Retro gifts are seeing a resurgence this year, thanks to the confluence of a few trends that are bringing new retail life to old standbys such as Lincoln Logs (pictured above) and Spirograph.
Parents and grandparents who are seeking a bit of retro "wow" under the tree are seeking out old fashioned toys that pre-date apps, iPhones, iPads and other electronic devices. To help fill that desire for old-fashioned play, some toy makers are bringing back old toys, as well as creating new versions with fresh twists.
"There's such a huge proliferation of electronic toys and apps, and so many parents are looking back at their own childhood and saying, 'I used to love to play with Simon or Lite-Brite,'" Mark Carson, the co-founder of Fat Brain Toys, told CBS MoneyWatch. "Some of that is being a little nostalgic. When they see a real authentic retro product they can identify with, that's a real easy hook for them to get comfortable with."
Some favorites of today's parents include Lite-Brite, a toy created by Hasbro in 1967 that provided children with a light box and colored plastic pegs, which could be used to create glowing designs. In recent years, the toy has been redesigned to use LED lights instead of a potentially hot incandescent bulb.
Movies have also turned to old school toys for inspiration, which is helping the resurgence of retro toys. Take "The Lego Movie," which celebrated the joy of creative play with the classic building blocks, or "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," a freshening up of the of the 1980s series.
The Lite-Brite is a toy many parents and grandparents likely remember, given its popularity back in the 1960s and 1970s. The light-box toy has been redesigned to incorporate LED lights, as well as different shaped pegs, which add to the challenge of designing a pattern.
"I remember playing with Lite-Brite for hours on end, but there were some drawbacks," said Fat Brain's Carson. "It had a real light and it would heat up, and there are some dangers in that. It's been redesigned with LED lights, so it's safe and energy efficient."
New materials, old idea
Some "retro" toys are simply new twists on old standbys. Take Joinks, which is a construction toy similar to Tinkertoys. But instead of using static connectors, Joinks use silicone connectors, which allow for flexible building structures.
New name, old toy
Sometimes old games are given a fresh new look and name. That's what happened with Steppers, which were known in the 1970s by the name "Romper Stompers." Basically, they're plastic buckets with ropes for handles, allowing kids to stomp around on mini-stilts. The new version has improved anti-slip top textures.
Some retro games go way back. Take Tiddlywinks, a game that was all the rage in Victorian parlors of the 1890s. More than 120 years later, the game is still going strong. The competitive game involves players using "squidgers" to launch their "winks" through the air, with the goal of scoring points or covering up another player's wink.
Tonka toys continue to be popular with parents, who look to the steel-crafted vehicles for sturdy fun. The toy company stems back to the 1950s, and their durability and iconic nature means some collectors snap up originals. The Tonka Retro Classic Steel Quarry Dump Truck is guaranteed for life.