So I paged through *all* of the items on Amazon with the word “Buddha” in it looking for Buddhist themed toys. Abhidharma (the calculus of Buddhism) is good and all, but it’s not appropriate for toddlers.
Books, from which they will likely learn English, but not much Buddhism.
Buddha matroshkas, Japanese Daruma (similar to matrokshka) & kekoshi (sometimes called Kannon Kokeshi they are too generic to recognize as Buddhist themed), Buddha plush toys (usually novelty items marketed at adults)
More books, from which hopefully they will pick up the various factoids about Buddhism.
Daruma bento boxes– the Daruma man is sort of like a Buddhist “Hello Kitty” that gets slapped onto a million and one products– bento boxes, rice bowls, etc. (The Daruma man is supposed to be Bodhidharma the founder of Zen)
This is the time when dolls and action figures matter. You’d think there would be play toy suitable buddhas, boddhisatvas, monks and the like but… nope. The vast majority of figurines are Buddha’s suitable for bookshelf display– no articulated limbs and they are sitting cross legged. Not a long of figures in “stick-pose” (standing, arms at side)– not even playmobile style ones that articulate at the waist (but otherwise are pretty stiff and rigid).
I found a few Thai and Burmese puppets– Buddhist monks and the like, but not mass produced– they looked sort of like antiques from a folk art collection.
Toys, but they have to be competitive with mass media toys.
At the moment, Japan seems to have a monopoly on Buddhist pop culture, which portrays esoteric Buddhism– that is the variety we tend to call Tibetan Buddhism, but outside of Tibet, the exact same thing is called esoteric Buddhism. Esoteric Buddhism has gods, myths, magic and personages that act more or less like action movie heros– hence their use in manga and anime. (And the Chinese Shaolin monks- they were Buddhists, too, and Zen Buddhists at that– why didn’t anyone tell me during all those Kung Fu movies?)
Ref- Japanese Esoteric Buddhist figurines, Manga (from the author of Astroboy)
Asura, A low ranking demi-god of Kamadhatu with several arms.
Tamonten, Guardian of the North, 1 of the 4 Guardian Kings, aka Vaisravana
Komokutin, Guardian of the West, 1 of the 4 Guardian Kings, aka Virūpākṣa
Zochoten, Guardian of the South, 1 of the 4 Guardian Kings, aka Virūḍhaka
Jirokten, Guardian of the East, 1 of the 4 Guardian Kings, aka Dhṛtarāṣṭra
TODO: Look up the corresponding Sanskrit names of the following Buddhist personages, who happen to be available in toy-figurine form from Japan.
I think this is where one sets examples and tries to be available when topics of philosophy come up.
Toys of uncertain play value:
Dashboard Buddha – like a bobble head, except its a Buddha on a spring.
Ah My Buddha Figurines – From the semi-hentai anime series about a monk in training who is surrounded by sexy lady priestesses.
Netsuke, traditional & not so. These are mostly seated buddhas that are like large figurines, but equally inarticulate at the joints.
Masks. Some venders are selling this big, adult sized masks that are fairly faithful repros of Buddhist statues.
Buddhist charms. Tiny figurines & the like, mostly Thai, for wearing on a necklace.
A rubber duck in the shape of a Buddha, Homer Simpson in the shape of a Buddha, etc. Same problem as all the other sitting Buddha statues, they don’t articulate.