To look at a newborn child’s toy you must first divert your attention away from the baby. I recommend placing them in their crib to sleep or cradling them as you gaze upon their toy as intently as they do. These toys are soft and cuddly for newborns as they reduce harsh and abrasive textures their skin cannot yet endure. This toy is shaped as an elephant, approximately the size of an adult’s hand and made of polyester.
To find a soft baby toy made of cotton or any natural fibers is highly unlikely in our capitalized world. The temporariness of this toy’s existence can be marked by its physical form. These toys are always around but rarely looked at or attended to. Sometimes baby toys of this type are lost in attics, torn apart by older siblings, or simply discarded or donated. Their temporariness is seen through the toy’s durability and our dispensary attitude towards our physical items.
Baby items are exemplary of consumerist ideologies because they are made of synthetic fibers (polyester) and stitched together using a running stitch. Alone these two attributes serve many purposes and aid the cloth industry tremendously. Stitch pattern is important since we have all experienced loose threads in our clothing that occasionally never seem to stop running. A running stitch is one of the most basic forms of stitching coming in after basting stitches that are used to mark stich routes on clothing. To make clothing and cloths cheaper, their production must also become cheaper, thus the utilization of running stitches in visible and high trafficked zones on clothing. The stitch patterns used for more durable cloths sometimes utilize backstitches or slipstitches. Further the stitch is visible on this toy, something that we also used to now seeing, but on finer pieces of clothing the quality of its craftsmanship is seen in its invisibility of stitches. To sew all cloths like this for everyone and on everything would not be feasible.
To notice the colour on the toy brings another topic of analysis. Gendering is a concept we interpolate upon our children before they even open their eyes. The pink elephant plush as the base of this toy is accompanied by a skirt of miniature pink cute elephants and tiny hearts. A baby boy’s toy would be displayed as a light blue elephant that would be equally as cute but one that would perhaps have little stars on its blanket portion rather than hearts. These would be changes insignificant to the usefulness of the toy but hold tremendous power over the social image of the child and the child’s own sense of self. The people already holding the ideology of gender norms would see the young baby as indicated by the colour of all their things, and they would further pass it on to younger generations.
When looking at the baby toy with attention drawn to both its functional and aesthetic attributes the toy can be seen beyond the purpose it serves. From the conception of a child, we impose meaning upon them and judge the longevity of their belongings. This simple object is enough to hold the attention of a young child, though it is rarely enough to gain a second glance from us in the presence of that child.
© Copyright 2022 Joban Sihota, Ryerson University.
Sihota, Joban. “Pink Elephant Plush.” 5 February 2022. Private Collection.