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Toys: Then and Now


Merry Christmas!

What better topic for the little kid in all of us on Christmas Day than Toys!


Now that my wife and I have been grandparents for more than two years, it has been really enjoyable seeing all of the toys that are available now. And I must say my wife has done an outstanding job of bringing home lots of toys for the grandkids to play with whenever they come over. For me, having toys in our house again has motivated a nostalgic look back to the ones our kids had 30 years ago. Upon comparison, some of the toys are very similar to the ones we were buying for our kids then but others are quite different.

One aspect, which I am sure, is literally music to the ears of battery company executives is that so many toys now are electrified for lights and sounds using small disposable and thus replaceable batteries.


For example, 30 years ago many riding toys were pretty basic. Your child climbed on and either the child propelled himself by his own legs or was pushed by mom or dad. Not much else.


Now they come with realistic sounds, horns or engine noises and with some farm riding toys, even farm animal sounds as well.


Or it might be a traveling musical band decked out with keyboard and songs for the child to sing along.


Activity centers that can be activated by any number of nobs, keys or doors to emit a cacophony of different sounds have now replaced older ones, which often just had a bell that could be clanged by hand.


A word of caution, some of these activity centers need to be switched off after the child goes to bed as we have heard them start to make noises unattended on their own. Nothing like hearing “hello” or “goodbye” or “let’s play a game” suddenly in the middle of the night.


In addition to all the sounds that toys now make, many also have lights. Some are so bright as to even light up a child’s face.


And even a toy as simple as a door now has an incredible number of options for lights and sounds that I don’t think we have even discovered them all.   It’s almost like our smart phones, which those of us of the “older generation” rarely know how to use even 20% of their features.


And speaking of smart phones, there are toy versions that come with touch-activated “apps” for providing even more entertainment. Cell phones didn’t even exist when our kids were little.

There is no question that the addition of all the electrified features can keep a child’s attention focused on the toy even longer than before. But some of the toys we have wanted to get for our grandchildren were just some of the same basic toys that we witnessed our kids playing with growing up.


For example, here is our son demonstrating safe use of a simple slide on Christmas morning…


… and here is his own daughter almost 30 years later demonstrating an alternative, less safe approach. On your bottom, please.


One toy our boys delighted in playing with for hours was this little Fisher-Price garage. We thought this would be a wonderful toy for our grandson who also loves cars. But the modern version was nothing compared to the original and although finding a vintage one in good condition online is a possibility, shipping costs alone can often double or triple the cost of the garage.

But it is good to see that something as simple as a table and chairs…


…have stayed pretty much the same.


So what will future toys for our grandkids be like?


It’s probably too early to be buying dollhouse kits for our granddaughters but I can see there is definitely some interest there.


And I’m sure Legos and racetracks are toys in our grandkids future. But will the racecars be self-autonomous by then?


So what new toys did you discover on Christmas morning? Was it something new with lots of bells and whistles? Or was it a vintage toy that maybe you played with yourself growing up? Whatever it was, Christmas is a great time to discover new toys whether you are a child, or a parent or a grandparent. Enjoy your day with lots of play!

3 thoughts on “Toys: Then and Now Leave a comment

  1. How sweet! I loved seeing all these pictures and thinking about the things we used to play with. I hope sometime in the future, I can get Micah interested in playing airplane or road trip by lining up chairs in a row. We used to play that for hours! Also, yes, haha, there is nothing more terrible than hearing a loud toy after you have put a baby to bed!

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