Did you ever play with Playmobils? They're just plain toys; every now and then they'll make something with very minor electronic capabilities, like a light that turns on, but more often it's just regular toy planes, horses, people, etc. And best of all -they don't try to teach you anything, they don't sing songs, they don't have articulate ankles or elbows (the people just move at the neck, shoulders and hips). No highly detailed sculpting, even - they're one of the last toys standing where you have to let your imagination do most of the work. Not that I have a beef with electronic toys (other than the noise, noise, noise), but I like toys that don't seem to have any agenda.
And Playmobil now makes a Jewel Thief set.
I'm not kidding. See?
The Playmobil police have to have someone to arrest, right?
Last time we were at Anderson's, a book/Playmobile shop out in Naperville that we simply adore, I was checking out their Playmobil selection, there were two things I noticed: one was a collection of scruffy-looking guys in suits who came with a sports car, briefcases, and colorful money. The boxes never say what the stuff is supposed to be - they just show you a picture and let you make your own conclusions. I decided that these guys were supposed to be European no-goodniks.
But even better was the museum thief set: in the set you got a display case with a crown in it, plus an easle with a portrait of some dude wearing the crown. Then you get two guys wearing masks who come with a bag, a grappling hook, and a fishing pole, and various other thieving-tools. The fishing pole allows them to steal the crown through a hole in top of the case.
Now THAT I had to own (and I scored the Euro-nogoodniks as a gift!). I haven't bought many Playmobils though the years, though I still have a tub of them from when I was a kid. I brought the new home with me and forgot I'd bought it at all until Aidan (my six year old stepson, for those of you just tuning in) noticed it. We opened it up and he proceeded to spend HOURS playing with it. Soon, he had personalities for each guy (one was "the smart guy" and one was "the guy who always messes everything up.") Using the grappling hook, he soon had them repelling down every vertical surface in the apartment, attempting to steal whatever they could find.
Tomorrow morning he'll be getting the big Playmobil airplane set, and on his birthday he'll get a Roman Empire battering ram (no lesson plan included, but the ram DOES say "SPQR" on it, so he'll be learning without even noticing).
I have no real beef with electronic toys, though I don't REALLY think any toy, let alone practically every toy, needs to count to ten and sing songs. No one's really going to learn anything like that from their teddy bears or fire trucks, are they? That's what TV is for.
(here're the European no-goodniks)