A Nancy doll, one of Spain's most beloved toys, is seen wearing a protective face mask at the headquarters of Spanish toy maker Famosa, in Madrid, Spain, November 30, 2020. Picture taken November 30, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

“Toys with a (Covid) twist for Christmas”? Cool or grotesque?

Like it or not toymakers have ‘leapt onto the pandemic bandwagon’ to produce what Reuters news agency has described as ‘toys with a twist’ for Christmas this year: a Covid twist.

“Nancy dolls wearing protective masks”; dolls that come with a virus tester and mask and soap-making kits are reportedly being purchased by Portuguese and Spanish parents with enthusiasm.

Said one: “It’s a way of adapting to reality. Dolls also have to represent society…”

Another suggested “putting a mask on their dolls helps kids realise they need to wear one themselves…” (Only to be fair the smallest children in Portugal have been spared this measure and arguably should grow up without the need to wear a mask).

For every parent presented as delighted by these new Christmas choices in the toy stores, there will be those who find the prospect quite grotesque.

But Portugal’s Science4You tells Reuters that sales of its ‘toys related to the virus’ are ‘booming, especially online as people steer clear of large shopping malls “due to fear of contagion”.

One of Science4You’s ‘top hits’, says Reuters, is a kit of 15 activities that include mask making, face shields and star-shaped soap.

Said CEO Miguel Pina Martins: “If we make it fun, children will learn much more about the virus and how to keep away from it”.

“The innovations are also a way for toy makers to adapt to the economic impact of the pandemic”, says the news agency.

“The toy market is going through a difficult time…there are no birthday parties since March,” Pina explained. “We tried to find a way to surf this giant tsunami.”

And the formula seems to have paid off. Science4You has sold more than 8,000 anti-virus lab kits since mid-July.

Reuters ends its report saying “though studies have shown that children are less likely than adults to get severe cases of COVID-19 infection, they can still carry the virus”. That said, vaccination programmes, both here and elsewhere are not including children (very possibly because there is no need).