My son, Zorro, just turned 3 two weeks ago, which was a bittersweet celebration due to the pandemic. In order to make up for the lack of a party and friends to play with my son was showered with gifts. I had been saving a large collection of “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” dinosaurs for him in my closet. Zorro loves dinosaurs a lot, it would be fair to say that “Jurassic Park” is one of his favorite movies and boy does he love roaring. He watches the movie all the way through except for the dilophosaurus/Dennis Nedry scene that has to be fast forwarded. We treated his birthday as sort of an early Christmas morning and had all the gifts waiting for him in the living room as he hurried in excited (he woke up extra early that day) to find a fat stack of dinosaurs including the “big t-rex” he had been coveting for over a year. He was overwhelmed and very happy, bringing me everything that needed to be opened, which was everything/immediately. Finally they caught his eye, 4 bean shaped plushies near a Mosasaurus.
“Cats Vs Pickles!! Welcome to the world of Cats vs Pickles…” He then proceeded to launch into the extremely catchy jingle from the commercial:
That song and commercial was so stimulating it was able to break his dinosaur euphoria. He recognized the cute plush toys immediately and they took his attention away from the herd of prehistoric creatures surrounding him. Eventually the cats ended up in the jaws of an Indominus Rex but still they briefly held their own against some tough competition. Which brings me to my review of some enchanting plush collectibles known as “Cats Vs Pickles”.
As a parent I’m trying to be cognizant of gender neutrality and while a lot of my toy purchases haven’t skewed in that direction, I knew “Cats Vs Pickles” was something different. After my son had expressed interest after watching the commercial a few dozen times on YouTube I reached out to the Chief Marketing Officer of “Cats Vs Pickles” Laura Frerichs to ask for samples in order to write about something that wasn’t seen as a toy for boys. In fact the commercial features only girls so I assumed that this was a “girls’ product”. Frerichs illuminated me, “The commercial has only girls but our brand is gender neutral. We show lots of boys in our social media. We really welcome everyone…” I was happy to learn this and glad to expose my son to it.
Amongst his many monsters and superheroes, he has a few “Frozen” figures and an Elsa barbie doll with light-up freezing action. I’ve also made an effort to give him female heroes like Wonder Woman, Rey, Catwoman, and Carrie Kelly Robin. When he was much younger I used to make him laugh interminably it seemed as Miss Piggy from “Muppet Babies” which came in a set. I found it comforting that most of the pre-school figure sets like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”, “Muppet Babies”, “Sesame Street”, and a few others, always included male and female characters. Obviously these aren’t necessarily gender neutral more like gender inclusive but it helped to vary his imagination.
It can’t be helped that when he does receive a gender neutral plushie or stuffy that he will assign it one. I actually go out of my way to point out to him that all of the dinosaurs from “Jurassic Park”, including his favorite Super Colossal T-Rex, are female. But so far with the “Cats Vs Pickles” he just enjoys them as they are and doesn’t even think to name them, just enjoys their cuteness. Target stores had recently made a promise for gender neutrality in their toy aisles but I’ve yet to see any evidence of that, I still see pink aisles and blue aisles. My son doesn’t see the difference and enjoys playing in either.
Back to the review, there’s not much I can say other than that these are adorable plushies that have limitless play value. They make a great gift that’s not tailored to a specific audience and that makes me feel like I’m not pushing my son to any specific pre-determined way to enjoy his time with his toys.
The plushies I was sent: Skelecat, Zombie Cat, Roboticat, and Joe Pickle are squishy, hacky sacks of pure happiness. I’m glad my son gravitated toward these and hope I can continue to support his interest in them or any other gender neutral or non-traditional toys he may enjoy. Sure he mostly likes fighting and roaring but sometimes the dinosaurs like to stop and enjoy the company of a plushie while they have a conversation about feelings or manners or working out some problem that he’s having. I’ll leave you with this final quote from Laura Frerichs, “Inspired by the internet trend of cats jumping when surprised by a pickle, Cats vs. Pickles is a story about accepting what we don’t understand. Pickles want to be friends with cats, but cats are afraid of pickles. Through our creative product and content, we demonstrate it’s silly to be scared of something you don’t understand…This super-soft, bright plushie delivers a sense of joy during these uncertain times.”
(Disclaimer: Theses toys were provided by “Cats Vs Pickles” parent company Cepia, LLC for the purposes of this review. They can be purchased on Amazon or Walmart.)