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classic toy gift ideas

Rediscover Some Awesome Classic Toys

By Kelcey Kintner

One day, I just reached my limit on all these iPads, iTouches and iPods. Really anything that started with an “i.”  Other than ice cream because that is obviously delicious.

I felt like every time I turned around, some kid was on another device and it was making me crazy. To make matters worse, despite our best efforts to use parental controls, we felt like we could never keep up. We’d take parental controls off of the YouTube app on our iPad, only to put it back on so that the kids could watch those “cups” song videos and then we wouldn’t remember to take it off again. Or, somehow my oldest daughter figured out how to buy songs on iTunes. Or, I’d let one of my daughters play a game where she could make a tie-dye shirt on the iTouch and 3 minutes later, she’s downloading photos of “One Direction.” Harry, of course.

So I finally threw all our devices into a drawer and pulled out a radio and CD player. You want hear music? Do it the old school way. And that night, my girls were actually dancing to songs on the radio. It was pretty refreshing.

In fact, there are tons of classic or “old school” toys that don’t require a password and you don’t have to worry about your kids stumbling across inappropriate videos. Here are some of my personal favorites.

Board Games:

There is a reason many board games have been around for a long time. They are actually fun. So pull out Bingo, Connect Four, Monopoly, Operation or Twister. And if you play Connect Four, you must say, “Pretty sneaky, sis!” (Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers that commercial.)

I draw the line at Trivial Pursuit because that game did not play to my strengths. How the heck should I know what film resurrected Frank Sinatra’s career? Or who Richard Nixon gave his resignation to? But I have a very steady hand when it comes to Operation. Back in the day, they used to call me, “Ole Steady Hands.” Okay, they never called me that.

Mad Libs:

I love Mad Libs because they are hilarious and your kids actually practice their grammar without even realizing it.  What’s not fun about creating a sentences like this? “One day, little PURPLE riding hood was going through the forest carrying a basket of MONKEYS for her grandmother. Suddenly, she met a big SLEEPY  wolf.”

Walkie Talkies:

You’d think with all the technology around us, walkie talkies wouldn’t be fun. But kids think they are awesome. And they are obviously a necessity for any legit super spy mission.

Mr. Potato Head:

I am shocked by the long lasting appeal of Mr. (and Mrs.) Potato Head and it’s obviously not for their looks. I recently took Mr. Potato Head out of storage for my 3 year old twins and my 9-year-old plopped right down and started doing it too. I guess there is just something cool about a potato that’s not embarrassed to carry a purse and wear a visor.


Card games are not just for grandmothers in Boca Raton! There are fun card games like Crazy Eights, Go Fish, Uno, Old Maid just to name a few. Looking for more card games, you can find it all in a book like this one: 101 Best Family Card Games.

Hula Hoops:

My girls can hula hoop for hours. Apparently, it’s all in the hips. I guess my hips are tired because I still can’t master that hoop. But it’s a simple toy that tires kids out and keeps them happy.


Lite Brites are just retro, bright and cool. Your children make designs, pictures or whatever they want. Of course, if your kid spills those plastic pegs on the floor, you’ll be down on your knees trying to collect them all and cursing me. But until then, it will be a blast!

Magic 8 Ball:

I don’t know why anybody spends money on high priced psychics when there is the Magic 8 Ball. Questions about romance, friends, work, travel or school? The Magic 8 Ball is all over it. We all want to know the future and you can find it out for less than 10 bucks.

Wooly Willy:

Do you remember this guy? Get your kids to put down the iPad and pick up Wooly Willy. They can draw funny faces and then start all over again.

Rubik’s Cube:

Personally, I’d rather get an eyebrow wax everyday of my life than subject myself to this maddening toy from the 80s. But apparently for kids, there is something fun and addictive about the Rubik’s Cube. No batteries required. Just the patience of a saint.

Shrinky Dinks:

There is just something awesome about coloring these plastic things and then watching them shrink. Shrinky Dinks are just magical. Since you have to help your kids with the oven part, it’s an easy way to spend time together. Plus who doesn’t love a pair of Shrinky Dink earrings?

And there are so many more retro toys out there like trains, Lincoln Logs, Legos, tea sets, Colorforms and cat’s cradle. My point is – you don’t always need an app to have a good time.

Have a favorite old school toy that I didn’t mention? Share please!


Kelcey Kintner
About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog 

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog The Mama Bird Diaries and writes for the Huffington Post. You can follow her @mamabirddiaries or on Facebook. She’s still trying to fit 5 kids on a Vespa. 

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My kids are now into Don’t Spill the Beans and Don’t Break the Ice. Great fun!


[…] Looking for some awesome old school gifts this holiday season? I reviewed some of my favorites on Alpha Mom. […]


Perfection is a favorite! My 13 and 15 year olds will play it when I take it out. Also Rummy Cube is a great one, and it sort of gets you ready to be a future Mah Jongg player!


Uno. Lots and lots of Uno.


Great list! Except that I would say that the new Lite Brite is cheap crap, poorly manufactured. We got one as a gift and junked it.


My grandson is four years old. At my house we build things with Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. He’s learning the same old card games I played 60+ years ago, with a regular deck of cards. I got “Chutes and Ladders” for him, but he’s still not very good at understanding that one. In good weather we play basketball on the patio and soccer on the lawn. I bought a Bocce Ball set, but we end up playing CalvinBall with it (the kid likes to toss aside anyone’s ball that’s closer than his to the target). Side note: I Hula… Read more »

Leigh Ann

My kids freaking love puzzles. I love doing puzzles with them…with one of them at a time. All 4 of us huddled over a tiny Dora puzzle, not so much.


How about the bubble that pops while your toddler walks with it? This is my all time classic toy however they are not easy to find these days (does that mean I’m old?!?)