It’s Christmas morning, and your house is filled with presents which are safe under the christmas tree. Your child reaches for one of the boxes, rips off the paper and opens the box and starts playing….with the box.
No matter how expensive, bright, shiny or bleepy the toy inside the box is, sometimes children cannot resist the cardboard box.
A survey which was published on Monday in the Ribena Plus Play report revealed that almost half of parents said their child gets more enjoyment out of playing with a box than toys and games.
Despite this, many parents are getting ready to spend a lot of money in the next few months on their kids on the must have toys for Christmas.
However their are alternatives, both to the celebrated cardboard box and the plastic toys of the blinking variety.
Frenchman Thierry Bourret is the founder of the Slow Toy Movement, which aims to do for toys what Italian Carlo Petrini did for food in the 1980s with his Slow Food Movement, which was set up as a riposte against the spread of fast food.
Mr Bourret who is also the head of British toy distributor Asobi, wants children to use their imaginations when playing instead of using their fingers to push buttons on a plastic toy that gives little more than some flashing lights.
The Slow Toy Movement was set up when in a fit of anger at some of the mainstream toys on the market.
‘There is a competition called the Dream Toys done by the Toy Retailers Association and one of the top toys that won last year was the Doggie Doo, which is basically a plastic dog that defecates,’ said Mr Bourret. ‘And that really annoyed me.’
The Slow Toy Movement wants to shift the focus to toys which require a bit more thought but are still fun.
Today, at Selfridges in Oxford Street in London, seven toys which were given awards by the movement will go on sale at the store.
These will include eco dolls house, an interactive Velco cube, a wooden puzzle and stacking hoops.
Made predominantly by small British companies, these include an eco dolls house, an interactive Velcro cube, a wooden puzzle and stacking hoops.
The Slow Toy Awards were given to those toys which will last, encourage a more traditional form of play and creativity, without the aid of plastic and battery power.
The judges on the panel include figures from toy companies and ‘mummy bloggers’
Sue Gascoyne is the owner of Essex-based toy company Play to Z, which makes the Slow Toy Award-winning Stackings Hoops.
She said: ‘When you have a newborn baby, you’re bombarded with publications and catalogues about different resources that are available and I don’t think we necessarily make the best purchasing decisions.
‘In some instances, some of those parents would have got more play value and offered their child something more valuable had they given them an empty cardboard box than the expensive toy that came in it.’
Play to Z has more than 100 toys, many of which were made by people with learning difficulties and physical disabilities.
‘A lot of toys these days have certain buttons that have to be pressed and things that have to be done in certain ways,’ said Ms Gascoyne. ‘They have a right and a wrong way of being played with and some toys are actually little more than entertainment because the child doesn’t invest anything of their own ideas into the process itself.
‘Our senses are the gateway to all learning, to everything that a child achieves in their life. The plastic, all-singing, dancing, flashing toys that are everywhere – they have their place – but they simply do not give children those opportunities for hard wiring their brains for inspiring thinking and creativity and imagination.’
Mr Bourret said he was concerned about the number of brand licensed toys out there and that it is increasingly harder for small toy companies to have their voices heard in a market where global brands are able to spend billions on advertising.
‘There is no pester power in a slow toy,’ he said. ‘A lot of the small companies do not have the massive marketing budget that the Hasbro’s and the other companies of this world have.
‘Some parents spend £300, £400, £500 on their kids at Christmas and sometimes on a lot of rubbish.’
He said he wants to see more ‘toys that in 20 years’ time when you find them in your loft, you suddenly look at them and you have tears in your eyes’.
So what makes a good slow toy?
‘The thing they have got in common is that they have a lot of play value,’ said Mr Bourret. ‘They are well made and well thought out. It’s not a matter of having 27 functions or whatever, it’s the playability of it. It’s all toys that you would be proud to leave to the next generation.’
Mirella Cestaro, editor of Toys ‘n’ Playthings magazine, said: ‘There are parents out there who don’t just want – fantastic as they are – the electronic toys or the toys that are linked to movies or TV shows. They all have their place, but there are parents out there who want their kids to have the glockenspiel or the wooden hammer and screw set or the building blocks or whatever.
‘Toys are more than just marketing. A lot of it is the hearts and minds of people. It’s such an emotive subject.’
Lynne Crook, buying manager for toys at Selfridges, which is selling the slow toys, said: ‘It’s exciting to be able to offer an alternative to the hype around the usual commercial toys, as fun and as popular as they are.
‘These are products which are beautifully crafted and carefully considered and indicative of a very touching return to simple values.’
Mr Bourret maintains that simple toys will never go out of fashion.
‘Give a child a couple of pieces of wood and they will invent something to do with it,’ he said.
‘They need to learn how to fit things together. It helps with co-ordination. It’s giving kids a little bit of imagination, because now a lot of parents plonk their kids in front of the TV and the TV is the babysitter.
‘If you’re giving a toy and you make things up with it, then you develop your imagination.’
Will you be buying any of these toys? Comment below and let us know.