It is not often a techi and an editor of a news site gets to play with a wooden toy. But, if your child falls in love with one? How much more appropriate can a review of said toy be? I bought a very nice wooden toy for our 15 month old earlier this week made by a company called Goki (short for GoKids). This little wooden garbage truck reminded me of my childhood back in the 60’s, when wooden toys and other types of superb craftsmanship abounded. The short of it is, Goki produces something quite extraordinary, joy on both ends of the supply chain. Have you been marketed the wrong product line?
Time Machine Shopping
After having been a small part of the Zhu Zhu Pets controversy over the holidays, and thinking about this as I looked for something for our child to play with, I counted myself lucky to have a specialty children’s shop here in our small village. Why? The specialty (or Mom and Pop store for lack of a better term) is still an integral part of German (European) commerce. A sort of throwback to a different time, a better time in many ways.
Just like those little stores you may have visited as a kid with your parents (wherever you live), so too children and parents here at least have this advantage purchasing wise. So it is that companies like Goki and some others supply a sort of exclusive market. Fine toys, made with character as well as evident love, where so often mediocrity has replaced true toy making craftsmanship. You might think to yourself; “Sure, wooden toys are nice, but not as interactive and they are expensive.” However, you would be wrong on all counts, and I will explain why later. Stick this term in the back of your mind, and then let’s discuss it in a minute – value.
Heirlooms and the Local Landfill
Goki, like Brio and a very few other companies, obviously fills a narrow niche marketing wise. But why is this? Probably because the demand for such toy finery has diminished over the decades. Does this mean Mommys and Daddies have become less selective and demanding in their toy purchases? You bet it does, but it is not entirely their fault. Electronics companies, Wal-Mart, and the world of mass produced plastics have squeezed a new mentality into the parental psyche – more is better and cheap is best. This is not only a fallacy, but a sad truth about us as human beings. We can be led like sheep into just about anything, when a clear choice is in front of us. Would you sooner buy 9 crappy throw aways or one quality developmental and time tested heirloom? Duh.
Other fallacies like the one which tells us high-tech toys teach more and are more fun abound in the toy and other markets. It is funny to me that the greatest minds through the centuries played with sticks on the one end, and wooden manifestations on the other? Einstein with an X-Box 360? I think he would have ended up waiting tables.
Developmentally, and without getting into studies I have no time for, a child’s imagination is cultivated far more by a wooden facsimile than a digital representation of – anything (I am pretty sure I can prove this). As for “cheaper and more are better?” Just how many plastic “cheapos” do you have in your attic or garage (let alone the local landfill)? What was their collective cost? You could buy a Rolex no doubt. A Goki or Brio toy will retain its value functionally and developmentally – literally forever with care. That is value. Don’t trust me, click on the link under the hammer bench for a mommy opinion.
No one can deny the technological advance of humanity, the possibility. What human beings need more than rapid advancement however is balance in their lives. Nothing could be more true for our early development in particular. Besides the intrinsic value of an object or thing, there is the essential value. By essential, I mean its essence. However we gauge our duty and effectiveness as parents, the old saying “no stone left unturned” applies as in no other endeavor. This is true for us at least. From Baby Einstein to this latest quest through toy-land at Goki (toy house right), searching for joyful and particularly valuable stimuli for one’s child is important. Not something to be paranoid about, but if it takes that state of mind to do right by them – by all means go paranormal on the task.
A mental diet of singing, laughing, peeing, coughing, or annoying noise making plastic does not a balanced boy or girl make. We are all guilty of needing virtual babysitters sometimes though. I am just advocating utilizing the most tried and true ones, the ones like Aristotle played with. Wood has a special character you know? I have not done the research yet, but I am willing to bet wooden or even metal toys are 50 times more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts. Balance remember. Have you ever noticed your child passing up his or her “singing and dancing bear” just to play with the pots and pans? There is a reason for this. Kids love to “boink” stuff. Logical relief from banging spoons and clanging pots pictured upper left – the hammer bench. Another duh huh?
While You Were Playing
The last thing I want to say about Goki and their contemporaries is that hand crafted toys are infused with a little bit of their creator’s spirit. A toy on the shelf of Wal-Mart has for the most part been “extruded” from a machine – a distant detachment from its creator – no love inherent. A wooden toy? Even if the pieces are milled, the craftsmen have to put Pinocchio together – from what was living wood. PVC (polyvinylchloride) and other plastics for instance, are let’s say “less humane” substances – you can feel it. Let your child’s imagination be carried away, our recommendation.