‘Tis the holiday season when companies bombard us with ads for perfect gifts your kids will love. It’s also a time when we think about giving back, and big business proudly promotes its role as a compassionate corporate citizen by showing off its commitment to those in need. But Toys "R" Us recently tainted the good deed of giving away toys to inner city kids by making an advertisement disparaging nature and outdoor play — something every child needs.
The YouTube version of the ad reveals the public's sentiment: It has 3.5 more dislikes than likes.
The ad opens by showing a group of kids unenthusiastically getting on a green school bus with the generic "Meet the Trees Foundation" stenciled on the side. The ad’s message could not be more clear when the group leader starts showing flash cards about leaves to the seated children. The camera zooms in on kids zoning out and yawning — this forest stuff is boring.
The ad drives home that notion by having the leader rip off his khaki ranger shirt to reveal a bright red Toys "R" Us uniform, and then announces that the bus is taking them to pick out any toy they want in the store. That’s way better than going to the forest, right kids?
As the kids shout and scream with joy, frolicking with plastic toys in the neon-lit store, we’re left to wonder what Toys "R" Us was thinking? Giving out free toys to kids in need is wonderful, but why make nature the bad guy in the process?
The National Wildlife Federation reports that the average American child spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours in front of an electronic screen daily. Additional research shows that outdoor play not only builds healthy bodies, but exposure to the outdoors results in better academic test scores, lower stress levels and can even improve kids’ vision.
In today’s fast-paced, increasingly indoor culture, many kids rarely get to experience the expansive joys of nature, forests and unstructured play. We realize Toys "R" Us is in the business to sell toys, but to disparage outdoor recreation in the process makes us question this company’s values.
This holiday season, we encourage you to think outside the cardboard box with the gifts you give. Be creative and go on a family adventure in the mountains, create a scavenger hunt in the park or get some good old-fashioned cafeteria trays and go sledding at the local hill.
However you celebrate, remember to take advantage of Colorado’s blue skies, crisp air and open spaces — your family will appreciate the experience long after the holidays are over.