Pros: one of the best toys Fisher-Price ever made
Cons: Like nincompoops, they discontinued it.
Long, long ago, Fisher-Price entered into an unholy alliance with Proctor & Gamble for a Pampers promotion. Save a certain number of points off your diapers, and you could send them in for free toys, not limited to, but including books, computer games, battery-operated Jeeps, and my Holy Grail, the Fisher-Price Starlit Stage. Little did we know that for the majority of the toys, this was the last we'd see of them, which is why my initially stupid idea of getting the stage before the Jeep turned out to be a good thing, because once they were gone, they were all gone.
::: The Best Modern Antique :::
The Fisher-Price Starlit Stage is (you guessed it) a stage for kids. Not one of those combination puppet theater/lemonade stand deals, this one is a full-sized entrance complete with curtain, lights, and applause. When fully assembled, the stage measures approximately 55 inches tall by 43½ inches wide by 10 inches deep, with the actual curtain opening approximately 47 inches tall by 30½ inches wide. Assembly was fairly straightforward: white columns snap into holes it the teal "counters" on the purple base, which snaps together via two thin slats under the curtain. On top of the columns, you snap on the three-piece arch, with the curtain connected to the arch. Then, if memory serves me correctly, I had to apply stickers: one on the ticket dispenser, one on the other counter, and 22 sparkling stars on the arch.
On the left side of the stage (stage right) is a white clock face with fuchsia movable hands to set your show time, and on top of the counter is an indentation for storing the four? (that's how many we have now, but I'm not sure if there were more) fuchsia plastic tickets, each with their own "seat number." Tickets can be dispensed through a small hole just like at a real theater. The right side of the stage (stage left) has a hole to store the fuchsia plastic pretend microphone so that it's ready to grab just as soon as your child bursts into song.
And of course, what stage would be complete without its curtain? The curtain, too, is fuchsia, with white plastic star accents. On the left side of the stage (stage right again) is a fuchsia plastic handle attached to a thin rope that runs through the arch and attaches to the curtain supports. Pull the rope, and the curtain opens, the lights in the center section of the arch flash, and the sound of applause is heard, all courtesy of four "AA" batteries.
::: Why I Wanted Such a Thing :::
While battery-operated ride-on toys are a cool thing, they aren't a necessity, can only be played with about five months out of the year here in the frozen tundra, and do absolutely nothing to encourage kids to use their imaginations. And I had a plan.
At the time of the promotion, I was pregnant with my son Buster, now three, and my daughter Beanie was turning two. I wanted an extra-special Big Sister gift for her, but I was also being crafty. See, I knew that the biggest problem was going to be nursing the new little guy, since that would tie me to the couch or chair and keep me from Beanie. But a Fisher-Price Starlit Stage placed conveniently in my living room could make baby feeding time show time! Beanie loved putting on shows, so I asked everyone to give us old clothes and jewelry to make a dress-up box for her, and my sister contributed a small Disney Princess trunk with Cinderella and Minnie Mouse costumes. Now Beanie could put on shows and Buster and I could be her captive audience.
Of course, once we settled into a routine with both kids, we didn't need the show gimmick anymore for nursing, and the Fisher-Price Starlit Stage moved into our toy room. And you might be thinking that was the end of the popularity of the stage, but you'd be dead wrong. For three years, the Fisher-Price Starlit Stage has been THE most popular toy in my toy room, bar none. When other kids come over to play, the FIRST thing they head for is the stage, and the sounds of applause are soon filling my living room as they "rehearse." Not long after, tickets for a "show" are handed out, and everyone must go to the toy room to watch. I even had one girlfriend whose son, nearly two years older than Beanie, would ask to come over and play. Not because he loved my kids to death, and certainly not because his Dorito-eating self was dying for whatever organic allergy-free snacks might be lurking in my house, but rather, to dress up in Princess costumes outside the view of his father and play with our Fisher-Price Starlit Stage.
Oh sure, there are some tiny little complaints that I have. Sometimes the lights and applause don't work correctly, and get "stuck" in either on or off mode. And the handle on the pull-string to open the curtain is a royal pain for little ones to try to hook onto the moon-shaped plastic extrusion on the column, so usually one of them manually holds the curtain open for the others. And yes, because of it's easy set-up and lack of actual hardware to hold it together it often topples over and has to be reassembled.
But you find me one single toy that children will play with EVERY SINGLE DAY for three years, that's always a draw even for the shyest of playdates, and that hasn't broken with that much play and I'll show you a toy that's worth 10 times its weight in gold.
The Fisher-Price Starlit Stage is no longer found in stores, but you can find them fairly regularly on eBay, even brand new in the box, thanks to crafty points savers who got more than one during the diaper promotion. It usually sells for more than its original retail of about $70.00 (more like $100.00 and up now), but I swear to you, I'd pay that and more if I had to replace it.
And lest you think that there are some unseen forces at work in my house that make this such a fantabulous toy, my mother saw how much my sister's kids loved the Fisher-Price Starlit Stage and started watching eBay for it as a Christmas present for them two years ago. And sure enough, it is just as popular at her house as it is at mine.
So many of my toys have to do with therapy that it may seem funny that this one seems so frivolous, but that's far from the truth. Playing with friends and family with the Fisher-Price Starlit Stage has helped Beanie to work on her confidence and social skills, while it's helped Buster work on his delayed speech, since everyone has to take a turn at both performing, ticket selling, and being the emcee for the shows. A small plastic stage you won't find in any therapeutic products catalog has done just as much for my kids as all the "regular" therapy equipment has.
And I swear, one of Buster's first spoken words was "In-TRO-DUC-ing...."
This review was written in honor of Autism Awareness Month. Asperger's Disorder is characterized by:
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
1. marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity
- from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) Description
For more information about Asperger's Syndrome, please visit the Asperger's Disorder homepage at http://www.aspergers.com/