January 2007 Issue [Article]
Or, the synthetic wilderness of childhood
by Donovan Hohn,
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Correction: The agency’s name is National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Teddy bears and other stuffed animals, Peter Stearns explains in Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Childrearing in America, “were widely appealing at a time when parents were trying to facilitate new sleeping arrangements for babies and also to guard against unduly fervent emotional attachments to mothers. The decline in paid help for young children also opened the door to the use of toys as surrogate entertainment.” One commentator at the time speculated that toy animals helped children overcome primal fears of scary predators, turning lions and tigers and bears into snuggly sidekicks. Perhaps the most astute psychological profile of the child consumer appeared in Playthings, the trade journal of the American toy industry, which in 1913 was predicting that “the nervous temperament of the average American child and the rapidity with which it tires of things” would guarantee a never-ending bull market in toys.