You’re at Target or on Amazon in the baby section. Say you’re looking for a teething toy. There are keys, balls, blankets, rings, giraffes, bananas, geometric shapes filled with liquid, ones that boast about being made of silicone instead of some other polymer, little mesh bags you can fill with frozen fruit, dolls made of organic cotton, green, environmentally responsible toys. While you’re havering and becoming exasperated by the stupefying display of choices, your smartphone signals a new post on Facebook by a granola mom who suggests using celery as a teething “toy”. So now you’re wondering if you should leave Target and swing by Trader Joe’s on the way home.
But let’s stay at Target for the now. It’s interesting to think about how infant toy manufacturers come up with their stuff.
Rather than write about it, let me show you:
Let’s return to you at Target. The choices on display seem to have nothing to do with the baby. And if you think about it, it has little to do with you, too. Sure, the idea of you, but not you. It has everything to do with Mr Fisher-Price and his idea of your idea of your baby’s idea of his toy.
Now if this exercise in mind reading within mind reading by toy makers seems overwrought and leaves you skeptical of the value of the toys on display, then go home. Because if you go home and present your eight month old with, say, a wooden spoon; or a plastic bowl, the bottle cleaning brush, plant watering can, a plastic bag full of more plastic bags (under supervision), the magic bullet containers, Glad disposable containers, pot lids, Tupperware filled with beans or rice or both (secured with rubber bands so the lid stays put and your baby doesn’t choke on the beans), a tissue box without tissues, towels, frozen hand towel, fresh laundry, Poland Spring water bottle, and old mouse, table mat, empty salt shaker, cutting board, dish towel, baby carrier; you’ll find that your baby thinks they’re all pretty awesome.
So why do I still walk out of Target with toy for Baby? Because Mr F-P’s does know what I’m thinking! The stacking cups look so fun! I’m sure Baby will love it! No, I don’t even care how much it costs! Just ring it up!