child’s play

Oh, to be a kid again.

I got a lot of great toys as a kid: Cabbage Patch kids, Barbies galore, and even a pound puppy.  After years of begging I finally even got a Charlie McCarthy doll, which I ended up thinking was really creepy and never once played with it.  Mom still has it, and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s creepy because my cat, Madeline, won’t go on the bed when Charlie’s on it.  Ha!

But one thing I always wanted and NEVER got was an Easy Bake Oven.  Oh, how I fantisied about having control over baking my own treats, in my own room and eating them at my own pace (read: as fast as I could).  Maybe mom and dad had the insight that this was NOT the ideal toy for a girl who spent all over her allowence on candy ($3/week and it all went to Skittles, York Peppermint Patties and Brach’s Candy in bulk).

I can recall the commercials – happy, thin girls playing with the oven, baking, laughing smelling delicious aromas of tasty treats….a sugar junkie’s fantasy.

Today I came across this interesting article about food marketing to kids: not just direct marketing from food companies, but toy companies as well.  Turns out most companies get a big fat “F” for their efforts to promote healthy behaviors with kids.  It saddens me that one company isn’t stepping up to the plate and creating a brand promise around healthy foods.  I know its all about the almighty dollar, but there has got to be one company with money in the bank who is willing to just do the right thing and not worrk about making so much cash.  Just one…. It might even turn out to be the cash cow of the century as moms and dads struggle to find creative ways to get junior fired up about healthy eats without sounding like a naggy parent.

Now that I think even deeper another toy fav of mine was my Barbie McDonald’s.  I loved putting Barbie’s trays to gether with fries, a Big Mac, and a coke (or in my mind a milkshake, of course).  It never occurred to me that Barbie couldn’t possibly maintain her impossible figure by eating at Micky D’s everyday, so she never cooked at home in my Barbieland – she put on a hot outfit, picked up Ken and the girls and headed to the Golden Arches.  Well, that is one creative marketing scheme by Matel.  Too bad I didn’t like McDonalds – they did not gain a valuable customer from my Barbie adventures, but I’m sure they gained some kind of brand identity or maybe my friends who came over to play in Barbieland were reminded of their McDonald’s love and asked their mom’s to go there at the next outing into town…who knows..

…and that is the issue.  Who know’s what the long term exposure to junk food marketing, direct or indirect, does to our moldable young minds.  What happens to us later in life?  How does making Chuck-E-Cheeze pizza at home in your plastic oven influence your relationship to Pizza?  I could totally see a perfect storm brewing from this combination:  kids eager to be ‘cool’, to have fun and to fit in making associations between ‘junk food’ toys and the good life.  Translation later: they find themselves drawn to certain foods/brands because those neural pathways that gave them the ‘feel good’ response to these toys as kids, still gives them a little kick as an adult.  Maybe they don’t even know why, or that it’s happening.

Hmm….this one certainly gives me some good food for thought!

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2 thoughts on “child’s play

  1. CJ March 10, 2010 / 2:39 am

    alrighty sister – do i have a surprise for you … i have an easy bake oven. yep, an original from when i was 6 or 7 yrs old. and yes, i chowed down in my bedroom when no one was looking. bummed i baked all the mixes. i don’t recall if i bought more or received more for gifts.

    anyhoo – just for kicks … and if i still have it when you come home … let’s fire up the oven and see what off white deal we can create. ha!

    as a teacher – i hope for days when i see more parents taking full responsibility of their child’s future on multiple levels. each year i can count about 25-40% of my parents who are aware of what their child consumes; food, media, tv & computer, the environment, education, etc … it’s the other 60-75% that turns a cheek with hopes the rest of the world will handle ‘it’ while they are consumed with ‘their job’. it’s disappointing to watch. i try each year to gently encourage a parent or two to reflect their parenting style. each year it gets easier and/or i get more frustrated and become a stronger advocate for the child(ren). but ultimately – i believe the teachings really need to be ‘to the parent(s)’ and then partnered with the child – unless the child is old enough to comprehend the situation at hand.

    man – your entry’s of late has me stepping up on my soap box for a few minutes.

    thank you for the provocation. xo

    • offwhiteliving March 16, 2010 / 2:59 am

      Would love to bake with you in the EZ oven….I dream of an OR visit with my dear friend right now!!!

      Get on that soapbox, girl. We need more ADVOCATES For wellness. I’m excited about a concept called “optimal default” where default options in an environment are for the ultimate GOOD of the people. Choices are still there (ie to eat junk instead of healthy) but default options are healthy – at home, school, work, public……..
      More later . Back to cell signaling studies……

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