Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Early Selling Centre

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.


  1. My daughter always loved making castles, caves etc from TV or fridge cardboard boxes and used to ask all our friends for theirs. For weeks the living room would have a cardboard box evolving and re-evolving until it had to be thrown out...she'd rather have the box than the TV that came in it..
    Good luck with that!

  2. the title said it all, sugar! good for all y'all for not getting tricked into buying all the bells and whistles. keep it simple and the children will be fine. trust me on this one key thing! xoxoxo

  3. Well, if nothing else, Makka Pakka is fun to say.

  4. lucky I don't wear contacts.

  5. Nasal excavation is actually the best way to improve intelligence and, surprisingly, knowledge of current affairs. David Cameron and Nick Clegg, for example, are experts in nasal excavation and look where that has taken them.

  6. We are very high tech here with nasal excavation, it involves high pressure air, saline irrigation and a small version of a plumbers snake.

  7. Makka Pakka looks like the love child of the Michelin Man and Stewie Griffin.

  8. Tempo - no child can resist the temptation of an empty cardboard box. Wait till some bugger makes one that takes batteries and beeps.

    Savvy - Happily, simple is my middle name.

    Hunter - Especially if said rapidly three times in a row. And by row I mean line, not an argument because that would just be odd.

    Ellie - You don't have to worry about getting replica dinosaurs stuck in your eye then. You can breathe easy.

    Mo - Probably helps aerate the brain. From the lovey-doveyness now oozing out of Downing St, I expect Dave and Nick will be picking each others.

    SkylersDad - sounds like an efficient method honed through years of trial and error.

    Eric - I see what you mean. Although I'm not sure I'd want to see that episode of Family Guy! Well, maybe a little bit.

  9. Like Mo's just like a car, increase the airflow, you increase the horsepower, so in theory if you increase the size of said nasal passage, you have a genius on your hands!

  10. The choking hazard warning is not meant for human babies. It's meant for dinosaur babies. Duh.

  11. Ten years in I can attest that the single most valued toy we bought was a Fisher - Price jangly telephone thing on wheels that they pull along behind them.

    ELC is just guilt marketing. The bastards.

  12. That 'In the night garden' thing is well trippy.

  13. Well I know I always learn more when there is the possibility of blood.

    Love your phrasing. You speak English very well.



  14. It's a traumatic time buying toys for children. I'd stop now, pinch a cardboard box from the back of a skip and let them get on with that.

  15. Mr Mischief - And never block the exhaust!

    BetaDad - I wonder of mother T.rexes chastised their children for ripping chunks out of herbivores too quickly?

    Jon - Handy, because you can always here 'em coming.

    Juderoo - Wait till you see Waybaloo. Makes Night Garden look like Newsnight.

    Pearl - Why thank you. I learned good England when I were a children.

    Mdme DeF - They do like the old cardboard boxes. Always have to have one of the giant buggers in the lounge.

  16. I think the reason why the call themselves The Early Learning Centre is that we all learn early, i.e. as soon as we walk in the shop, that most of the products are no-educational. LOL
    Loved the post Jules.

  17. Oh, the beeping and whizzing and squealing and sing-a-long music - I can't stand it!

    Thankfully my daughter is reaching an age where she'd rather play a little handheld video game WITH HEADPHONES on (bliss) rather than play a Hannah Montana toy guitar. Because if I had to hear "Best of Both Worlds" one more time...cough, choking services.

  18. I'm with Madame D on this one, everybody knows that kids always end up playing with the boxes of the toys their parents had to sell a kidney for, so cut to the chase and just take the little tykes to a warehouse. They'll be chuffed to bits.

    There's also the possibility there for some lucrative, enterprise if you're open minded ... how DO you feel about child labour?

    Yours corporately,

    Nike Inc.


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