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Mountain Family: Where are the tools and xylophones?

Matt Zalaznick
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to DailyMatt Zalaznick
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Crossbows. Pellet guns. Laser swords. Wiffle-grenades. Play-Doh drones.

No, this isn’t the arsenal Will Smith uses to annihilate Martian terrorists in this summer’s action blockbuster, it’s the contents of the toy aisles at the big-box stores in and around the Vail Valley.

Where are the drum sets and the toy power drills? Where are the tools with which toddlers can actually create rather than pretend to demolish?



I’d rather have my toddlers pretending to build teddy-bear houses than slaughtering imaginary hoards of boogiemen. I’d much rather deal with the racket of them banging on mini-xylophones and plastic drums than have to wade through the corpses of make-believe Lego monsters.

This isn’t an “anti-gun” or “anti-Silly Putty cannon” column. The Second Amendment, after all, gives our children the right to bear ersatz arms. Consider this a column that’s very much in favor of more diverse and less pseudo-lethal selection of cheaply-made toys.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



But in every “family-friendly” store I go into, it’s rows and rows of Advanced Juvenile Weapons Systems while the half-dozen instruments and pretend hardware are relegated to the dark, dusty end of a single aisle.

And we scratch our heads when kids commit violent crimes. We wonder “Why aren’t they writing symphonies?” The plastic arsenal at Wal-Mart and Target is so vast a kid doesn’t even need to purchase a surface-to-air water-balloon launcher to get the urge to invade a rogue playground.

I’m also intimidated by the action figures ” muscle-bound soldiers, frowning barbarians, cold-eyed killer cyborgs, growling nuclear dinosaurs, sneering ninja elephants with scimitars for tusks, and so on. How come I don’t see shelves of tiny craftsmen with “extreme circular-saw grip?” Or miniature saxophone players with “tenor-flex fingers and Coltrane-lung-power?”



We bemoan the disappearance of the “role-model” from modern society, but look at the little plastic warmongering role-models we wrap up and put under the Christmas tree.

OK, there are all those unarmed Barbies and other dolls, but they’re not much better than the homicidal lunatics in the G.I. Joe section. They have glittery purses, designer clothes, figures that defy the laws of physics, little jars of diet pills ” inspiring a little girl to become pathologically obsessed with her appearance isn’t all that much better than awakening a boy’s inner spree killer.

While these toys of mass destruction seems to be telling America’s children to demolish things quickly and efficiently, there are other toys that encourage much slower decimation. Consider the vehicles ” F-16s and helicopter gunships and missile-launching front-end loaders. Not only can they blow things up, but they also pump out tons of make-believe greenhouse gases.

Among all those dump trucks and race cars and airplanes, are there any hybrids? Do any of them run on pretend bio-fuel?

I’ve looked and looked and looked, but I haven’t been able to find a single recycling game. Wouldn’t that be cool? You have pretend soda cans and juice bottles and cardboard boxes and you run it all through some little plastic contraption, and insulation or fleece sweatshirts come out the other side.

Of course, it would probably take a lot of electricity and other resources to make this totally awesome toddler recycling kit. And that makes me wonder how much energy we’re going to have to expend to teach the next generation of kids to do a better job of saving energy than past generations have done.

How, in other words, do you make geothermal heating fun?

Well, I’m headed back out to the toy store, looking for a dollhouse for my daughters that has solar panels on the roof.

Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926 or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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