Written by Jill N.
One of my favorite things to see at work is a parent getting excited about a toy. Don’t get me wrong- kids are an easy audience and their joy over our store is infectious, but I’m not afraid of a bit of a challenge. When I say I love seeing parents get excited over a toy, I’m not talking about the feigned interest “oh, that’s great honey” where you don’t even look up at what your child is holding (hey, we all do it). I’m talking about that genuine “we need to play with this!” excitement. The way to spark that kind of excitement? A toy with a memory attached to it. I’ve watched a few different toys ignite that spark of excitement over my past year working at Learning Express, such as Lite Brite, Fashion Plates, and the Spirograph.
One day while I was restocking some crafts, a mom and daughter were meandering through the store checking things out and chatting. The conversation stopped abruptly when the mom spotted our display of Fashion Plates and suddenly, things got animated. “I LOVED these as a kid! Oh my gosh! I can’t believe they’re making them again! Sweetie, let’s play with Fashion Plates tonight!” Her daughter sounded noticeably monotone in comparison, but she agreed. I rang them out at the register and noticed that the more the mom gushed over Fashion Plates, the more her young daughter grinned.
That same duo came back to our store around Easter and I recognized them immediately. The mom’s enthusiasm had left an impression on me. I asked them about Fashion Plates and this time it was the daughter’s face that lit up as she told me how cool it was, and how much fun she and her mom were having with it. I showed them the new expansion packs of sports and formalwear and they both agreed they would take their Fashion Plates fun to the next level.
Moments like these remind me of all the times my parents put away the Blackberry, recipe book, or disposable camera (throwback!) to get in on the action of my childhood. I can’t even tell you how many times my dad and I used the Stomp Rocket to kill time while my mom made dinner. The Stomp Rocket, unlike my American Girl dolls or huge Beanie Baby collection, sparked enthusiasm in my dad. He was so excited that his girly- girl daughter could agree with him on the perfect toy to kill 30 minutes with, which according to our criteria needed to be fast paced, outdoor only, and a little bit scary. I was gifted the Stomp Rocket at the tender age of five, so before we put it into use I was given a firm lecture “Do not step in front of the Stomp Rocket. Do not look at the launch tube when the rocket is on it. Someone could stomp on it right then and I don’t want you to lose an eye.”
The Stomp Rocket became a tried and true staple of my childhood and customers can always tell I have fond memories of it from my enthusiasm when I talk about it. I didn’t realize it then, but I was making memories. I wouldn’t trade my time with Stomp Rocket time with dad for all the money in the world. Kids grow up, families move and change and parents age. Life moves so fast, and you never know how much time you’ll have with the ones you love. Allow yourself to unplug for an hour or two and get immersed in a toy that sparks you and your child’s enthusiasm, you won’t regret it.