In spite of getting a 13-week jump-start on Christmas with this series, my shopping just began this week. Not because of procrastination in the usual sense, there’s just not enough Christmas spirit in me to shop before Thanksgiving no matter how hard I try.
So far, I’ve done all my best shopping online–on Black Friday. (FYI- There is no such thing as Cyber Monday sales. Stick to Black Friday online if you really want to save money.)
But I digress.
This week, I’m spending the bulk of my shopping time making my Christmas list. For a lot of parents and grandparents, this is where things go terribly wrong.
Before we get into that, did you take a minute to watch the above video? If not, go ahead–take a look.
What’s wrong with this picture?
No. It’s not in giving a child technology.
This product, Fisher Price’s Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat, was not designed for a baby at all. It’s designed for ignorant and neglectful parents. Ignorant and neglectful are offensive words I know. I’m actually being kind in giving these parents the benefit of the doubt. I’m blaming their neglect in using such a toy on their ignorance.
It may be over-optimistic to believe that it is ignorance that would cause a parent to so willfully neglect the needs of an infant. I realize there is also the selfishness factor. Which of course, is what Fisher Price is targeting in its marketing.
Notice that the woman, playing the part of a mother is off to the side, watching the screen with the infant. First of all, that’s not happening. No mom is going to do that. That defeats the point of giving a baby $600 worth of electronics. If you were going to actually play with it together, you could use the built-in baby seat mom’s come with–their laps.
Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of fun apps to entertain babies. But they should be done together. This contraption intends to replace a human holding a baby. Technology is a wonderful tool, but it’s a disastrous replacement for human interaction–especially for babies.
Have you ever noticed that when companies market toys to children, they often do so by showing another child playing with the toy and their mom or dad. The message to the child is, “This toy is so fun, your mom will want to play it with you.”
The message in this ad is, “This seat is so fun, your kid will be mesmerized by it and you don’t even have to hold it for him. You’re free!”
Children are hardwired to connect.
“Thwarting the child’s need for close attachments to others also thwarts basic moral development, the social consequences of which can be stark and tragic.” From “A Report to the Nation From the Commission on Children at Risk”
So, here’s my simple guide for parents and grandparents when buying gifts for the children they love.
First, stay away from products that you think will “wow” them. Just because it will light up their eyes when they open the package, doesn’t necessarily make it a good gift.
I know this seems ridiculously simplistic, but buy for the child–not you. In days gone by, that statement could be for the dad that wants to buy his son an electric train for Christmas. Then spends the entire day, putting it together and gets upset when his boy quickly loses interest–because he’s only five.
Today it’s the seventh-grader getting an iPhone. Little Johnny is thrilled because he just unwrapped his ticket to being cool. In reality, mom and dad just unleashed the Internet in the private domain of their child’s innocence.
Whatever you give them will contribute to who they are becoming, whether for the good or bad. There are plenty of circumstances that take us away from our children; don’t put a bow around something that will separate you further.
Instead, seek out gifts that helps to draw out fresh interests, nurture new hobbies or bring friends together.