Any budding entrepreneurs out there waiting to create the next toy empire? I have the plan for you.
As some of you know, I am the father of two little boys: a two-and-a-half-year-old, and a ten-month-old. Over the past few months, we've been plagued by the younger boy, Rowan, going through the exact same phase that his older brother did at a comparable point: he is obsessed with grownup objects that look vaguely like they might be some kind of toy but emphatically are not. Cell phones, landline phones, remote controls, electric fans, PDAs humidifiers, lamps, anything at all with an electric cord attached to it. The more dangerous, the better. If we had a suitcase nuke hanging around in our living room, I'm sure he'd be in to that as well.
Now, if you've ever spent any time in a modern toy store, you know that the shelves are amply stocked with kiddie versions of most of these things: baby's first cell phone, little plastic lanterns, oversized remote control-like gadgets, day-glo keyboards. We have purchased most of these items, and they sit around our parlor floor and the boys' room like dejected orphans. Rowan has no interest in them whatsoever. I know that this is all about our prohibition: he wants to chew on the humidifier cord because 1) cords are delicious (duh!), but just as importantly because 2) we scream and race across the room every time he goes for it. But the problem here is that he's clearly picked up a general pattern here, one that defines the category of toy objects itself: the shiny, colorful, plasticky things are the things that mom and dad want me to play with, while all the black and beige things with cords are The Forbidden.
So here's my proposal: a line of toddler toys that are totally indistinguishable from Actual Consumer Electronics, save one key attribute: they are incapable of killing or maiming little children. Where appropriate, they sport fake electric cords, perhaps even with fake sockets you can suction-cup to the wall. There are no fluorescent dinosaurs on them, no Disney characters. Everything looks from a few feet away like it's right out of the Sharper Image catalog.
I think there's a quick million to be made here. Any takers?