The Next Possible Shortage? Toys

Local toy dealer helps provide children’s hospitals with ‘distractions’
By EDDIE RIVERA, Weekendr Editor
Published on Mar 31, 2020

While your neighbors have been out hoarding toilet paper and water, there is apparently another possible shortage growing across the land—toys.

While few children, if any, have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, many hospitals are understandably budgeting for masks and gloves, instead of toys for ill children not allowed to play together.

But not all, says Cristina Wallerstein of Playopolis, an online toy supply store, based in South Pasadena. 

Although some media outlets have reported a nationwide puzzle shortage, for example, Wallenstein’s store has been quietly providing toys and games to hospitals and school districts around the country.  (Locally, Target stores report no shortage.)

“We are very much a niche business,” Wallenstein told Pasadena Now Monday. “And some of the hospitals have decided that child life specialists, the departments that we work with, are non-essential, but we have  one that increased orders quite a bit because they were trying to have some ‘distraction toys’ for children who are basically in isolation now.”

Said Wallenstein, “All of the kids are basically isolated now. Most children’s hospitals have playrooms where kids have the opportunity to play with other kids. That’s just not happening now. So this particular hospital had the funds to try to get each kid a toy at least, and hopefully more.”

As Wallenstein explained, “Distraction toys are mainly used in hospital emergency rooms and for special needs kids, particularly those with Autism.

“If a kid comes into an emergency room,” Wallenstein continued, “and is gonna require stitches, the average kid is going to be going pretty ballistic right about now, because he’s scared to death and he doesn’t want to cooperate and he’s probably in pain, and all that.” 

Child life specialists, said Wallenstein, work with that child to help him or her find a place of calm and explain what’s happening and how they can help themselves, distracting them from all that going on that’s causing them to freak out.

 “And they can do such a good job of it that sometimes the stitches are put in and the kid doesn’t even know it.”

Wallenstein cited the meteor storm toy, which requires a child to hold down a button to create a moving light show with sound.  

“With the special needs kids,” she continued,  “that same toy might be used by a low vision child or even a legally blind child who has some, some vision, for visual tracking or visual stimulation. Some hospitals are still ordering things they need.” 

So, fear not. Wi-fi, coffee, Netflix, and some distraction toys. We’re all going to be okay.

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