Having small children, we made what seems to be a compulsory visit to Early Learning Centre.
Actually, the name is quite clever, because I almost typed "THE Early Learning Centre" which makes it sound like an officially sanctioned educational establishment, rather than a shop.
So there we were, looking to get educated with plastic ovens, plastic lawnmowers, plastic animals, plastic cars, plastic computers and plastic synchotrons, all of which, almost without exception, went beep.
Oh man, the beeping.
So many toys in Early Learning Centre beep like a censored Chubby Brown clip. I think it's supposed to be "stimulating" for a child's brain. That's the buzzword for toys, used when something can't really be described as educational but the manufacturers want to express the dubious benefits of their device.
A seizure inducing salve to the hyperactive child is just stimulating.
Also, the words "encourages hand-eye coordination" were prevalent on many boxes, which seems to be the ultimate catchphrase for making parents think a bright orange toy with pictures of animals that go "SQUEEEEEEE AK AK AK!" is in fact improving their child's motor control.
Well, so does picking your nose, if you're a kid, and nasal excavation has the added incentive that ham-fistedness often results in exciting haemorrhage.
Blood almost always results in a lesson learned somewhere along the line.
Before beeps led to madness and madness led to rage which would inevitably drive me to do something unspeakable in a toy shop, I dragged my boy over to a quieter aisle, where tableau's of frozen figures looked down on us and demanded a child use their imagination to bring them to life, rather than a supply of electrons.
Mind you, for a shop that pertains to supply to the younger version of human, there were some surprisingly odd thematic choices:
You're never too young to learn about a screaming witch holding a tormented human skull whilst a snarling wraith curls around bones behind her. Age 3-8.
Dubious, I looked for something more . . . realistic.
Kids love dinosaurs, and they are approaching educational, although we all know that, when they are played with, they will almost certainly be hunting baddies by shooting lasers out of their eyes.
*nods in appreciative reverie*
I picked up a stegosaurus, which seemed anatomically accurate and was a simple, nicely coloured slab of resin with no batteries, no flashing lights and a distinct lack of screaming beeps:
Just as I was about to hand it to my son in order to gauge his reaction, a warning label caught my eye:
A choking hazard?
I'm not sure what sort of child could choke down a stegosaurus the size of fist, but I am sure I never want to meet such a child. I deferred to caution and put it back next to an 18 inch high pachycephalosaurus with a sign warning you it might get stuck under your contact lens.
My son pointed excitedly at a Makka Pakka.
You know. A Makka Pakka.
For those ignorant in the Tolkien-esque pseudo-legends of In The Night Garden, Makka Pakka is a . . .
Actually, I haven't got a fucking clue.
It's some sort of fat, stone collecting monkey:
Obviously, one must turn the head so it's pointing backwards for maximum hilarity.
We left The Academy Of Early Learning without buying anything, although I must say I did learn a few things.
On our way home, we went to our local supermarket where I noted that they are still selling terrifying man-hunting equipment only marketing it using even scarier kids, if anything:
Of course, I'm not going to buy anything that gives my offspring a tactical advantage, particularly at night.