After spending the weekend perusing sales flyers and viewing endless TV commercials, it appears to me that few--if any--of this year's "hottest toys" require children to engage in any physical activity or leave the house. I doubt any parent will allow Junior to take his $150 Leapfrog Tablet outside. I don't see much activity involved in getting your Furby to interact with you. And none of the ten pages of video game-related items will get your kid off the couch anytime soon. Heck, with the headphone attachment, your kids won't even have to see their friends in person anymore to "play" with them.
I will grant you that I come from a totally different generation of kids. We didn't have 550 cable TV channels and on-demand programming to watch whatever we wanted--or YouTube or Hulu for that matter. What passed for video games were lame, and took about two days to "solve"--so they got pretty boring after that. So we had to do a lot more "self entertaining" in those days. And our toys reflected that.
For me, sports equipment was always big. Best Christmas gift ever? My basketball hoop and backboard. It started a life-long love for the game--which I still play a couple of times a week, at the age of 41. Baseball gloves and bats were huge too. And a bike was like the ultimate gift you could get--because of the freedom it represented. A kid with a bike could go to more friends' houses, or down to the river or the park or just have races with his buddies to see who was the fastest.
Kids who weren't into sports when I was a kid got BB guns to shoot in the fields or the woods--or Star Wars stuff that you could chase each around with both in the house and outside. Plus, sleds and those aluminum saucers were popular at Christmastime because you could actually use those right away--instead of having to wait for the warm weather to come back.
Unfortunately, kids don't get those experiences from their gifts anymore. Madden NFL 25 is the way today's boys (and full-grown men) "play football". Why argue over who is going to be "Terry Bradshaw" or "Franco Harris" like when I was a kid--when a certain gameplay option can allow you to both be Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson--at the same time. Plus, who ever suffered a concussion pretending to be Clay Matthews and delivering a huge pixelated hit to an animated opponent? Why have a plastic light sabre that makes the cool "whoom" noise when you and your buddy recreate Luke versus Darth Vader on the Death Star (minus the loss of a hand part) when Star Wars the Force Unleashed lets you kill each other as many times as you want with the use of a controller--and no one has to worry about knocking over a lamp. There's also no need to try and chase down butterflies or other insects in the yard when your Leapfrog has an app that can show you hundreds of pictures and videos detailing the life cycle of a bug in just two minutes--plus, you never get dirt on your designer-brand pants that way.
So as you wrap those "interactive" toys, the Ipod accessories and the video games for "Santa" to leave under the tree--keep in mind your not just substituting love and affection with an object--you're also giving the "gifts" of childhood obesity and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. That must be what educators are talking about when they say that today's kids are "more well-rounded" than those of us from the '70's and '80's.