COTA: For cool toys to covet, Playgrounder's the thing

October 3, 2009

Most experts agree that true happiness—the kind that really makes a difference in your life, makes you healthier, more fun to be around—isn’t attained by owning more stuff. In fact, there are some studies that suggest acquiring more stuff has little positive effect on your happiness and can, in fact, drag you down a little.

Yes, I’m aware that the standard response to this suggestion might be, “Well, I’d like to try it. Hand over the keys to the Ferrari, please.” And, while I understand what the experts are saying, I think I’m like most of you (and certainly like most men) in my appreciation of cool stuff.

I don’t need to have it all, but I certainly like knowing what’s out there to covet.

A few months ago, I wrote about Uncrate, an oft-updated site full of all kinds of things that men need. (From this point on, feel free to substitute any sort of modifying term you prefer in place of “need.”) For example, Uncrate recently featured the Bamford Black Rolex Watch next to the Ducati Hypermotard 796. I think you’ll agree these are both things that most men clearly need.

Well, in the time since I wrote that column, an interesting thing has happened. Uncrate has collaborated to launch a site called Playgrounder (www.playgrounder.com), billed as “a Web magazine helping parents and kids find the very best stuff. Our team digs up the best toys, games, gear, clothes, DVDs and more.” In other words, it highlights cool stuff for kids.

I should warn you, this site is an absolutely great source for gift ideas for kids of all ages, but I don’t think you should let your kids actually see it. If you do, there’ll be no end to the “Can I have that?” requests.

So, as Uncrate is for adults, Playgrounder is for kids. You can simply stop by occasionally to see all the latest stuff they’ve uncovered, such as the Orvis Build-a-Fort Kit or the LEGO Motorized Walking AT-AT. The AT-AT is that huge imperial walker that tried to squish Luke Skywalker during the Battle on Hoth.

Anyway, you can stop by to see the updates, choosing to either browse the entries in a timestamp order (like a blog), or you can select the appropriate age range to find more specific items.

If you prefer, you can also join the mailing list to have recent updates sent directly to you. Daily mailers normally contain three to four products, with a photo, brief description and links to learn more and to buy the item. Playgrounder doesn’t sell the items it highlights, so you can usually count on a fairly unbiased overview of the product. Of course, it doesn’t feature things reviewers don’t like, so there’s normally an upbeat tone to everything.

If social media is your thing, you can also follow the site updates on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or an RSS feed. And if you find something you like, you can use the social aggregators to share it with your circle of friends (like I did recently with the Daniels Wood Land Tree Houses. All I can say is, “Wow.”)

The choice is yours, but I find the e-mail and the Web site to be a nice combination that doesn’t interfere with getting things done (too much).

If you’re looking for a unique gift idea for nearly anyone on your list, Playgrounder will help you find it. But don’t blame me if, after seeing all of the cool stuff available, you start to have second thoughts about your own childhood.

Repeat after me: Stuff won’t make me happy ... stuff won’t make me happy ... .•


Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.


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