Kids Choose Toys Over Trees?

There’s been quite a bit of outrage over the Toys‘R’Us “Meet the Trees” ad campaign. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll give you a brief synopsis: kids think they’re going on a boring tree-related field trip, but instead get to go to Toys‘R’Us to pick out a free toy. Cue great wonderment and enthusiasm from the kids; girls get dolls, boys get toy guns.

Of course, as a member of an organization that believes that trees also can get kids excited, initially I was appalled. How could this company ridicule our efforts? How could a toy store’s marketing department come up with a campaign that seems to boil down to “kids hate trees and nature, and only love toys?”

There has been a fair amount of outrage from a variety of sources in response to this tone-deaf ad—here, as well as here, and here, and also here. So I don’t think we need to go any further in walloping Toys‘R’Us over the head with a toy mallet for their misstep. What I do want to say is that we know differently. We know differently because every single day we see proof that kids love nature. Moreover, they love knowing that they can do something to make their neighborhoods better places to live. That’s what we here at TreePeople come together to do with our thousands of volunteers and members. Rather than give kids dolls and toy guns, we give them hope.

Since the good folks at Toys‘R’Us are unfamiliar with the positive reactions of kids to nature, I’d like to invite their execs to experience what we see. Come on out to our Eco-tours and see what really happens when kids get to experience nature and understand how everyone plays a vital role in ensuring that our cities are healthy and fun to live in. Come out to one of our many tree planting events where people of all ages actually make Los Angeles a better place to live—matter of fact, we could use some help, bring your families, too.

I think I understand why Toys‘R’Us feels like it needs to make fun of our efforts. It’s jealous of our product line. We don’t sell dolls, or toy guns, or other plastic trinkets. We traffic in hope. Hope can’t be sold, but it can be shared between neighbors who want a little more shade, between parents and teachers who want to grow fruit trees at an elementary school, between a group of friends who want to replant a forest that’s been burned in a fire, or between all of us when we realize that we have the power to make our lives better, not by buying things, but by getting our hands dirty and making our hopes our reality.

By Torin Dunnavant

Torin is TreePeople’s Director of Engagement and Partnerships. He serves on the board of the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council. Originally from Sacramento, he enjoys exploring L.A.’s many neighborhoods and natural treasures, and roots for the Oakland A’s.