Toys That Impair Imagination: The Over-Licensing of Children’s Toys

Posted on February 25, 2015 at 8:00 am

Copyright Nell Minow 2011
Copyright Nell Minow 2011

It’s always tempting to give children toys from the movies and television programs they love, and some of them are high-quality or even educational. But Melissa Atkins Wardy has a very good argument that the licensing of media tie-ins has just about obliterated any other kind of toy. We want children to have toys that help build their imaginations by giving them unlimited fantasy play, not toys that will just encourage them to replicate scenarios they have already seen.

This spells trouble for those of us looking for imaginative, open-ended toys that wait for the child to create the story line and character. Gender balance and diversity will leave much to be desired, as heroes are almost always white males and licensed characters come with easily identifiable gender roles. The negative, myopic influences from Hollywood are now packaged up for our kids. And the flip side is, we get less interesting, diverse media because a consideration for green lighting a series is “Can it sell toys ?” Play time should be an exchange of ideas from child to child, not Hollywood to child.

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