Character Issues

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Each morning, one of the first words out of FishChick2’s mouth is “Dora.” And if you ask her which video she would like to watch, she’ll say, “Dora.” And if you ask her what color cup she would like, she answers, “Dora.”

Clearly she has character issues.

Once upon a time — like before I had children — I decided that I would never buy character ware. No Power Rangers tennis shoes. No Spongebob tricycles. No Diego toilet seat covers.

But, somewhere along the way, my kids fixated on characters/things that didn’t bug me quite so much as Power Rangers, Spongebob and Diego. (Smart kids.)

One kid’s obsession with cows seemed kind of cute. Another’s affinity for Bob the Builder passed muster, because after all, Bob was a carpenter just like FishPapa. And ya know, Tinkerbell is kind of cute.

When FishChick2 opened her birthday gifts, I surprised myself that I had accumulated so many Dora-themed items: a book, a doll, a few toys for atop the cake. Needless to say, she was ecstatic.

I know from experience that she won’t be a Dora fanatic when she’s 12. In fact, this will probably wear off in a couple years. In the meantime, she’s enjoyed some fun experiences, and I will have sweet memories of her Dora phase.

How do you handle character issues at your house?

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  1. I was same as you-I was never going to buy character items for my kids!! Of course I’ve ate those words…at least a little. I’ll only buy certain things- cups and plates, videos, he does have a Lightening McQueen bike…but that about it. Everything else comes from my PARENTS! The pj’s (ugh), and t-shirts (double ugh). But I vow to never, ever buy character bedding!!!!!

  2. I had a boy that loved Dora! – and he was so made that everything looked “girly” that you could buy – that was before Diego- you are right it sure doesn’t last long – at least I didn’t have to buy much but the books

  3. We just go with it. Each child seems to love one particular thing.
    Oldest–Blue’s Clue (he is now 17 and I am happy to say that YES it did pass ; )
    Boy 2–Wiggles
    Boy 3–Dora
    Girl 2–Disney Princesses
    Girl # 1 was never head over heals for anything like the others.

    I have to admit…it brings a smile to my face when I see my daughter light up when she gets a new princess thing.

  4. Hehe, I still refuse to buy character clothing (other than pajamas), but my three-year-old has a ton of Go Diego Go stuff. How could I resist when she spends much of her afternoon quiet time pretending she’s Diego?

    And all of my girls love princess stuff!

  5. Oh sheesh.

    The other day my daughter started counting to ten in Spanish. I quietly looked at her and she then did that recognizable stuttered: “D-d-d-d-d-duh-deh-Dora!” Oy vey.

    I am with you on this. I don’t purchase “theme” gifts. But I did notice when we were at a girlfriends house Monkey #1 went a little nuts about a Cinderella tea set. She’s never seen it and she loved the characters. So now I kind of feel pressure to get her some characterware, if you will.

  6. It never seemed a huge deal with me – the Power Rangers did drive me insane especially the horrible show (I found myself so stressed out that I couldn’t bear it – too much noise, flashing – likely terrible to have exposed our son to) but like anything, it was a phase and it ended. Sometimes resistance prolongs these things so we just indulge it a little and it fades away eventually. Some of the characters we indulged more than others – my daughter loved princesses and dora, my middle guy loved power rangers, and my youngest loves Thomas, Dora, and Blues Clues (that is an oldie – hard to find even Blues books these days!)

  7. Barney – I detested Barney. My (now 17year old) daughter Loved him. With the capital L. Fortunatly for her, Grandparents bought lots of Barney things for her…

  8. I never really worried about the character stuff too much, as I was somewhat obsessed with Pooh Bear since the age of 6 myself (my “work” coffee mug even has pooh on it and I’ve used that same work mug for 14 years).

    My daughter never really had one total fixation when she was young, but a hodge podge over the years. She is now 16 and when she was little I started buying a Christmas ornament every year featuring whatever character or hobby she was currently into. We have rugrats, powerpuff girls, blues clues, barbie, tigger, ballet, cheerleading soccer, volleyball, basketball, a glass mp3 player and the list goes on. Obviously her tastes and interests have changed over the years, so its kind of a cool little time machine when we pull out the box of ornaments every year. And much easier than holding onto all of those different “collections” for sentimental reasons.

  9. The obsessions never really bothered me much. They all eventually pass. I will never buy character bedding, though. That stuff is expensive, and the obsession never lasts long enough to justify the cost 🙂
    My oldest (she’s 15 now) was way into Sesame Street. Especially Zoe. Son #1 liked Elmo, son #2 like Teletubbies (ICK!), Daughter 2 liked Pooh, and my youngest son just likes all things automobile..and Avatar..LOL
    It all passes, and then new obsessions take their place.
    Honestly, I prefer the “character” obsessions to the $100 electronics that my teens now beg for..

  10. I embraced it (only because it wasn’t Barney or Teletubbies or something that would have driven me insane)! My youngest went through a major Blue’s Clue’s phase & he literally carried a notebook & crayon around everywhere he went whether it was the store, church or the pumpkin patch. I bought hard to find Handy Dandy notebooks & even a shirt that looked like Steve’s on ebay that absolutely thrilled him. And I took pictures of all of it, down to his very animated version of singing the “Mail Song” & scrapbooked them. And now that he is almost 7 & is way past that phase, I look back so fondly on those memories! It made him so happy & was a big part of our lives for a couple of years! I felt a little sentimental as I sold our Blue’s Clue’s stuff at a garage sale just this past weekend. 🙂

  11. We allow character things in our home, with our guidance. We choose what shows they watch and therefore this leads them to only fall in love with certain characters. We have banned Barney (for our sanity), Spongebob and other characters with no so great character, Sesame Street (since the producers have decided they have to “keep up with the times” and be “politically correct”) and select other cartoons that don’t meet our guidelines for values. That means that when they see a character and fall in love with it then we aren’t as concerned. Oh yeah, we have also banned the newest princess movie since it had black magic in it. That makes it so much fun to find princess items that don’t include the newest princess on them.

  12. I have 3 daughters and they all enjoyed watching Barney. I enjoyed it too! My daughters learned their colors, numbers, shapes and all the other preschool things. They never went to preschool, so Barney was their preschool. My oldest was into Elmo, middle-Blues Clues and Teletubbies(I hated that one) Little Bear and Barbie. Youngest-Blues Clues, Dora(where she learned to count and speak in Spanish), Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake. My oldest is 18 and still has her favorite Barney tapes. My middle daughter is almost 14 and refuses to give up all her Little Bear tapes. My youngest kept most of the Barbie movies and is so into Justin Bieber at the age of 12.
    They do outgrow these things, but with all the horrible things in this world nowadays, it’s a shame that they can’t hold onto the childhood characters for much longer.

  13. we do not do character bedding or clothes…. and are very careful to what we let the kids watch…. my daughter loved Dora for quite a while when she was 2-3 witch was awesome in encourging her to count and learn! we stear very clear of things like Brats, Spongebob, scooby doo… and other things that I find “Yucky”

  14. I’m a first-time mama of a six-month-old boy. Obviously we haven’t had any character issues yet, but I’m already at peace with the fact that we WILL. My brother (now sixteen) had them, and my husband (29) still has them! 🙂 We just want to approach the whole issue of commercial entertainment on our own terms. So we’ll play with Spiderman action figures, but skip the PG-13 movie trilogy. We’ll watch the campy 60’s Batman show, but not The Dark Knight. (at least until he’s older) This is how my mom handled my love of She-Ra when I was a girl. I was allowed to play with the dolls, but not watch the show, which she felt was too violent. She agreed to this compromise after I asked her if I was a bad person for wanting a “bad” toy. She realized that forbidding a character I was interested in hadn’t made me want the character less; it had just caused unnecessary tension. After that, her attitude towards popular culture (and, as a result, mine) became much more relaxed!

    1. @Katie Gregg, That’s a great strategy, to pick and choose. My children (ages 15, 12, and 8) are largely out of the character stage except for my little guy, but they are quick to recognize characters that portray “yucky stuff.” My heart was warmed when Zach, a Lightning and Mater kind of guy, wasn’t interested in a recent book because Mater was in a rock band in one of the stories.

      Zach is also into Indiana Jones, but only the Lego version. 🙂

  15. That doesn’t bother me at all because every child goes through those phases… one day it’s Strawberry shortcake, another it’s Littlest Petshop, Dora, etc. They grow out of it so quickly. I now miss Blue Clues!!!

  16. I’m the same as you – I hate buying character-themed clothing, etc. But I don’t refuse them when they are given as gifts, so we’ve already amassed quite a collection of Thomas and Lightning McQueen toys/clothes/lunchboxes, etc. I’ve learned that it can actually be a stepstool for learning things (like colors, numbers, etc.) so it doesn’t bother me too much, and anyway, it’s fun to see his face light up! I draw the line, though, at decorating with characters. Not in my house, lol.

  17. I guess I would say, unless it goes against moral positions or your pocketbook, its ok to lighten up! childhood if short, “lovies” change from day to day, and there are more important things to shield our precious ones from.

  18. We don’t have our TV hooked up over here, so it’s Veggie Tales all the way! 🙂 My daughter has seen SpongeBob once at a party (UGH) so now she recognizes him everywhere. But it’s pretty much just Bob, Larry, and Junior. She does get a kick out of the Toy Story movies though so Woody is a big deal too. 🙂

  19. I thought it was funny that you mentioned the Diego toilet seat cover, since we just bought the Diego potty seat for our son!
    He’s only 18 months old right now, so he’s not really into character things, but I do plan on avoiding the character bedding since they tend to move from one character to another so quickly. I don’t want to re-do his room every couple of years.

  20. My little girl is 2 and has been hooked on Thomas the Train all year long. We’re learning you can’t have everything you see at the store that has Thomas on it! It is fun to see her face light up. I know this will all be a memory in a few short years. Sniff. She will be getting a Thomas ornament for the Christmas tree. It is her thing at this particular stage in her life.

  21. Here’s our position on character bedding. We do not decorate the main part of the room with any character stuff (comforter, curtains, etc.) However, we allow whatever zany sheets they pick (with approved characters, of course). I had that rule as a kid too and it was so much fun! My bed always looked nice and “normal” when it was made and then when you turned it down for bed it was all fun inside 🙂

    I actually saved my Cinderella, Pooh and John Deere tractor sheets from my childhood and my kids are using them now 🙂

    It also helps curb some of the relatives. They REALLY like to indulge with the character stuff, so it gives them an outlet besides a million more toys!

  22. My youngest was into Elmo big time. She had almost everyone Elmo imagined. Both my girls went through a Barney stage, then Land before Time. My Eldest (19) still loves everything Dora. She has a “princess” laundry hamper at college! Unless there is moral issues or character flaws (like lying, stealing etc.) I just kind of went with the flow.

  23. I just bought a few toys in a character they were in to (albeit an approved character, not just any character.) And, I definitely didn’t buy lunchboxes or backpacks in characters, and now I’m SO glad I didn’t! I bought solid colored ones that have lasted for.e.ver. (When my oldest was in kindergarten, I bought backpack at Target that hardly held up for the one school year. After that, I bought them at Children’s Place.) Now my youngest is using a handed down backpack, and I don’t have to deal with any arguments like “I don’t want a (insert character here) backpack!” Any one of us in the house can use either the backpacks or the lunchboxes without embarassment. It’s a beautiful thing!

  24. We don’t have cable or satellite so if my kids see something other than PBS it’s not often and we are careful about what we allow them to watch. We don’t generally buy character themed toys because we try to keep toys to a minimum and buy high quality toys that will last and be used by all our children but the kids have recieved them as gifts from grandparents. My parents are getting both of our older kids (4 1/2, almost 2) character themed sheets for Christmas this year. We do have some of the books. I don’t care about clothing either but we don’t often buy them because of price.

  25. My oldest wanted to be the red ranger when he grew up. As a matter of fact for his 18th birthday his dad and I were tempted to go to Disney to pick up the adult red ranger costume.

    Anyway, my children have beautiful manners and my oldest is a part time day care provider for school age children so the Power Ranger experience must not of hurt any of us too much. I don’t recall doing anything in particular other than buying action figures so my son could act out the power ranger activities. He knew better than to hit or kick elsewise.

  26. My two and half year old son is a Blues Clues/Veggie Tales Fanatic! I figure if he had to pick two characters to be obsessed with, those are good picks. He is learning colors, shapes, numbers, etc from Blue, Steve, and Joe, and he is learning about the love of God from Bob, Larry, and the gang!

    (On a side note, I’m taking him to see Veggie Tales Live tomorrow night…here’s hoping the life-size characters don’t scare him!)

  27. I’ll admit that I decorated my daughter’s nursery (she’s not even 1 yet) in Whinnie the Pooh, mostly because my husband is a big Pooh fan. And, I see it as a little less… uh… I don’t know, but I’m sure I’m rationalizing here… 🙂

    We actually don’t have tv service here, though, so I may be able to get away a bit more with avoiding some character issues, but at the same time, I kind-of like some of the characters. My friend told me about “Ni Hao Kai-Lan” because she knows that I studied chinese for 6 years, and I honestly kind-of want my daughter to watch that show…

    Now, you may all think I’m a bad parent for wanting my daughter to like a cartoon character, but here’s my rationale:
    1) the show teaches good values.
    2) the show teaches a language that I think is going to be *very* important in the upcoming decades.

    Now, maybe I’m crazy, or maybe I’m a bad mom, but I figure that, like it or not, she’s probably going to go crazy about some character. If I can choose one I like, then maybe that’s better than trying to block them all out…

  28. I, too, vowed to never buy character items. That all changed when my son became obsessed over Thomas. Two years later he is still obsessed and the grandparents spoil him rotten with every piece of Thomas clothing and pj’s they can possibly find.

  29. My 5 year old still loves Dora…and though it makes my brain melt and drool out my ear, I never question her when she asks to watch a Dora DVD during our set movie time on weekend afternoons. Usually, I’ll hold Dora Time off until it’s time for me to make dinner….then I can have some uninterrupted time to cook and clean AND save my brain from melting. 😉 But damn if it isn’t down right adorable when she and her brother play Dora – she’s Dora, he’s Boots – and go on adventures.

  30. I’m thought the same way… But, I actually really like Ni Hao Kailan. It’s a really good show that teaches social situations and Chinese. (like a Chinese version of Dora, but with more focus on getting along with friends) So, I don’t really mind getting her Kailan stuff. Plus, Kailan is really cute. LOL

  31. I just rolled with it! My middle son LOVED the Teletubbies when he was a toddler and preschooler – his obsession lasted for years! But, now at 12, he is over it! He’s the only one of my 3 who really had a character fascination unless, of course, you count the love of Thomas the Train by both of my boys when they were younger but those wooden trains are so cute!