I grew up in the late eighties and early nineties.
There were a lot of unfortunate fashion decisions made, but I had some really great toys.
1. Tape Player
I know. Music can be played on iPods and phones very easily, but there’s something really cool about tape players.
For Christmas last year, we got our oldest kids tape players and books on tape, and they loved them. Seriously. They loved walking around and listening to books.
I overheard our daughter telling my mother-in-law that she felt really cool because none of her friends had tape players.
We ordered the audiobooks on tape from eBay and Paperback Swap.
If you’re unfamiliar with Paperback Swap, check out our post Five Places to Get Books for Free.
And a bonus of the cassette player is that most of them come with an AM/FM radio so my kids can listen to the radio, and I can get a few minutes of quiet.
As a stay-at-home mom, those moments are few and far between so I treasure each one.
2. Rock Tumbler
I think every child goes through a rock-loving phase.
As parents who don’t like to accidentally wash and dry rocks, we do our best to keep rock collections outside rather than in pockets.
The rock tumbler has helped in that endeavor immensely.
Now, we have a pile of rocks waiting to be tumbled and made beautiful sitting neatly beside the rock tumbler. Whenever a child finds a rock worthy of the tumbler, they hustle it to the pile.
And if you have kids that don’t like to collect rocks from every parking lot they walk through, you can buy rocks to tumble. I don’t have any idea what that’s like though.
And honestly, the rock tumbler is pretty cool.
It takes plain looking rocks and tumbles them into smooth colorful stones. I loved mine as a kid, and I love this one now.
I’m sure there’s an analogy about God turning us from basic ugly rocks into beautiful colorful stones through a lengthy and painful process, but I’ll let you figure it out.
3. Lite Brite
I loved my Lite Brite.
I loved watching each peg light up as I plugged it into the right spot and how it slowly formed a beautiful glowing picture.
It was so mesmerizing.
And now the Lite Brites are smaller and run on a battery.
Back in my day, you had to sit on the floor near an outlet because the Lite Brite was the size of a small television and had a chord that was 12 inches long.
And now, you can go to the website and print more templates for free!
Or you can order more on Amazon.
Did y’all have these when you were a kid?
My husband’s grandfather made some out of coffee cans. He says he adored them until found them after someone used the cans for target practice.
I mean they’re some of the most basic toys ever, but they are so fun!
I’m pretty sure that my son is just using these to prove that he can handle a pair of kangaroo stilts, but he is happy with these for the time being.
While I’m sure that you can find some information out there about how they’re good for coordination and balance and stuff (if that’s important to you when buying a toy) I didn’t look for any of that stuff. I just wanted my kids to have another low tech physical activity.
5. Polaroid Camera
The only thing my kids love more than taking pictures is looking at pictures.
There’s something really great about taking a picture and immediately printing it, but not too immediately.
I loved watching my Papaw shake the Polaroid pictures to help them develop faster. I still remember gathering shoulder to shoulder with him and my sister, the smell of his aftershave, the warmth of family, waiting for our shapes and colors to spring to life out of the milky gray.
I don’t know if shaking the prints actually helped at all, but I know we did it every single time and that Outkast made a lot of money singing about it.
And of course, Polaroid isn’t the only brand out there anymore. Fujifilms makes some really cute colorful cameras.
We love printing the pictures and then putting them in Smashbooks.
It’s a great rainy day activity that provides entertainment later when everyone sits down to look at the books!
Sometimes we like retro items because of nostalgia, and while that can certainly skew our perspective, there are some no/low tech toys that are really good for kids.
The things on this list can open your kids to a love of books even before they can read, let them see the beauty of God’s creation, harness their creativity, develop physical coordination, and teach them patience while drawing them closer together.
We get to choose what occupies our kids time for only a few years before they burst through the milky gray of adolescence.
Let’s be deliberate about the ways we help them develop.
What retro gifts do your kids love?