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Countering TV toyland bonanza is group's aim

A group of institutions here is broadcasting the message that the holiday season need not be a commercial extravaganza for families. Television station WNEV, in cooperation with the Boston Children's Museum and Action for Children's Television (ACT), is airing a series of public-service announcements that encourage parents and children to make toys and work on projects together.

Peggy Charran, ACT's president, says ''one of the biggest hassles'' that parents face during the holiday season ''is the cost of the toys children are being programmed to want'' through television commercials. Many of these toys are very expensive, she says.

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The ACT announcements counter commercials by promoting ''building happiness at home,'' as well as homemade toys.

The five spots show five families from different ethnic groups and different backgrounds. In these, the fathers actively participate, Ms. Charran says. These are not just ''white, male-oriented'' messages. ''You don't often get such a picture on TV,'' she says.

Some recommended toy projects include printing using stamps made from erasers or potatoes, making a doll house out of cardboard boxes, and baking cookies to eat or to hang on a Christmas tree. The museum has been receiving a stream of 10 to 20 requests for instructions every day.

Ms. Charran says television stations in Utah, Maine, and South Carolina have expressed interest in running the announcements.

The messages will be televised through Dec. 22.

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