Thursday, December 06, 2012

Do Dads Need to Shop to Be Progressive?

The New York Times reported this week that dads are doing more of the shopping these days, especially when it comes to Christmas toys.

"Consumer surveys show that men are increasingly making the buying decisions for families, reflecting the growth in two-income households and those in which the women work and the men stay home," the Times says.
For the first time in Barbie’s more than 50-year history, Mattel is introducing a Barbie construction set that underscores a huge shift in the marketplace. . . . 
With the selling point that it helps girls develop spatial reasoning, the Barbie set, a joint effort of Mattel and the toy company Mega Bloks, is also meant to pique fathers’ interest. 
“Dad is a bigger influencer in terms of toy purchases over all, and this sets up well for that, because the construction category is something Dad grew up with and definitely has strong feelings and emotions about,” said Vic Bertrand, chief innovation officer of Mega Brands, Mega Bloks’ parent company.

A dad writing on Slate also weighed in:
Once upon a time, of course, dads were terrified of shopping: We would stare in helplessness at window displays, cut ourselves clipping coupons, and flee in terror at the approach of the perfume-sample lady. Or we were too busy working to bother. But now, thanks to the welcome but gradual disappearance of what one quoted media executive called the “befuddled dad” stereotype, manufacturers and retailers are realizing that I am buying just as many of my daughters’ Christmas gifts as my wife is.

Wow. I guess I'm really holding up the rear of this societal shift. I have three kids, and I don't recall ever buying them a single birthday or Christmas gift.

But I don't think I'm an old-fashioned "befuddled dad." It just seems to me like our children's toys spontaneously generate on their own. I'd prefer not to add to the clutter, especially given the fact that we live in a not-so-large apartment.

Why can't the kids just play with found objects? A stick, some gravel, a loose paving stone. Don't these things teach "spatial reasoning"? (For instance, how close the stick is spatially to one's eye socket.)

Moreover, our kids are young enough to be pleased with almost any kind of gift. I came home from a business trip and gave them some soap from the hotel. They loved it! (In fairness, it was cool, leaf-shaped soap.)

I recently gave Elliot an expired MetroCard. He was thrilled.

These kids aren't going to be so easily satisfied for long. I need to take advantage of it while I can.