Classic toys for boys and girls are always thoughtful gifts anytime of year, especially on birthdays and Christmas. Classic toys are aptly named because they’ve stood the test of time, which means they are engaging, fun and well-designed. Nowadays, it seems like toys just come and go like fads, but it’s rare that a toy sticks around for decades.
We’ve put together this guide to help you find the perfect classic toy gift for any child. Happy toy hunting!
Walking down the toy aisle of any retail super store can be daunting when you look at the overwhelming selection of toys on the market. It’s nice to have the latest and greatest in gadgets and educational toys but there’s something to be said about the classics. Take a trip down memory lane and think of that one special toy that brings back fond memories. We all have one. You may have even have some still stashed away in the attic.
What Makes Classic Toys So Great?
Let’s face it, there are so many toys and devices that have cool features and attractive lights and sounds these days. It seems with the amount of options on the market on top of endless game apps that the classics we remember growing up with would have faded out. You’d be surprised, however, how popular some of those favored toys still are today.
There’s good reason to introduce some of your favorites you had growing up with your kids and not just for the nostalgia. Studies have shown that specific toys can have an impact on children and their development. In fact, the basic toys that require more involvement on the child’s part scored the highest among toys overall for building up key areas in development such as problem solving, creativity, and social interaction.
The truth is, even with modern advancements in learning and educational toys there are some things you simply can’t learn from looking at a screen. Digital toys have offered a substantial benefit in engaging children’s interest and have much to offer. That being said, they still have their limitations when it comes to the classics. Many of the traditional toys still available today remain popular because they offer benefits to your child’s development in a unique way.
When looking at basic toys versus the digital toys and devices you see kids so often playing with, it stems deeper than just providing something engaging for your child. Children that spend more time on electronics and digital toys have less involvement than the traditional toys that engage on a bigger level.
You may not think a toy that does little to nothing on its own has much impact on a young learner but you would be mistaken. Children learn better by doing and traditional toys are superior in building language skills. Important social skills like taking turns and communication as well as emotional skills are better developed through the interaction offered by these toys that were designed during a simpler time. More teachers and parents actually recommend these traditional toys over the modern ones.
Safety Concerns with Classic Toys: How They’ve Changed Through the Years
You may have noticed that some of the traditional toys you once owned have had some changes made over the years. Most of the changes we see are in the composition and designs which were done out of safety concerns. Toys for babies and children routinely undergo testing for potential risks and safety concerns. Many of these classic toys were made with materials that contained dangerous levels of chemicals that are toxic and harmful to your health.
Substances including lead, arsenic, and mercury among other hazardous chemicals were commonly used in traditional toys that were made during the 70s and 80s or earlier. Surprisingly, they’re still found in some toys manufactured from other countries today. Since the days of these early creations, many of the chemicals that were popularly used have been discovered to be linked to serious health conditions including developmental delays and even cancer along with other serious disorders. Consequently, alternative materials are used in place of these and continually undergo testing to ensure safety.
As you go down the list of these popular toys you’ll probably recognize many of them you played with and possibly still have stored in a box somewhere that you held onto for your children. It may be tempting to pass down your childhood favorites, however, it is recommended that you hold onto these as keepsakes only or better yet, just toss them out. Among some of the early toy designs, the ones that were tested and found to have some of the worst levels of toxic chemicals were those composed of vinyl and plastic such as: vintage Barbie dolls, Little People figures, and My Little Pony figures.
If you’re thinking ‘I played with them and I’m fine’ consider the invisible dangers of these toys. Over time, many of these vintage toys degrade, even though you may not see any physical damage. As the materials slowly break down they release these toxic chemicals that can have detrimental effects on young developing brains.
Thanks to the Consumer Products Safety Modernization Act, toys along with may other types of products must meet certain requirements and restrictions on potentially harmful materials when they’re brought to the market. To minimize the possibility of serious health risks, opt for your favorite classic toys that have been tested and meet current safety standards. Avoid purchasing toys from second-hand stores, thrift shops or garage sales where they may have been manufactured before safety testing went into place.
Modern Classic Toy Truck | Bruder Mack Granite Dump Truck
Best Infant and Toddler Classic Toys
The classic toys you likely played with when you were a baby are still a big hit today with basic concepts that still play a vital role in development. Lights and sounds can capture your baby’s attention briefly, but they can also be overstimulating. Traditional classic toys are just as pleasing to infants and toddlers who learn better through touch and exploring different functions rather than simply pressing buttons.
Fisher-Price, in particular, has been well-known for generations for their time-honored classic toys beloved by infants and toddlers. The company was founded by Herman Fisher, Irving Price and his wife Margaret Evans Price, and Helen Schelle in 1930 with a vision to design toys that inspired imagination and were fun. Many of their toys and brands maintained their popularity through the years leaving their original designs nearly unchanged.
- A new look for this classic, baby-favourite push toy!
- Exciting ball-popping sounds & action
- Walking & pushing the popper along help strengthen gross motor skills
- Baby’s actions make things happen – a great introduction to cause & effect!
- Bright colours & popping sounds help stimulate baby’s senses
This toy was designed with a purpose in mind – to help encourage young toddlers to walk. Although there have been many similar push toys to come to the market, after 60 years it’s still a common household toy in homes with early walkers. The balls inside a clear dome pop into action when it’s pushed by the long slender handle. The faster your toddler walks, the more the balls pop. One of the factors that makes this such a hit and effective tool for beginner walkers is it has just the right amount of appeal. It’s fun and exciting to push and encourage walking without having too much that can distract from its intended purpose.
Shape Sorter | Classic Toy
Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube
- Beautifully constructed wooden toy with 12 brightly colored, easy-to-grip shapes
- Each shape fits through a hole of the same shape on the wooden cube
- Classic learning activity with nostalgic appeal
- Sturdy wooden construction
- Promotes color and shape recognition and problem-solving skills
There are so many modernized variations of this type of toy, but the concept is still the same; a structure – typically a cube or a ball, and everything in between – with shaped holes that specifically designed shaped pieces fit into. They pose a fun challenge for young toddlers while promoting hand-eye coordination to get the right shape into the proper hole as well as shape recognition.
One of the best ones by far is the Tupperware Shape-O toy which was developed in the 1970s. The ball features 10 different shaped pieces that fit into the designated holes on the ball and can be stored inside during non-use.
- Baby can sit & play or pull it along
- Fun ringing sounds & eyes that move up & down
- Dial introduces numbers 0-9
- Encourages early role play
- Social Skills Encourages speech as they talk into the phone by imitating words and phrases they’ve heard
- Imaginative Skills Early role play as they pretend to talk
- Classic pull toy with a friendly face
- Eyes that move up and down when the toy is pulled along
Every baby needs their own phone to get chatty with. The idea of the chatter phone was developed when the designer noticed his daughter dragging around a telephone by the cord while playing. It’s original design with the rotary dial dates its time period to the days before touch dial. The manufacturers attempted a modernized version with touch buttons that would light up; however, consumers begged for the original rotary dial’s return.
The numbers 0 – 9 provide opportunity for number recognition and the dial requires fine-motor skills to effectively turn it. We love many of the new gadgets and electronics of today, but this just proves that when it comes to iconic classics, some things are better left unchanged. The phone makes a ringing sound when the dial is turned and when pulled by the string, the eyes roll. It’s a great social toy to foster a child’s social skills as they are encouraged to ‘talk’ on the phone mimicking what they see mommy and daddy do on a daily basis.
Fisher Price | Classic Farmer Says See ‘n Say
- Teaches animal names and sounds
- A perfect companion to the Little People Animal Friends Farm (Sold separately and subject to availability.)
- Requires 3 AA batteries
- Kids get four fun ways to play
- Sing along with Old MacDonald and Farmer in the Dell melodies
- Listen to animal songs, or play fun quiz games and even have counting fun
- Teaches kids fun facts about 16 different animals
The Classic See ‘N Say lead the way for electronic learning toys being the first of its kind to say a specific phrase that was prompted by a child. Although Mattel produced a variety of talking toys such as dolls, these would say random phrases when the pull cord was drawn to engage the toy. The See ‘n Say featured 12 different animals that, when the arrow was pointing to a specific kind, would say the name of the animal and the sound it made rather than phrases at random.
There is also an alphabet version that would play a recording of the letter and sound it made. This wonderful classic has had a few upgrades from the original classic with more animals, different themes, and songs in addition to quiz questions to help encourage learning. The original classic version, however, did not require batteries as so many of today’s toys have. It’s still a favorite classic that has maintained its popularity through the ages.
Fisher Price | Rock-A-Stack Stacking Rings
- Five colorful rings to grasp & stack
- Bat-at rocker base
- Top ring has shiny reflective surface inside with swirling, rattling beads
- Introduces concepts of relative size & stacking
- Helps baby learn to differentiate among colors and sizes of rings
These iconic stacking rings were very commonly found in homes where babies lived. They consist of plastic rings that ranged in size of different colors that stacked onto a pole. It’s a simple toy that has been around since 1960 and has sold 40 million of its kind since. The varying sizes of the rings help develop hand and eye coordination as babies learn how to place them accordingly with the biggest at the bottom to the smallest.
Little Golden Books
It’s never too early to begin reading to your child and Little Golden Books have been inspiring a love for reading since the 1940s. Originally there were only 12 classic titles to the book series which included all-time favorites like the Three Little Pigs and Mother Goose. The company quickly expanded throughout the years and now have more than 1,200 titles! The books were made with great quality, yet affordable, for parents to buy the collections. Reading the classics to your child is a great way to bond and instill an early love for reading for lifelong benefits.
Classic Toys for Preschoolers
Children between the ages of three and five can be tricky to shop for to find that just right toy that’s not too babyfied yet simple enough to keep them entertained. This is a perfect age to appreciate the simplicity and fun of some of the favorite classics that are still largely sold in retailers. Preschoolers are at a prime age where language and social skills really begin to develop.
Children of this age are learning rapidly and love exploring with their hands. Studies have proven that simple, classic toys that don’t ‘talk’ or engage with children encourage them to use more verbal communication as feedback. This skill also plays an important role in building cognitive development.
Hasbro | Mr. Potato Head
- Mr. Potato Head has had a makeover and now has legs, more accessory holes, and a slimmer look
- Store the parts in the figure’s Tater Tush.
- Potato figure comes with eyes, nose, mouth with teeth, hat, mustache, tongue, pair of glasses, 2 hands, 2 ears and 1 pair of legs with shoes
- Your child will love putting his nose where his ear should be and building many different versions of the original potato friend
- The parts are compatible with other versions of Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head
The famous Mr. Potato Head was originated from a cereal promotion that consisted of 28 different facial expressions for kids to create silly personalities on actual potatoes. The concept for the toy quickly became a hit and it was the first toy to have its own television commercial.
The toy didn’t lose its luster among its targeted audience over the years. It even earned its own role in Disney’s Toy Story movies. In 2000 it was inducted in the National Toy Hall of Fame. There are even more accessories and varieties today for the classic toy with a Mrs. to accompany Mr. Potato Head. His plastic body also doubles as storage to keep all of the accessories conveniently stored so you don’t lose them.
Play Dough | 24-Pack of Colors
- So much compound, so little time
- Endless color combinations
- Twenty-four 3-ounce cans of Play-Doh compound
- Each a different color
- Ships in Certified Frustration-Free Packaging
- Will keep you busy with hours of molding fun
What other classic toy can you open up and instantly bring back childhood memories just by its smell like Play Doh? Initially, children were provided with modeling clay in classrooms as a valuable learning tool for creativity but it was often too hard and difficult for young children to play with. The modeling compound that would become widely known as Play Doh was originally used as a cleaner for wallpaper that quickly became a huge hit among teachers and students for its texture that made it easier to sculpt and play with than clay.
In 1956 it hit the market in primary colors and quickly became popular. You can buy it in a number of colors or even make your own in the kitchen for even longer lasting fun. Play Doh is still widely used in preschools and learning centers today.
Radio Flyer | Full Size All-Terrain Steel & Wood Wagon
It’s the same iconic little red wagon you remember as a kid for hauling your toys and maybe younger siblings in. The added wooden stake sides makes this classic a safer ride for little ones to get toted around in or pulling around even more toys! Radio Flyer has since made a wide variety of wagons from metal-bodied models to plastic models among many other toys including the tricycle, another time-honored favorite.
Spirograph | Deluxe Design Set
- Get ready for hours of fun with the award-winning Spirograph Deluxe Design Set, a must-have for young and old alike
- With Spirograph’s distinctive interlocking gears and wheels, anyone can draw elegant, spiraling designs
- Inspired by the design of the original 1965 Spirograph, this set will entertain the whole family for years to come
- 45-piece deluxe set includes 19 wheels, 2 rings, 1 rack, spiro-putty, 3 pens, 14-page guide book, design paper and carry-along storage case
- Spirograph, brought back into production in 2012 by Kahootz Toys, is considered one of the most successful re-launching of any classic toy in history
This toy, unsurprisingly, was invented by a mathematician. It was originally developed for calculating areas that were bound by curves in the late 1800s. Since the beginning of the 1900s drawing toys were developed that were based on gears and the Spirograph was adapted. The gear shapes can be interlocked to draw a number of cool and creative spiral designs.
It was the Toy of the Year in 1967 and after its relaunch in 2013 became a finalist for Toy of the Year again for 2014, holding strong in popularity as a top seller among craft and scrapbooking kits. The spirograph was originally targeted for older kids but with its relaunch there are more kits designed and aimed for younger artists from the age of 3 and up.
- 88 ASSORTED PIECES – This building set comes with 88 logs and plastic roof pieces. Each log pieces comes from U.S.A.-grown real maple and is stained for an authentic feel and long-lasting durability. All of these pieces can fit right on top of each other to create a standing house of your own design.
- EASY TO BUILD AND CLEAN UP – With the LINCOLN LOGS Lake Union Lodge Set, children ages 3 and above can build structures. Each piece is easy to hold and stack. A step-by-step instruction sheet is also included. After playtime, the parts can be conveniently placed in the set’s sturdy box for easy storage.
Inspired by the architectural design of the Imperial Hotel in Japan by John Lloyd Wright’s father, Lincoln Logs was adapted with the concept of the interlocking logs for building structures. In case you were wondering, they are in fact named after President Abraham Lincoln with the sales pitch of toys that typified America. They are sold in sets that include instructions for building different types of structures including towers and cabins and leave plenty of room for imagination to allow children to create their own designs.
LEGO Classic — Medium Creative Brick Box : 10696
- Includes a wide range of LEGO bricks in 35 different colors; Features 18 tires and 18 wheel rims
- Special pieces also include a green 8cm x 16cm base-plate, window with frame and 3 sets of eyes
- Special pieces encourage imaginative building
- All models pictured can be built from this set simultaneously
- Comes in a useful plastic storage box
- This classic learning toy is suitable for ages 4-99 and is compatible with all LEGO sets
Building blocks are a fundamental toy that many child experts agree no child should be without. They provide endless possibilities in building unique creations and while there are a number of manufacturers of different types of building toys Legos is the next step in classic toys along with Lincoln Logs that are a timeless favorite.
Legos have been around since the 1940s with many advancements in themes and varieties for more realistic fun. There are large jumbo Legos for the young builders to advanced sets for more complex configurations. Lego has been named the Toy of the Century by Forbes and even has its own theme park based entirely on the linking plastic blocks in multiple locations.
Orbrium Toys 12 Piece : Wooden Engines & Train Cars
- A great collection of engines and train cars by Orbrium Toys.
- Set includes engines, tender, coaches, convertible coach/hopper car, cargo car, magnetic cargo load, tanker car, magnetic tanker load, hopper car, and cabooses.
- Comes in beautiful display wooden frame.
- Fits all major wooden train play systems.
- Conforms to the safety requirements of ASTM F963 and CPSIA.
Toys based on modes of transportation have always been quite popular but toy trains especially have a special place in the hearts of many. They date back to the late 1800s as simple push or pull toy trains without a track that eventually developed to electric toy trains that would run on a track. They would eventually expand to additional track sets for different configurations, buildings and animals among other accessories to meet the equivalent of doll houses with accessories for girls. Toy trains have maintained such value through the decades and are still loved by ages young and old.
Fisher Price Little People Play Sets
Fisher-Price Little People Animal Friends Farm
- Open and close the barn door and gate to hear animal sounds and music!
- Includes 7 figures–Farmer Eddie, cow, goat, chicken, horse, sheep and pig
- Also includes a hay bale
- Folds up and everything stores inside!
- Perfect size for little hands
The Little People play sets have expanded greatly from the original sets that were available 40 years ago but they’re still as adorable and fun as ever. The people have been made a little bigger to prevent choking hazards for younger toddlers yet they still fit perfectly in their designated seats of the Little People School Bus or the Lil’ Movers airplane.
What’s great about these different sets? Just as the original little people, animals, and characters that were designed with a rounded shape design to play with them interchangeably into different sets, the newer models can still be used interchangeably. The detailed characters are fun and perfect for tiny hands to grasp and play and come in several themes that are great for imaginative play.
Learn more about Fisher Price Little People toys.
- Fun monkey game challenges you to pick up monkeys and build a parade to win
- Pick up each monkey with the last monkey’s arm
- If you drop your monkeys, you lose your turn
- Have even more fun when you play with 2 or more Barrel of Monkeys games (other sets sold separately)
- Product color may vary between Elefun Blue, Hippo Orange, and Chasing` Cheeky Purple
Initially, these linking monkeys were marketed in flat packaging consisting of 12 plastic monkeys in 3 different colors for up to 3 players. The object of the game is to lay the monkeys on a table or surface and see how many monkeys you could link one by one upon grabbing the first one.
The creator who came up with the game couldn’t afford the TV time for advertising when it was first introduced in 1961, so when he partnered up with Lakeside Toys the idea of the barrel came into play. The monkeys still come in a set of 12 with a barrel that can hold up to 24 and are available in multiple color options. This made a fun and addictive game for children to see how many ways they could link up the monkeys with the added value of gaining logic and problem solving skills.
Mattel | Viewmaster
Viewmaster Virtual Reality Starter Pack
- Enter the world of virtual reality with the View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack
- This kid-friendly device will surround you with stunning 360-degree environments so you feel as if you are really there
- Download one of the View-Master VR apps to your smartphone
- Slide your smartphone into the viewer, look at the Preview Reel and simply click the lever to launch yourself into 360-degree immersive experiences
- Preview Reel included with the View-Master VR Starter Pack allows you to demo available apps so you can try all Experience Packs
How many of us owned one of these things with reels from movies back in the day? You would put the round ‘disc’ in and pull down on the clicker to view different scenes on little film squares and it was something of its time nearly 100 years ago. Of course, it doesn’t stack up to the technology of today’s smart devices and dvd players, but the original design has remained unchanged yet it’s still quite popular. At least you don’t have to ever worry about running out of batteries, losing a charge, or parental controls with these.
The Game of Life | Classic reproduction of 1960 : 1st edition
The perfect boredom game when the weather wasn’t too great were and still are board games. The classic favorites – The Game of Life and Monopoly were perfect and still are to teach older children about the basic responsibilities that might be expected when they grow up. Of course, there have been an immense number of board games targeted for the younger crowds including Monopoly Junior that encourage valuable skills like counting, taking turns, and following instruction.
Not to put down the electronic toys, there’s still much appeal and value to owning these types as well. It’s hard to resist the cool and trendy gadgets of today, but it’s good to get unplugged every once in awhile. There is a time and place for electronics and it’s ideal to have a good balance between traditional toys and modern tech toys.
Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend limiting a child’s screen time to just one hour a day whether it’s playing on a smart device, the TV, or the computer. It’s also advised that during those screen times to choose high-quality media types that provide educational value.
Classic toys will maintain a place in our hearts from cherished childhood memories and still provide effective learning tools in a child’s development. While there are plenty of digital toys and video games that come and go, it’s clear that the classics are here to stay. Many early childhood centers and preschools and educational centers still rely on these traditional toys as an integral part of a child’s development. They also make great gift ideas if you’re shopping for a child that owns numerous electronic toys to give them a change with more hands-on type activities.