Classics particularly stand out with board games. Clue, Operation, Connect Four, Life, and Monopoly have long shelf lives and can be enjoyed by the whole family. For girls, baby dolls and Barbies rank high, and for boys, anything with wheels is a good bet.
Experts, as well as parents, agree basic is best. Roseann Fox, mom of two in Holland, Pennsylvania, says her favorite toys were her dolls and Barbies. "They didn't talk or do anything, but my friends and I played for hours," she says. Her children love imaginative play like house, school, and restaurant and are continually thinking up new ideas for these games.
"Today's toys do way too much," Fox says. "Everything takes batteries and talks, sings, or lights up, and kids get bored with them too fast." When Fox buys a gift, she looks for something that will keep kids occupied independently and will promote imaginative play.
Tim Walsh, author of The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys, says today's toys don't allow for flexibility and that many high-tech toys have already established the play pattern with a pre-determined ending. You turn on a robotic dog, he barks, and that's it, while Legos, for example, can become anything the child dreams.
Walsh, who also invents games, says classic toys are better than new fad playthings because they already come with memories attached. "Recalling their own youth, parents often buy for their children a toy, game, or doll that they loved growing up," says Walsh. "This, of course, continues through generations as the plaything continues to endure."
If you share the classics you enjoyed as a kid, playing together will give you and your child something special to do together and you'll be creating family memories while having fun. Just don't get frustrated if your child steals your Park Avenue property, sends you to jail, creates a better Lego tower, or sinks your Battleship. Remember, it's all about the fun!
In his book, The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys, Walsh has dug up some fascinating details on nostalgic toys:
- Play-Doh began its life as commercial wallpaper cleaner.
- The original Mr. Potato Head set required a real potato spud.
- PEZ candy was originally modeled to look like a cigarette lighter because it was a mint for smokers.
- Frank Lloyd Wright's son, John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs.