Toys and technology used to be kept carefully in their boxes in our house; I liked it that way. Not only did it keep things safe, it also meant we could sell stuff on after we were finished with it. Over the last six months this has changed.
Writing about games and toys online can mean you get to test things out early. Recently, while out recording the Skylanders Giants coverage I was lucky enough to be given a Toy Fair exclusive purple version of Cynder.
Realizing that this was one of a limited number the temptation was to keep it safe somewhere so I could sell it at some point. But then my kids caught sight of it and were intrigued to see what this strange new character was.
I was just about to tell them this wasn’t one for playing with, when I realized that actually that is exactly what it was for. Toys are made for playing with rather than preserving. We had just watched Toy Story 2 together and I knew I wouldn’t get away with arguing otherwise. But still it was hard not to see dollar signs rather than imagination.
I realized this ill-advised desire to keep the fun stuff away from the kids also extends to other technology. When I get a new phone or handheld console my instinct is to keep it out of the sticky hands of my progeny in case they damage it.
But here too, when I think it through it makes no sense to try to preserve my gadgets. Seeing the DS half falling to pieces in the hands of my kids, using a cocktail stick as a stylus and holding the top screen on with sticky tape is one of my favorite images.
In fact, I would go as far to say that it’s not until the kids have been let loose on gadgets, and the technology is a little worse for wear after a couple of years’ heavy use, that I really get a sense of how good it is.
To keep me from my preservation habits I’ve made a deal with my children. They can play with any technology and toys in the house, no matter how new or how valuable.
It was tempting to put a set of caveats on the end of our little agreement. “As long as they treat things with respect.” Or “as long as they share and play nicely.” Or “as long as they’ve done their homework.”
However, again I resisted the temptation of turning toys and technology into something they are not. I want to instill those values in my kids, but I don’t want to use access to their playthings as a carrot or the threat of taking them away as a stick.
This was put to the test again last night when my youngest wanted to take “shiny purple Cynder” (as he calls him) in the bath. My first reaction was “no, you might break him,” particularly after realizing that it is fetching a high price on Amazon. But after thinking about it, and remembering the developer’s claims about Skylanders surviving a dunk, I decided to let him do it.
He had a great time making up all sorts of watery Skylanders play with his figures (he ended up taking in a small army of characters in with him), and I was happy I had let him do it.
Cynder wasn’t quite as happy about the experience, it seemed. The normal Skylanders seemed OK, but the shiny purple paint on the limited edition character didn’t like the hot water. By the time he got out, Cynder was reverting to his silver undercoat.
The interesting thing was that my son was entirely unfazed by his toy’s degradation. In fact it just became another thing to include in his games where Cynder was granted new color changing powers to blend in with the surroundings.
Other than the paint issue our Skylanders seem to have been quite happy with the odd dunk. They’ve been enjoying bath-time for the last few weeks and all seem to work fine on the portal. (Although I suspect there will be limits to this, and taking your Skylanders in the bath should be done at your own risk. I still keep my leveled up Stealth Elf out of the bath time play, just because I have spent so long improving her and saving up gold ready to spend in Skylanders Giants.)