Tonawanda News


December 10, 2012

Against the tech-toy tide

We all have toy stories. A battered teddy bear. A train played with until its wheels fell off and its battery compartment (if it had one) wouldn't close. A cherished doll. A tiny metal car that won every race its young owner started, or an action figure that always, always saved the day.


Tonawanda News — I lurked in the background the other day, listening to Sam carry on a monologue with himself about his stuffed Perry the Platypus and a plastic toy car. I don’t know exactly where Perry was going or what he was doing or where, precisely, a platypus learned to drive, but Sam was very serious about it. I’ve heard similar intense conversations with himself and his toy trains, or his Star Wars figures. (And their ships. In Sam-World, ships talk, you know.)

Even Jim, who keeps most of his stories (I don’t doubt he has them) to himself, is fixated on a bright-green, stuffed frog named, amazingly, Froggy. I don’t know what its story is in his mind (although he loves to talk about how Grandpa won it for him at a carnival), but watching him hop around the room with it makes me happy.

But as the boys get older, I can see things changing.

The toys they seem to love most this year aren’t necessarily toys as I think of them. They’re gadgets.

The elder one’s most precious possession is his Fisher Price music player. The younger is fascinated with iPads and smart phones. (Sorry, dude. You’re not getting one before your mother does.) They’re interested in movies. They want more games for the family Wii player.

And in some ways, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m leaning toward at least a slight technology upgrade this year in part because I want my kids to understand and be comfortable with it. The Wii is a blessed option to burn off some of that little-boy energy in the dark days of winter. The movies represent family togetherness on a cold winter night.

But ... sometimes I wonder. What became of the baby dolls, the toy ambulances, the action figures, even the (gulp) Barbies of the world? Do kids above a certain age still want them? Or is it just onward and upward? A woman watched my 4-year-old son noodle around with an iPad at a local store the other day and gushed about what a perfect gift it would be for her 4-year-old granddaughter.

Text Only
  • SUN LIFE Open gardens 1 072014.jpg Stop and smell the flowers

    More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE terrariums 1 072014.jpg For the love of nature

    Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.

    "I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.

    Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE fresh air 1 072014.JPG Getting some fresh air

    As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.

    “They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - SUN LIFE double trouble 2014.jpg Still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts

    I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB Calling all the basic locavores!

    Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE NT tours 071314.jpg A closer look at NT

    When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.

    Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFEe exercise 2 071314.jpg Fitness in the sun

     Following a trend of public, outdoor exercise programs, a number of local venues are offering their own free events aiming to get residents outside and active during the summer.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE muscoreils 1 071314.jpg Beyond the bakery

    For years, Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts & Gourmet Cakes has been a go-to location for desserts and wedding and occasion cakes in Western New York.

    This summer, even as the bakery deals with the rush of wedding season, changes at its associated bistro aim to create a revitalized focus on that side of the business, as well.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - Crib Notes 2014 RGB.jpg Figuring out the birthday-party rules

    The options when you escort your child to a birthday party are endless, really. Everywhere you turn, there’s another thrill to uncover.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB The tail of two books

    As promised, here are some more new summer reads that are all about our critter companions. Both books were released mid-June, and although they are quite different from one another, both would be valuable assets for your in-house library.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo