Anyone who visits me at Metro Parent’s Ferndale office almost immediately comments on my "toys." I do have quite a few. There are my plushies, which consist of a handful of Ugly Dolls, a Lola Pooki doll, Sesame Street‘s Grover (who is waaay better than Elmo, if you ask me) and some prince and princess puppets brought to me from India from our former illustrator and now-Beantown shoe designer Haim Sharma. I’ve also got a smattering of other toys (the Automoblox car is a big hit with kids, who love pulling it apart and taking it for a spin).
But my pride and joy, the thing I show off when people comment on my toys, is my nifty little collection of wind-up toys.
Wind-up toys are pure classic kitsch. And I’ve certainly got my fair share of fire-breathing nuns, egg-laying chickens and retro robots that will hobble along any flat surface with a few cranks of their keys. But the primo pieces of my collection, the ones that make people see wind-ups in a whole new light, are a divine little duo from the "Critter Collection" of Kikkerland, a company that designs an array of items from bookends to bottle openers to, yes, wonderful wind-ups. All their designs have one thing in common – a modern sensibility and a MoMA-esque appeal. In fact, MoMA even sells the cool little critters, which look like different species of mechanical bugs. I got mine at Write Impressions in Royal Oak, but they can be found at lots of specialty gift shops and independent toy stores.
Each little Kikkerland wind-up has a special ability; they aren’t content to just scoot along your desk. For instance, Awika, which I own, not only throws off a few harmless metallic sparks in her caboose, she climbs over small objects, like books, CDs and even your hand. Cranky has "claws" to hold notes and pictures. When wound up, he will dance around to get your attention. I don’t have Cranky yet, but he’s definitely on my list of "gimme gimme" wants. The other Kikkerland wind-up critter I have, though, is arguably the least complex. He doesn’t climb or spark or hold little notes. But he does make me smile. Just wind him up, play a song, and it seems the little metal fellow is busting a beat. Skidum‘s little happy dance is one of the simple pleasures that can give me a quick boost.
And, I guess, that’s what toys are often about. Little quirky objects and items that make kids, both young and old, escape, relax and let go a little.
Kikkerland wind-ups retail for $15 or less and are not intended for kids under 12.