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The Easter Bunny comes bearing toys these days


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    Simone Tatro, a Target store manager, has noticed more parents buying things like bikes and expensive Lego sets to give as Easter gifts.

    - David Weinberg

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    Target store manager Simone Tatro in Los Angeles.

    - David Weinberg

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    Chocolate bunnies await Easter shoppers.

    - David Weinberg

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    Peeps!

    - David Weinberg

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    Chicks! A traditional Easter basket filler.

    - David Weinberg

This Sunday, millions of kids will dig through thick knots of unnaturally green fake grass. They are hunting for plastic eggs and Peeps and small toys. I'm talking, of course, about the Easter basket.

Outside of a chocolate bunny or maybe package of marshmallow chicks, Easter hasn't traditionally been a big gift giving holiday. But there are companies out there that would love to see you stock that Easter basket with something other than candy and colored eggs.

Sean McGowan grew up in a world where you were lucky to get jelly beans and a chocolate rabbit in your basket. Maybe that's why he grew up to be a toy industry analyst. McGowan says that nowadays it's common to give toys at Easter. "It just sort of slowly evolved and began to gain momentum at the prompting of the toy companies."

McGowan says that most of the toys that end up in Easter baskets are inexpensive -- the spring equivalent of a stocking stuffer. "Small windup toys perhaps or miniature dolls, something $20 or less or even $10 or less."

I took a trip to Target in downtown Los Angeles, where I met store manager Simone Tatro. She says this year's hot seller is a stuffed animal called Baby with a Baby. "And of course with spring being the rebirth of everything, it's a really cute plush toy," Tatro said, holding up a bunny with a smaller bunny stuffed into a small kangaroo-like pouch.

Parents aren't buying just low-priced toys. Tatro was surprised at how many big ticket items are being given as Easter gifts this year. "What we have seen is movement of bicycles for some reason. Also sometimes they will just buy regular toys that have nothing to do with Easter and wrap it up. Kind of like a second Christmas almost. It's one of our big toy holidays, probably our second biggest of the year," she said.

Outside of the Target, I quizzed some people on the street about what kind of gifts they would be giving this Easter. Most people looked at me like I was crazy. Including Sarah Kim, who seemed puzzled at the idea of giving an Easter gift. "Easter gifts? The gift of Jesus Christ? I don't know what other gift I would give."

Kim thinks gifts are superfluous. "I think Easter should be about the true reason, not superficiality." I asked her if she received Easter gifts as a kid and she said she couldn't remember ever getting any. She laughed and added, "Maybe that's why I'm bitter."

I talked to Holly, a mother pushing her son Mark in a stroller. Mark told me he was expecting a Ghostbusters Ghostmobile for Easter.

Holly has made it a tradition to put a few toys in Mark's Easter basket. She says this year he will be getting Legos.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.
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Growing up in the northeast, I knew kids who got bikes for Christmas and couldn't do anything but look at them for 3 months until the snows receded; so holding off on the bike until spring makes sense to me.
Also considering the amount of sugar kids consume, swapping out a bunch of candy for small toys (especially ones that kids can use outside) sounds like a win for their health.

It may never be like Xmas, but Easter-themed toys certainly have potential. Consider an action-figure Jesus, an animated one, affixed limply to a cross. Unwrap, insert batteries, and set it up. Wait a while in anticipation until he wakes up, jumps off, and delivers the Sermon on the Mount. The Evangelical market alone must be huge!

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