My daughter turned nine last month. Unlike other years, when I've
been scrambling around trying to get stuff together for her birthday at the
last minute, I was organized this year. This year, I prided myself for starting
the party preparations and shopping for her presents a month early.
As I strolled through toy aisles trying to figure out what to get
for my girl who is not quite a tween but somehow doesn't quite seem like a
child anymore either, I was less than enthusiastic about getting her popular
"Frozen" branded merchandise, an American girl look-alike or yet
another box of make-your-own crafts. For me, they just felt too pop culture and
"jump on the bandwagon"-ish.
When I turned around to walk down another Target toy aisle, what
caught the corner of my eye made me giddy. An end cap filled with retro toys from
the 70s and 80s! Toys that I had as a kid – in their original packaging! What a
blast from the past. Score!
There was Etch A Sketch, View Masters with a variety of reels,
Spirographs, Rubix cubes and Mr. Potato Heads, and lots of Fisher Price toys
for pre-school kids. I thought my girl would go for the Etch A Sketch and View
Master (I chose the one that included awesome photos of the solar system and decided
to make that the gift from her little brother). I was thrilled to find these
gems, and I hoped that my daughter would get as much joy and lasting value from
these toys as I did years ago.
I turned out to be right. Not only does Summer love them, the adults
in her life and her 18-month-old brother are getting a kick out of them too.
When Summer tore off the wrapping at her birthday party, we got plenty of
"oohs" and "how cools." Everyone took turns holding the View Master up to their
eyes, while being sure to look toward the window so they could see the images
in the best light.
Etch A Sketch was equally popular – even those of us who hadn't used
it in years remembered instinctively how the knobs worked, and knew that
shaking the tablet erased your original image and gave you another try to
create a linear masterpiece.
The retro toys gave my husband and me a glimpse back into our
childhood (he grew up in Malawi, Africa and I'm from Calgary, Canada). And
imagine this – my mom said the view master was one of her favorite toys growing
up in Karachi, Pakistan. Talk about a toy that withstands the test of time and
knows no cultural boundaries!
As a parent, I'm always looking for ways to connect with my kids.
The retro toys provide a way to do that -- and they remind us that toys that
inspired imagination in kids growing up halfway around the world decades ago can
stir exactly the same reaction in our American-born kids today.