Why Classic Play Is Here to Stay

Since we were kids, toys have long evolved from our Battleships sets and Pet Rocks. Now, as manufacturers dazzle us with all the newest gizmos, gadgets, and app-controlled toys—even Crayola has digital assets—it may seem like traditional play has lost all its charm. After all, why would a kid want to spend hours mulling over a Rubik’s Cube when there are Hatchimals and Fingerlings to be had?

There may be an onset of new digital and tech toys available on toy store shelves, but that doesn’t mean the demand for traditional, unplugged toys has gone extinct. This year, The Toy Insider‘s Holiday Gift Guide features a wide variety of traditional toys, including many of the classic toys our generation had stocked in our toy boxes. In fact, only 30 percent of the 382 toys we included in the gift guide featured tech enhancements.

Tech toy companies will continue to reel kids in with new flashy devices, but traditional play will never completely dissipate from our children’s lives. At the end of the day, our kids need to have a well-balanced toy box that features both tech-infused playthings and traditional, classic toys. And yes, they may “ooh” and “ahh” over the app-controlled toys, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get a thrill out of unplugged toys that inspire imaginative fun. Not every toy with a power switch can provide kids with the creative and critical thinking they need for development, and the stats are proving it.

According to The NPD Group, between January and April of 2016 and January and April of 2017, doll sales shot up 6 percent, with Barbie topping as the No. 1 doll property. The Toy Insider’s guide reflected this as well, with Barbie-On-The-Go Carwash and Barbie Dreamhorse both placing in the preschool category. The Barbie Fundamental Chemistry Set, from Thames & Kosmos, was also featured in the guide, another toy completely unmarred by the digital world. We must admit, it’s a pretty comforting feeling that our favorite blondie will never go out of style, nor completely retire her pretend play self to stay relevant.

An even bigger jump was games and puzzles sales, which shot up 27 percent. Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Monopoly all rank within the top five games and puzzles properties: proof that the brands that excited us as kids will continue to appeal to future generations. And yes, that Rubik’s cube we mentioned earlier isn’t going anywhere, either. Two Rubik’s Cube games made The Toy Insider’s gift guide. While the games definitely put a spin on the traditional cube, the goal remains the same: Solve the puzzle as fast as you can!

The appeal of DIY sets also remains strong. While the traditional weaving loom did slip to the tech side with Digiloom, many other create-your-own sets remain untouched by technology and even batteries. Take ALEX’s Bath Bomb kit for example: This kit features a traditional DIY arts and crafts play pattern, while fusing it with the trendy popularity of bath bombs. Or the Nickelodeon Slime Kit, providing kids with all the ingredients necessary to fashion their own ooey, gooey slime. The Toy Insider even featured a tabletop art studio, equipped with a wooden easel and all the art supplies necessary to allow kids to create their own masterpieces. These sets not only provide kids with hours and hours of play, but also get them in the habit of reading and following instructions, skills crucial to their learning and development.

As you begin your holiday shopping this season, remember to focus on providing your kids with a balanced mix of tech toys and classic play. Even if they are begging for the latest iPhone (which, you don’t even have yet), if you surprise them with some of the classics—a Hot Wheels set or a Pikachu Plush—kids aren’t going to push it away. They need that type of creative play to ignite their imaginations. While digital play exposes kids to technology and helps improve tech literacy, don’t forget that classic toys are still important for basic skill development and creativity.   

Happy toy hunting!