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At what age do I cover my son in Mario?

My son is too young to know if he likes Bumkins Mario-themed accessories but that’s fine

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Bumkin’s Mario-themed toddler snack pouches contain popcorn and a snack bar. Image: Bumkins
Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 and is now editor-in-chief. He co-hosts The Besties, is a board member of the Frida Cinema, and created NYU’s first games journalism course.

I have a two-year-old son who has begun to gradually mirror my words and actions. This is an important developmental milestone where my wife and I work with him to acquire vocabulary, express his emotions in productive ways, and make poo-poo pee-pee on the toilet. This is also the time period during which we can begin to force our outdated interests in fashion, music, sports team allegiances, and popular culture on our human creation.

Until now I’ve spared my son the world of video games because, I mean, have you seen the world of video games? It can be a bit much. But a couple of weeks ago, I received a package from Bumkins containing an assortment of baby and toddler gear. Now normally I’d burn “gamer gear” in effigy to the lords of uncarbonated Mountain Dew and Dorito dust, but it’s been a hard year, and I thought, Hey, if this might keep hummus off my kid, why not give it a try?

After a few weeks of testing, I can confirm the Mario bib kept the hummus off my son.

For the non-parents in the audience, Bumkins makes baby and toddler accessories sold at a small premium because they’re often covered in family-friendly properties from DC Comics, Nintendo, Disney, and Sanrio. The designs are, compared to most toddler clothes, subtle and pleasant, which is to say, made to appeal to parents.

A Bumkins stroller bag featuring Mario iconography. Image: Bumkins

In fact, my favorite piece of the collection isn’t being used by my child: it’s a trio of see-through travel bags with a print overcrowded with Mario and peripheral characters. I’ve amassed tons of junk by never leaving my desk for the past nine months, so I decided, why not use these bundles like I would pencil-cases in elementary school? Bowser, Toad, Peach, and some Goombas are currently rotating watch over an assortment of dry-erase markers I pretend I’ll eventually use on my untouched dry-erase board.

But this isn’t about me. This is about my son and his penchant for chickpeas and tahini. The synthetic fabric of all the Bumkins products is thin, sort of like a rain jacket. Foodstuff sticks to it enough that the goop doesn’t roll off onto the floor, but it still comes off easily when run under a faucet. The bibs and mats can be machine washed, and so far, they’ve all kept their color. They should last the babyhood of one child. I cannot speak to their durability in a home with more than one human kid, though I can confirm they will sustain the occasional interest of a small dog just fine.

They don’t have an odor, they fit neatly in my backpack (by neatly, I mean I can scrunch it up into a tiny wad), and I don’t see other humans these days, so I’m not easily embarrassed by covering my child in my fandom. All of which is to say, I like it.

Does this mean I will continue to cover my child in video game products? No. I will spare my child until he’s older, at which point my stories of Sonic vs. Mario will sound quaint. Till then, I’ll be just fine dressing him in countless Mickey Mouse shirts, the iconography of a fandom and company that nobody has problems with.

I kid. We have fun here.

Hey, one last thing: Bumkins also sells a $14.98 Game Boy silicone teething ring on Amazon and it is both adorable and also feels like the culmination of millennial gamer parent culture. I know, this isn’t a good conclusion. The inverted pyramid has been thrown out the window. But if I didn’t mention this detail, I would have never forgiven myself.


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