If you’re like me, you’re sick to death of the proliferation of cheap stuff. And you’re even sicker of the way you get sucked into participating in the consumption of it, even when you’re philosophically and morally opposed to it. And if you, like me, have children or grandchildren or stepchildren or children-in-law or friends’ children to buy gifts for, you’re nauseated by the ever-growing heap of plastic, loud, aggressively __________________ (place your own adjective in the blank), commercially crass toys that shout to be purchased for them. When as adults did we replace our better judgment with the claims of marketing? (No, our daughters aren’t genetically programmed to need all things pink, princessy or sexualized.) And when exactly, as a species, did we confuse the act of playing with the accumulation of junk? Rant over. Deep breath.
Thank heavens, then, that there are stores, like the Italian Città del Sole, that sell—I would be comfortable using the word “exclusively” here—toys that are decent, age-appropriate and, at the same time, actually fun. My kids love going there. I love going there. The merchandise which includes toys, boardgames, books, science projects, creative hobbies, musical instruments, time keeping appliances and gardening paraphernalia may cost a little more, but it is beautifully produced, judiciously selected and tastefully packaged. There’s very little pink. There’s very little plastic. There are no scantily clad Barbie-boobs. Yet the children don’t seem to be suffering the absence of these globally over-sold characteristics.
There’s an ethic at work in this store. All the locations I’ve visited, appropriate to the store’s name, are flooded with natural light. The logo is small and discrete on wrapping papers, requiring a “Where’s Waldo?” approach to finding it (see above). And whoever’s in charge of promotion has deemed it appropriate to give everyone who purchases in January a beautifully illustrated (and I mean that seriously) calendar which, in a perverse display of self-confident world citizenship, does not sell a single toy on any of the 12 months. I can buy toys from these people with a good conscience, because they have succeeded in recognizing who we really are and what we really need to play with. When Toys really R Us, our joy really is joy.
Città del Sole. Milan locations.
[If you liked this post, you might enjoy “In praise of the grembiule.”]