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Is That Pony for Real?
Is this toy pony real? My younger niece, who received one for Christmas last year, adamantly affirmed that it was. She continued to affirm this even when her sister, four years her senior and a big third grader, noted several little known facts about the Baby Butterscotch Show Pony (like how, even after it consumed a carrot, the carrot was still there).
It's not that my older niece was immune to the charms of "FurReal". Before the Christmas wrappings were long in the trash, she was seen strolling through the house with her FurReal Walkin' Pup on a leash. She liked cheery, cuddly toys. To her, an animated horse was attractive. Still, this niece was well past the preschool stage of asserting the reality of make-believe (and not yet old enough to read child psychology or recognize it as a legitimate developmental stage).
To backtrack: Big sister had decided to play with little sister's new Duplo blocks. What's more, she had decided to teach said little sister the proper way to make structures with them. Cars weren't that tall, she told the younger girl, removing the top layer or two from her pink and lavender Duplo vehicle. This prompted the younger girl to declare that 'sis' couldn't play with her toys. (Aunt Karen could play, but Chelsea couldn't.) Now this didn't sit too well with the excluded. She retreated to her room for a moment. But before long, she was back with a not-quite-real dog in tow. And then the five-year-old was seen tearing after her sister and her sister's FurReal pet in a want-to-touch-doggie sort of a way -- which oddly, caused the dog and the dog-walking big sister to walk faster.
Sibling rivalry -- and spats -- had been in the house a long time. So had FurReal. My older niece is allergic to dogs. She hopes to get over that with the help of allergy medicine. But for the bitty little girl she had been, a walking puppy had been as close as it got to real.
Time marches. Last Christmas, the elder girl had an American Girl doll. And little sister's big gift from Mommy and Daddy -- and new snuggly thing -- was Baby Butterscotch. She snuggled it and groomed it and gave it carrot treats. She proclaimed it real.
Alas, while the American Girl doll got to go out for breakfast, the pony had to stay home.
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So is the horse real? Well, most adults would privately side with the elder girl (while perhaps giving verbal assent to the younger). But is the horse for real? That's another matter! The pony is not just animated; it's responsive to a child's touch. It whinnies, it nuzzles, it chomps, it turns toward the child. I mean... whoa! Toy makers can make toys do astounding things. Should they?
I think of The Velveteen Rabbit and how, in the story, the toys who became Real weren't typically the ones who had mechanical parts. But I also think back to own childhood when I acquired a battery-operated Persian cat that walked and miaowed more or less like a real cat and a Hug 'n Talk lamb that said things no real lamb was ever privileged to say. I thought they were nifty! The lamb, a Mattel Baby Baa Baa, is still with me today, and bless its little voice box, it can still talk. (Not that it's often asked to. I take good care of Baby Baa Baa -- Baby Baa Baa is Real.)
On to the new generation: The technology has gone up, but the critters still have affectionate manners. I have pictures of my niece with her face pressed against that pony. She was climbing on it, too, but her mother told her no -- that's not what it was intended for. (I don't think the pony was too bothered by a featherweight five-year-old, at least not in repose, but it's not a good habit.)
The first video shows a Baby Butterscotch, much like my niece's. The second shows the original FurReal Butterscotch -- a pony so big an elementary school child could sit atop it. In the video, it is seen interacting with two- and four-legged folk. (It looks like the dog, too, has some questions about its status.)
The big Buttercup... pricey! But Baby Buttercup can be had for a bit less than an American Girl doll.
The FurReal pony wasn't the only horsie in the living room last Christmas. One of my almost-nieces (the daughters of my sister-in-law's sister) received an Our Generation horse. The little girl in question -- another pre-kindergartner -- sat at a child-sized table and brushed its flowing hair while the other little girls looked on.
The Our Generation horse requires a child to neigh for it. It's not as cuddly as Butterscotch, but it is appropriately sized for 18-inch dolls to care for. (The solemn look worn by the little horse-owner, I will note, was not a reflection on the 'reality status' of her horsie. I have spent far less time with these girls but they appear shy and big-eyed at family gatherings.)
The Our Generation horses come in multiple breeds (Tennessee Walking Horse, Morgan, Thoroughbred). They have plenty of accessories for stable and show ring. Our Generation horses are quiet and well-mannered and (possibly) could go out for breakfast with the family.
This is another offering by Fur Real Friends. It's much smaller than Baby Buttercup -- but it does walk. I imagine many find the price tag more realistic.