The best holiday gifts for children are silent

MIKE ROYKO

December 14, 1992|By MIKE ROYKO

At the urging of many frazzled parents, I'm renewing m humanitarian campaign against buying noisy toys for other people's kids. With Christmas coming, this becomes an urgent matter, almost a crisis. Once those greedy little hands rip open the boxes, eardrums begin vibrating.

And I will pass along a shopping tip. I seldom do that, but I recently stumbled across a remarkable gift for children.

As I noted some time ago, most noisy toys are bought by grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends -- not by parents who have to endure the screeching, howling, clacking, and thumping of these devices.

These well-intentioned people buy the hellish gifts, bask in the gratitude of the children, then go home and leave the parents to suffer the consequences.

This can have grave consequences. At some point, one of the parents might shout: "Turn that thing off!"

Which can lead to the child believing it is unloved, or that the parents are stiffs. And that, in turn, could result in enormous bills for long-term therapy.

So if you have any compassion, you will buy quiet toys. Preferably quiet toys that don't have to be put together while trying to follow directions written in English by someone who knows only Chinese.

Now, for that shopping tip.

It is the creation of a man named John Jacobson, an architect and inventor. He appears to be a genius.

What is this wonderful thing, you ask? Actually, it's just a bar of soap.

That doesn't sound like much, but this isn't an ordinary bar of soap.

L Several years ago, Jacobson had this idea. A vision, really.

He knew that children, especially little boys, enjoy being dirty. They hate washing. To them, cleanliness is not next to godliness -- it is next to being forced to eat steamed vegetables.

There is something deep in the nature of little boys to want to get filthy and stay that way.

In olden times, this didn't matter because everybody got filthy and stayed that way. People seldom bathed. Even wealthy nobles, who just doused themselves with perfume.

However, with modern plumbing and showers, Americans became obsessed with cleanliness. In just a couple of generations, we went from the ritual of the Saturday bath to the daily morning shower.

But the instincts of kids, especially little boys, remain the same. They just want to get all grimy and grungy and sweaty and go to bed that way.

That leads to conflict with parents, which brings on hurt feelings, trauma, and the disintegration of the family and society as we know it.

That's what John Jacobson's idea was all about: "I've always been intrigued with the notion of a reward for getting yourself clean."

So he thought: "Put something in the soap and the children will come."

But what? And he had the idea for that, too.

L For some reason, children love dinosaurs. They always have.

So Jacobson put one and one together. Soap and a dinosaur. And he had: "Dinosaur Egg Soap."

It is soap shaped like a very large egg. It is speckled and comes in all sorts of colors.

But inside the soap is, as it says on the box: "a safe, cuddly, non-toxic dinosaur."

Every time the soap is used, it becomes slightly smaller. Then the tail or nose pokes out. As time passes, the feet, the back, more of the head appear. Finally, there it is: one of several creatures with names like Tyrannowashus Rex or Pteranosoapodon. (Helps the kid build a vocabulary, too.)

The result is that children who have Dinosaur Egg Soap actually want to wash. I have seen this miracle with my own eyes: a 5-year-old boy washing his hands before every meal, after going to the bathroom, and demanding his daily dip in the tub. And that's a kid who used to feel undressed without half a pizza

smeared across his chest.

With this idea, Jacobson started his company: Colossus Corporation, in New Haven, Conn. "The company was just me, but I wanted people to think it was big, so I gave it a big name."

Since then, he has sold hundreds of thousands of the eggs. He also invented Boo-Boo adhesive bandages, Microphone Soap (for singing in the shower), Prince-in-a-Frog Soap and other swell products. It's this kind of creativity that made this country great. The Soviet Union wouldn't have collapsed if it had been capable of giving its people dinosaurs in their soap.

So here is a gift that is quiet, safe, and inexpensive ($5 in the gift shop where I bought mine). The parents will love you for it. The kids will like it, too, once they get over the initial shock of ripping open the box and finding that they have received soap for Christmas.

Of course, some kids cheat. They soak the bar overnight or just smash it open and grab the dinosaur.

If they do that, don't worry. It just means that those kids will probably wind up as big successes on Wall Street or in Congress.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.