I would like to thank the fast-food restaurants for taking one giant leap forward in commercializing the holiday season.

Fast-food restaurants have traditionally been a safe haven for families with young children. We go there seeking a place where our children can be comfortably noisy, and they actually eat the food. After a weary day of shopping for Hanukkah or Christmas gifts, Roy Rogers looks just great.

But this December I dread the mention of a quick hamburger. The latest trend among the gulp-and-go set is the sale of "special" items for the kids to covet: stuffed reindeer, teddy bears, little puppies or kittens. There they are, right next to the picture of the chicken nuggets; as tantalizing as the candy bars in the checkout line at the supermarket. And of course, the stuffed animals are only $2.49, which doesn't seem like much unless you have just spent a small fortune on gifts and holiday food, and probably even a stuffed animal or two.

In years past, you could make the kids infinitely happy by spending a few cents extra on the "kid's meal." The food comes in a special box and even has a prize. But now the kids' meals play second-fiddle to the fancy extras, promoted so heavily on children's television. Why should the kids be happy with the little plastic Frisbees in the kids' meals when there are teddy bears dancing before their eyes at the cashier?

It is really not the cost of these extras that is bothering me, but the fact that the restaurants are pushing just one more toy to kids already bombarded with advertisements of things they should want. And the promotion is aimed at the kids just when they are most vulnerable -- when they are hungry and tired.

Sure it's a parent's responsibility to say no and explain that the house is already overflowing with stuffed animals. But I resent these restaurants' adding to the burdens of the season, rather than making it a fun place to stop off for a family treat.