Family Game Time: Chutes & Hoots


How many times have your kids opened a tantalizing toy box, only to lose interest in the product mere minutes into playtime? The dichotomy between expectations and the true entertainment value of a plaything got MomSpeaker Marion Kase thinking about how truth in advertising might be expanded at the toy store.

During his recent birthday countdown, my son got to open a small gift every morning prior to his big day. This year’s three-day knick-knack extravaganza included water-soluble capsules that transformed into vehicle-shaped mini sponges. Utterly fascinated, both kids watched the spongy space shuttle and Titanic replicas unfurl in all their toxic-green glory, soak up water and sink. The entire affair held roughly five minutes of entertainment value. Once dried, I tossed the hodgepodge of cheapness into our already packed IKEA minifängst/closet organizer, where it joined the ranks of other misfits.

This made me wonder why manufacturers don’t place a tangible “entertainment value” on their packaging, as in “five minutes of fun,” so pragmatic parents can gauge the rationale of blowing $5.

I realize that board games show an approximate length of game time (as in “Attention: This Monopoly game cycle may last 48 hours”). I’m referring to sheer entertainment value, as in five minutes of watching sponges expand in lukewarm water.

We have often had to slog through 40 minutes of chutes and ladders after the initial five minutes of true joy literally went down the chute (darn you, number 87!). The manufacturer could have thrown us a bone, or timely hint, such as “serious repetition may occur. You may experience diminished returns after approximately five minutes of fun.”

The other day we played a game of Life. Fun. Except that three toy snakes “had” to play along as well. How about a “life expectancy increases with the number of players. Dinner might burn on the stove.”

I can picture it already. Lego would flaunt their triple digits: “180+ minutes of solid fun!” Of course, the Target dollar bins of the world would unite in a class action suit to ward off a dreaded “barely enough entertainment minutes to sneak a cup of coffee while your kids are ‘busy’ with our senseless product” labels.

Hmm, maybe that wouldn’t work after all.

In the end, well-spent family time, whether it’s derived from a toy or simply a walk around the block, is something to cherish. And while my kids may not remember the discreetly tossed trinkets (empty minifängsts rejoice!), I will remember their smiling faces while having fun.

Marion Kase is a Berks County, PA mom of two. This post is adapted from her blog, Helicopter-Caterpillar.


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