times down the road.

Of course it's not just on the kids. Toys R Us has fallen in quality over the last few years, with many stores being unorganized, dirty, expensive, or hard to navigate (not unlike Walmart). The prices, which are usually exactly MSRP, are fine when an item first is released – but I've seen The Force Awakens X-Wings still on the shelves for the same price they were on release day in 2015, and most other big box stores had sold those all on heavily discounted prices before Rogue One came out. There is also a lack of toys based on STEM fields, the store primarily focusing on movie/TV/cartoon/comic tie-ins. Without promoting STEM as a future career, kids will not be exposed to the possibility of the different jobs and ideas within the sciences. Years ago, if you wanted to go get new toys, the best place was the mall-based chain KB Toys – always clean, organized, the employees knew what was going on and when, offered to help whenever necessary. Sadly, KB Toys went under and completely closed out by 2007, and the remaining stock was bought out by Toys R Us, along with the name. Maybe, to get some money coming in and help rebrand the image, they should bring back KB Toys as their take on an outlet store, selling discounted overstock, with a healthy amount of new product as well to keep the interests current.

We also look at the changing promotion of childhood in promotional material. Toys R Us hasn't played a commercial with the famous “I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid” jingle in years, and with the advent of products like Adblock, online ads on YouTube, Facebook, even Nick.com (does that even still exist?) no longer show up if you don't want them to. Amazon has completely changed the face of shopping, where you can just go online and buy whatever you want without ever having to leave a single website. Kids' toys aren't advertised as much as they used to be – it's rare to see ads for Star Wars, superhero, or even Hot Wheels toys now, simply because they know that the target audience either isn't paying attention because they have an iPad or they already have seen reviews of said toys on YouTube. Why should a company spend millions of dollars on making ads for their product when there are people doing that for them already, and mostly for free too? Even the Lego ads have all but gone extinct, and those were some of the best ones during the dreaded commercial breaks between segments of SpongeBob Squarepants. Removing the ads remove the desire, and the kids don't know there's other things out there to play with.

Times have changed, and so haven't the kids. It is saddening to realize that within another decade, the concept of physical playthings will be lost on the children who were born into and grow up in a world run on technology, apps, games, and the Internet. Things like Lego, fidget spinners, yo-yos, Star Wars toys, and even Funko Pops, will become a thing of the past and sold in antique stores as something that future generations will be baffled by, asking “how did they play with these if they couldn't connect to the network?” The world is moving forward with advances in home electronics, and as I've said, I'm not against that at all – I still buy and collect toys, I'll admit it. But the problem is that we're raising a generation of children who don't care for being able to hold something in their hands and prefer to use their devices to play with computer-animated virtual toys that they can use until they run out of coins to use, causing them to try and get more. Whereas with a Lego set, a kid can build a city bus or a spaceship and have hours upon hours of imaginative play. We must nurture the imagination of children, not put them in front of a predetermined screen that plays the same thing to millions. Let the kids find their own stories and use toys and games to think and make up what they're playing. That's how Toys R Us can come back – by inspiring children to create.

Cover Image Credit: Toy Insider

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Why Getting Away From Where You Grew Up Is Important

College is the perfect time to get away from home and go out into the real world.
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As you get older, life sometimes makes it hard for you to take control and go to the places you've only dreamed of. There's always a work meeting, ballet recital, or something to hold you back from taking that trip planned four summers ago. College is the perfect time to get away from home and go out into the real world.

It's important to get away from everything you know at one point in your life. There is a whole world full of risk, chance, and experience. The security you have in your hometown can be traded in for adventure and change. There's a time to try something new, learn something that blows your mind, or go somewhere that takes your breath away. That time is now, to feel like you are actually doing something worthwhile with your life.

It is important to get away from where you have grown up for some of your life. You need to grow on your own, without anyone there to tell you you're wrong or out of line being a certain way. The transition from high school to college is the gift of independence. You choose who you get to be without anyone holding your past against you. It's a do-over, a second chance after the mistakes and regrets you lived through in high school. Yet, being away from home has its drawbacks as you lose familiar faces, a steady schedule, and many creature comforts. But, all of these can be found in a new place with time. Leaving the place you grew up gives you another chance to grow again, without boundaries. Travel whenever you get an opportunity because it may not come again. Test your limits while living your actual dreams. Go out and explore the world—you're only here once and don't have time to take it for granted. Leaving everything you know sounds scary, but there are great memories to be made out there.

Whether this new place for you is two hours from home, or 20, it's different, it's exciting and it's change. It is important to get away from where you grew up and learn from the adventures you embark on. It is the best way to find yourself and who you want to be. It's what you'll remember when you look back on everything you've done.

Cover Image Credit: Madison Burns

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For Camille, With Love

To my godmother, my second mom, my rooted confidence, my support

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First grade, March. It was my first birthday without my mom. You through a huge party for me, a sleepover with friends from school. It included dress up games and making pizza and Disney trivia. You, along with help from my grandma, threw me the best birthday party a 7-year-old could possibly want.

During elementary school, I carpooled with you and a few of the neighborhood kids. I was always the last one to be dropped off, sometimes you would sneak a donut for me. Living next door to you was a blessing. You helped me with everything. In second grade, you helped me rehearse lines for history day so I could get extra credit. In 4th grade, you helped me build my California mission.

You and your sister came out to my 6th grade "graduation". You bought me balloons and made me feel as if moving onto middle school was the coolest thing in the entire world.

While you moved away from next door, you were a constant in my life. Going to Ruby's Diner for my birthday, seeing movies at the Irvine Spectrum and just hanging out, I saw you all the time. During these times, you told me about all of the silly things you did with my mom and dad, how my mom was your best friend. I couldn't have had a greater godmother.

In middle school, you pushed me to do my best and to enroll in honors. You helped me through puberty and the awkward stages of being a woman.

Every single time I saw you, it would light up my entire day, my week. You were more than my godmother, you were my second mom. You understood things that my grandma didn't.

When you married John, you included me in your wedding. I still have that picture of you, Jessica, Aaron and myself on my wall at college. I was so happy for you.

Freshmen year of high school, you told me to do my best. I did my best because of you. When my grandma passed away that year, your shoulder was the one I wanted to cry on.

You were there when I needed to escape home. You understood me when I thought no one would. You helped me learn to drive, letting me drive all the way from San Clemente to Orange.

When I was applying to colleges, you encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. You told me I should explore, get out of California. I wanted to study in London, you told me to do it. That's why, when I study abroad this Spring in London, I will do it for you.

When I had gotten into UWT, you told me to go there. I did and here I am, succeeding and living my best in Tacoma. I do it for you, because of you.

When I graduated high school and I was able to deliver a speech during our baccalaureate, you cheered me on. You recorded it for me, so I could show people who weren't able to make it to the ceremony. You were one of the few people able to come to my actual graduation. You helped me celebrate the accomplishments and awards from my hard work.

When your cancer came back, I was so worried. I was afraid for you, I was afraid of what I would do without the support you had always given me. When I was in Rome, I went to the Vatican and had gotten a Cross with a purple gem in the middle blessed by the Pope to help you with your treatments. It was something from me and a little bit of my mom in the necklace, the gem.

Now, sitting so far from you away at college just like you wanted me to. I miss you. I wish I was there to say goodbye.

I'll travel the world for you, write lots of stories and books for you, I will live life to the fullest for you.

You are another angel taken too early in life. Please say hello to my parents and grandma in Heaven for me.

Lots of love,

Haiden

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