Toys for teenage toddlers?

How many times have you heard an adult complain that kids today are growing up too fast? Well, you're about to hear it again.
June 1, 2002

How many times have you heard an adult complain that kids today are growing up too fast? Well, you’re about to hear it again.

I used to think I was jaded as a result of living in a big city and running in an entertainment-industry crowd. To wit, I recall speaking to a group of West Los Angeles elementary school students (seven- to eight-year-olds) about how cartoons are made.

‘It all starts with something called a ‘script,” I sagely and patiently explained. ‘And here’s one for you to pass around,’ handing a sample script to a Versace-clad little girl in the front row. ‘Oh, I’ve seen many scripts,’ she said in a bored tone I recognized immediately from years of listening to executives pass on my scripts.

So I asked how many others had seen scripts. About 90% raised their cell phones. ‘And how many of you have agents?’ I joked, just for the teacher’s benefit. The depressing thing was… the kids all laughed. They got it.

And it’s not just showbiz kids–or even just city kids. There is a widespread perception that kids everywhere are growing up at an accelerating pace. This is supported not only by anecdotal evidence, but by research suggesting that kids are reaching puberty sooner. One could argue that our culture of precocity is impacting biological development clocks. Evolution of the species. Heady stuff.

Read on as this column takes a playful stab at the ‘getting-older-younger’ movement with a fictional (scary that we have to include that caveat, isn’t it?) lineup of toys and games targeting precocious preschoolers.

Baby-Go-Litigate–a fully articulating baby doll dressed in a power suit. Accessories include a dictaphone, a Porsche and a bankbook from the Cayman Islands.

Airport Security Screener Play Set–a toy conveyor belt with a monitor screen, a fold-up metal detector and a wand that toddlers can use to frisk each other. In order to not limit play ideas, no instructions or training are provided.

Little Orphan Enron–a lovable plush doll that has lost everything (thus, no accessories). Focus groups show it appealing strongly to the nurturing/adoption play pattern.

The Mike Tyson Conflict Resolver–an interactive robotic action figure with a likeness licensed from the renowned sportsmanship advocate. It hits, kicks and bites. Developed in association with educators and psychologists and targeting today’s enlightened, progressive parent who knows that children form interpersonal problem-solving skills while in preschool. The ear is spring-loaded.

Tammy Tummytuck–includes detachable liposuction hose and special water-soluble play-lard that the manufacturers claim won’t stain carpet or clothes.

Baby Bottle Chocolate Latte Maker–Why should infants be stuck with the same old formula when accompanying their three-year-old brothers and sisters to Starbucks?

The $20,000 Pyramid Scheme–a board game in which players are encouraged to convince their friends to give up their lunch money in return for learning the ‘amazing secret’ of how to get another child’s lunch money.

Huckleberry Hairgrow–a doll designed for young boys with an aspirational play pattern of hair transplantation. Targeting all preschoolers concerned about going bald, the toy’s coolest play feature is a water-reactive color-changing scalp that mimics the appearance of hair growth.

Wireless Pacifier–lets toddlers chat and gurgle to their friends while completing the critical oral-sucking phase of their development cycle.

My First Emancipation Kit–interactive software designed to walk preschoolers through the process of freeing themselves from the tyranny of parents, completing preschool by mail through an equivalency certificate program, and finding and setting up their own apartment.

Of course, this begs the question of the next logical step: products targeting the pre-natal set? Please, don’t get me started!

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