What ‘Play’ Can Teach Our Children

Stores selling toys in Nanaimo were checked out last November by members of the Nanaimo chapter of The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, (WILPF).

  “We wanted to find out who was selling war toys for children and who chose not to and what  alternatives there were”, said local member Dyane Brown. “We also wanted to express appreciation to the stores we found that chose creative, positive toys.”

  In contrast to the several large chain stores who simply told us they had no input into what they sold, “It is all decided at head office”, we found five local stores who offered delightful alternatives. We created certificates and presented them to those five stores.

  The manager of Canadian Tire assured us that they continued their established policy of not carrying war toys. We had checked stores out three years ago and had been surprised and pleased at not finding any violent children’s toys there. If they can do it, why not the others? Zellers, Sears and Toys-R-Us had a disappointing array of simulated weaponry for young children.

  One of the more disturbing toys we found at Toys-R-Us was a little character called “Super Patriot” for ages 8 and up. This fellow was holding a machine gun and sported shoulder pads and a loin cloth with stars and stripes. When we asked why such a product was being sold in Canada and what was behind their thinking, the systems manager of this store told us, “We are corporate. We have no say at all in what we stock.” 

  At Sears, we were not impressed by ‘Risk Transformers’ – Robot Armies of ‘Megatron Optimus Prime’ are fighting a global war. Whoever wins will not only rule ‘Cybertron’ but will also control ‘Allspark’ – the force that gives life to ‘Transformers’. Here we also found an Explosive DVD game that puts you in the middle of action to identify and neutralize an imminent threat to national security before 24 hours are up in order to win. The Product Specialist Manager agreed he didn’t like the idea of war toys and would speak to his manager. At Zellers, there were quite a few more. A couple of examples were ‘Forces Of Valor’ – Real World Battle Hardened Machines, US M270 multiple launch rocket system and two NERF – ‘Light Beam Targeting – Build Your Own Blaster N-Strike Recon C5-6’ and ‘Maverick N-Strike’ quick firing rotary barret. A woman in services said they had no control of what is bought because it all comes from head office in Toronto.

  You can only imagine how refreshing it was to go from these stores to Kool & Child on Wallace Street where there is an amazing supply of fascinating and creative toys and activities for children. Some of our favorites included the ‘Power House, Sustainable Living in the 21st Century’, a house you can build using 20 alternate energy models; a solar print kit for ages 5 and up; and for 12 and up there is a windmill generator you can construct or even a kit to build your own telephone. There are weather kits, building kits and a whole shelf of magic making kits. The ‘Horrible Science’ series caught our attention, kits such as ‘Sick Stomach’, what you need to make your own vomit or ‘Building Brain’, how to make your own brain. Their selection of music and books were hard to resist. My friend and I could not pass the ‘Audubon Birds’ without buying two each. These are soft replicas of different species that make their particular bird call. I ended up with a meadow lark and a red vireo – beautiful. 

  Manager, Karen Corrigan, told us, “We are a locally-owned, family business presently celebrating our 15th year of serving the Nanaimo and mid-island community. Our mission is to provide quality educational toys with lasting play value. We pride ourselves on our vast selection of toys, puzzles, arts and crafts, science kits, puppets, baby toys and so much more. For the most part, we are able to avoid war toys, guns and other toys that may have scary images, and so forth. We make decisions at the store level, so we are able to control what we bring in to the store. We are also able to respond to customers requests and concerns in a proactive way. One of our lines, ‘Playmobil’, does have a pirate/knight theme, but their image is very wholesome and the toys are not at all horrifying. It is one of our most popular lines. We also avoid things like water guns unless, like last year, we are able to find them in the shape of animals! Then it is more of a water squirter than a water gun!”

  Another locally owned store that had only nonviolent toys was Stuffed With Love in the North Town Centre. The owner, Jada Bohmer, sold stuffed animals of all sizes and colours with small toys and an intriguing selection of outfits to dress the bears in! Jada assured us that boys as well as girls enjoy these cuddly toys.

  Although the selection of toys might be smaller at Pumpkin Pie and at Global Village Store (both near Fitzwilliam Gate in Nanaimo’s Heritage Muse); again, the selection is positive with a care for children in mind. 

  We are grateful to these innovative and principled people in our community who choose to make our  shopping choices easy, fun and peaceful. As individuals, we can each make a difference by consuming more consciously.