Furbies, plastic dogs that poop or lip gloss for 4-year-olds: weird and wonderful xmas presents

Raleigh_Molly_12_14_inch_girls_Pink_BikeAs my daughters are three and two I have escaped lightly this
Christmas when it comes to presents as the oldest is still mostly
oblivious to the whole shenanigans. She has asked for a bike and for
some reason a triangle, so it has all been pretty straightforward. But
after browsing the internet and shops for other things that I might
put on their Christmas lists for family and friends, I have been drawn
into a whole new and sometimes frightening world.
The top present is something called a Furby. It made me feel
especially ancient to learn this is a “retro” toy, having previously
been a must-have in the distant past of 1998 and is now making a
come-back.  These robotic hamster-like creatures who speak “furbish”
and cost around £60 apparently develop their own personality and even
give you backchat.  As I have two children whom I’ve already lost
control of, I definitely don’t want responsibility for giving one of
these a pile of issues too.
It also unsettled me that apparently I should soon be buying my
children their own tablet computers. These child versions are only
recommended for the age of up to seven, after that an iPad or similar
is deemed more suitable.
From the sublime there is also the ridiculous. One of the top games
involves players throwing the dice to squeeze a plastic dachshund’s
lead, with each squeeze pushing plasticine poop nearer to fruition.
When the deed is done the player holding the lead cleans up with a
little spade. First to three wins.
The one thing that lifted my spirits was spotting in the top 10 the
familiar face of a pop-up pirate, where you take it in turns to prod
him with a sword until he shoots out. That’s more about my level.
I have ranted before about the prevalence of pink toys for girls and
the prize for most sexist toy store has to go to Hamleys who have
launched  a new “Luvley Girls Boutique.” There you can find a lip
gloss and mirror set for the recommended age of four to eight or a
hair curler that claims will have six-year-olds wondering “how did I
ever live without it?” They are followed by the Early Learning Centre,
where under the fancy dress “I Want to Be” section boys can be a
doctor, police officer, fireman, racing driver, chef and construction
worker and girls can be erm… a princess.
Of all the stereotypical girly toys it is good old Barbie who is
actually the feminist role model with the “I Can Be Range” including
an architect, pilot and even president (albeit a pink one).
So after more anti-pink ranting what is my daughter getting for
Christmas? The pinkest girliest bike you have ever seen, complete with
sparkly tassels and a seat for her doll on the back. I will have to
blame Santa for the mix-up…

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But for girls…

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Or this

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I want to be …

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Princess or a pirate

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Girls v boys

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What’s in a name?

gazza

Maybe it is because I am a journalist and have suffered many a
berating over the years for rogue spelling mistakes that have crept
into the paper, but I do like words to be spelt correctly. And that
includes names.
I just don’t understand how after someone has gone through all that
effort of compiling the Oxford English Dictionary and endless books on
baby names, when it comes to choosing a name for children people
suddenly think they can spell it however they want or even just make a
new one up completely. Am I just being an old pedant?
Names are back in the spotlight this week following the announcement
that Royals William and Kate are going to have a baby. Luckily for
them, in the UK we have some of the most relaxed laws in the world
when it comes to naming our children.
In many countries parents can only choose from a set list and names
have to be approved and spell-checked.
In Germany the authorities consult the “International Manual of the
First Names” and any name must indicate gender. Iceland has its own
naming committee, but whilst rejecting Pluto and Money in their wisdom
they did approve Benson and Hedges for twins and Midnight Chardonnay.
Sweden’s strict laws have seen names Metallica, Superman, Veranda and
Ikea, all binned.
But here in the UK there are already several young Supermans, along
with numerous Gandalfs and even Gazzas.
The modern trend for hyphened names has actually been around for a
while. The Puritans got there first coming up with such gems as
“If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst- been-damned” and
“Job-raked-out-of-the-ashes.”
Among the handful of restrictions in this country are that the name is
not offensive, does not contain numbers or symbols. is not impossible
to pronounce and does not imply rank or honour like Sir, Lord,
Princess or doctor etc.
It may be argued that all names were invented once. But they are all
based on some kind of meaning – personal traits, occupations,
circumstances of birth or have links to religion or mythology.
However maybe in a google and social media-driven world it does help
to stand out from the crowd? Apparently in 1800 a whopping 24% of all
girls were called Mary, that must have been confusing.
With so much choice and media pressure the couple are in a tight spot.
Charged with the responsibility of modernising the monarchy, a
traditional name is bound to be a disappointment. But could they go as
far as celebs like Jamie Oliver who named his son “Buddy Bear?”. At
least Royals tend to have plenty of names.  William’s is William
Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor. So maybe along with Diana and
Elizabeth or George and Arthur there will be room to sneak in a Gazza
too?

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