the second installment for robin's some/thing blog party.
one of the gifts cosmo got for his belated xmas was a little people zoo. he got it from the same aunt who gave him a little people garage last year. the zoo is part of the next level in the fisher price collection, i guess, which means it has "educational value." there are 26 animals, each with a letter printed somewhere on its body. it comes with a mat, and various molded plastic zoo props. printed on the mat is a path with each of the letters of the alphabet, and a picture of the animal. when you press the A spot on the mat, it says "A" then, " Alligator begins with A" if you press it again, it makes an alligator sound. for animals that don't make recognizable sounds, like giraffes, there is a munching sound, or, for the x-ray fish, swishing water. there is also an image of water on the pad, which makes a splash sound when pressed.
my complaints about this toy are many. first of all, the design flaws: 1) most of the animals do not fit into the little alcoves carved out in the zoo structures (the jaguar, the one exception, is pictured above, peeking out of the "tree"). 2) if you line up all the animals in order, on the path on the pad, they barely fit, and it is almost impossible to use the animal itself (as intended) to press the button. this leads to mild frustration for two year olds. 3)the plastic waterfall is almost useless. animals don't slide down it in a satisfying way, and though it kind of opens, and animals can drop down into it, most of them get stuck. annoying. 4)there is a little perch on top of the main structure that opens up, but it's not clear why, and no animal can fit inside. the thing that bothers carl the most is that some animals have other little animals attached to them, but they can't be removed. for instance, there is a bird on top of the hippo, and the penguin has some baby penguins permanently melded to its body. this asinine feature is in keeping with the other little people, who have things like wrenches in their hands, or cell phones, depending on which set they came with.
as xta has already pointed out in her post from last year on the subject of little people, these figures are fat. the animals are chunky and, in my opinion, overly cute and cartoony. they don't teach the child much about animal identification. it's not that i think all representations in a child's world of objects should be realistic. i really appreciate a lot of the abstract and imaginative renderings in many of the children's books we have, and cosmo's favorite plush toy is a piece of toast with arms, legs and a big toothy grin. but i really believe there is more value in playing with animal figures that look like animals instead of marshmallows with smiley faces. case in point: ostrich. one of the most important features of an ostrich, for distinguishing them from many other birds, is their wacky proportions. they have these rather large bodies, stretched out necks, tiny heads, and long skinny legs. not according to fisher price. just take a look at their version of an ostrich. sorry to belabor the point, but an ostrich does not have short chubby legs--by definition!
cosmo has another collection of animal figures that justin gave him last year. they are much more realistic, and cosmo has enjoyed many hours of play with these, and, i'm sure will continue to incorporate them into his "work" for years to come. as a comparison, here is the ostrich from that collection. it looks kind of like an ostrich. weird.
for his part, cosmo likes the little people zoo just fine. in fact, he plays with it a lot. he has tried to put each and every animal into the little tree alcove, and seems sad that only one of them fits inside. he likes the letter aspect of it, because he's into letters right now, and he's enjoyed arranging, directing and pretending with small figures for some time. but i feel certain that he'd like it just as much if the animals looked like...well, animals.