Squeeze his purple sneaker and he sings, "Happy, happy, happy, God is in my heart ...." The plush, 12-inch high "Pray with me Mantis" is one of the latest in a rapidly growing religious toy market. Mantis sings and prays when pushed on the heart or on each of his four sneakers. The creator wants her toy to give children hope during bleak times.
Can religious toys instill morals or share God's love? Shirlee Fenwick, a professor in child development at Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill., isn't sure. "Religious toys can help reinforce the message from parents, but they won't give the message," she said. For older children such religious toys might influence children to connect the church with commercialism rather than see religion as "something separate and special," Fenwick said. "I prefer to see parents and children take walks together or play ball."
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