Elmo's Era Over?

Filed under: Opinions

Tickle Me Elmo was always a lie. You didn't tickle him. You pressed a button in his hand and he laughed his furry little bottom off. He was the iconic toy of the decade and now that decade is dead.

Whatever he does next -- dance, doodle, drink -- doesn't matter anymore. A sweep through the recent Toy Fair in New York City revealed almost no trace of "watch me" toys like him -- toys that sat there blinking, shrieking, spinning (or giggling), while their young owners watched, slackjawed.

Which was a really terrible idea for a toy to begin with.
"They were exorbitant," says toy expert Julie Livingston. "They were, for the most part, at least $30 -- that one big gift kids got -- but kids got really tired of just looking at them."

And it was worse for the parents. When he was seven, my son received from his babysitter a UFO the size of Rush Limbaugh. I felt bad for her shelling out big bucks, but worse for me when it turned on. OH MY GOD. It was like being dumped onto the runway at O'Hare. Lights flaring! Sirens blaring! Its only saving grace was that it didn't do anything but break your eardrums (and soul), so my son never wanted to "play" with it again. (Until someone came over, that is. But even playdates only had to have their souls broken once.)

This year the toy industry finally realized no kid is awed by an electronic floor show anymore, and dreamed up way more creative toys.

My favorite is the sailboat kit from Uberstix. "You open it up and you can't build it," says inventor Dane Scarborough. First, you have to go on a scavenger hunt for the materials, including a water bottle, plastic bag and Popsicle sticks. Sort of like making your own toy. From trash. (Except this one costs $14.99.)

Another cool toy: GeoPalz Activity Trackers. They're cute little $19.99 pedometers your kid straps on and somehow a computer keeps track of every step. Take enough and GeoPalz sends her a prize that gets her moving even more -- a Frisbee, say, or a jump rope. Yes, there's a certain Big Brother-ishness to the deal, but at least it's not a GPS.

And speaking of Big Brother, if you ARE one and you want to freak out your kid sister, check out this "toy" (a few years ago it would have been a Pentagon line item). It's Wild Planet's Spy Video TRAKR: A remote control tank that's also a motion detector, voice recorder and video camera. So, in theory, you can program it to ride into your sister's room, hide under the bed and wait for her to open the door. When she does, it emits your pre-recorded "BOO!" and videotapes her freaking out.

You can then, of course, download the video, edit as you'd like, and share it with the world.

This is a very expensive item ($120) with great potential for abuse, not to mention long-term psychological trauma. But it does get kids to be creative.

Tickle that, Elmo.

Related: Are Pink Toys Bad for Girls?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.