In the spirit of the wonderful new film, Toy Story 3, my roommate and I had a long discussion over dinner one night about toys we played with and toys the current generation has.  I remember having a large, blue, plastic Fisher Price easel, which helped to train me as the best artist in my first and second grade classes.  (Sadly, the artistic ability and perfectionism ruined any future career plans in that field.)  I had actual wooden blocks, Legos which were not from special $200 sets that boxed one into building one particular thing, Barbies, My Little Ponies, a plethora of stuffed animals, an American Girl doll with furniture made by my grandfather, honest-to-God real Golden Books, and King’s Quest games which required my dad to type instructions instead of pointlessly pointing and clicking.  Ryan also had many of the toys listed above, including a few race cars and action figures.  These toys fueled our imaginations, and enabled us to spend hours and hours by ourselves, creating new worlds and fantastic relationships among our toys.  Who says a teddy bear and a Barbie can’t date?  What do you mean that a Lego house can’t live inside the plastic refrigerator?  Why can’t Kirsten be the shepherdess of the ponies?

Kirsten, my American Girl Doll

High Flier, my favorite My Little Pony of all time

Now, the world seems to be filled with cheap imitations of the toys I remember.  I’m hard-pressed to find a quality kickball or set of blocks in this day and age; believe me, I’ve tried.  Everything seems to either run on batteries, talk, or need a television.  What happened to quality counting for something?  Despite the feminists’ understandable rage against Barbie, and I’m including myself in that group most of the time, Barbie is an excellent role model.  Her multitude of career paths foster creative thinking and problem solving, as well as show young girls that women can be astronauts, military personnel, and doctors.  Sure, there are the usual cheerleaders, teachers, and fashion models, but there’s a good balance of “independent” and “strong” female careers and supposed Barbie personas which blend in with the “soft” and “feminine” options.  I am going towards a career as a teacher, myself, which fits right into that stereotypical female career range, but for a time during my childhood, I could imagine myself as a politician, a firefighter, and a CEO through my Barbies.  Not to mention, they had fabulous clothes and furniture.  My allowance usually went into acquiring new clothes and pieces for the house I’d create under my mom’s desk.  I even set up a “shop” in one of Barbie’s cases, creating the hangers out of pipecleaners and tags out of small, cut pieces of tape.  (Of course, I stopped playing with Barbies by 1996, so I don’t think any of the scandalous costumes had surfaced yet.  And Bratz?  Don’t get me started…)

Australian Barbie, my first "nice" doll in my copious collection and an example of the kinds of Barbies I chose and played with as a child

I’ve made the decision to limit my future children’s exposure to commercial Dora video games and dumbed-down versions of the toys I once had.  Nothing I buy or create for my child will be a cut-and-paste scenario; the fun in being a child and in playtime is that anything is possible.  I wouldn’t have been the person I am today without such a wonderful, creative childhood, and I am determined to forbid any toys from boxing in my children.

Bridal Beauty My Little Pony, my second favorite MLP, often cast as High Flier's mommy

Long live playtime, and thanks to all the dedicated toymakers out there who understand the importance of a well-crafted and simple toy.

Or play with a toy...

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