The toy people are pretty smart, aren’t they? Bringing back all the toys from the 80s, to play on the sentiment of the 30-ish crowd who are now parents with Christmas lists longer than Barbie’s dream home. Every toy section is a labyrinth of dolls and trucks and games and gadgets. A multi billion-dollar industry indeed. What’s going to catch my attention? The familiar face of a Cabbage Patch Doll smiling back at me, of course. (RIP, Casey Gwendolyn.)

Or a Smurf. La la la la la la… la la la la la. Best lyrics ever.

My Little Pony. I brushed that horse’s hair ‘til the cows came home.

The Etch-a-Sketch. A love child of the 60s, it’s the great-great-grand-daddy of PhotoShop. And it’s so simple to use. I mean, why draw with crayons on paper when you can twist knobs to move a stylus to displace alumimun powder on the back of a screen in a plastic frame?

Strawberry Shortcake. I had the complete bedding set – bedspread, curtains, pillow shams, booyah.

These and more are all back with a GI Joe-caliber vengeance. I’m holding out for a Popple – the “soft fuzzy ball that turns into a friend.” Who needs a friend with soft, fuzzy balls when you can have a friend who IS a soft, fuzzy ball? Simple logic, really. The other day, I saw a Monchhichi and for a moment I was six again, minus the buck teeth and mullet.

Every jar of Play-Doh slingshots me back to a time and a place when life was as simple as a Rubiks Cube. Er, scratch that. A Slinky. That’s better. It was a time when fun was all that mattered. When my problems extended no further than my Flintstones toybox.

Max is just a toddler, so most of these retro toys are too advanced for him yet. He’d bake himself in the EasyBake Oven. But he does have a couple truly classic toys in his stash, in all their uncomplicated, no-instruction-booklet-no-assembly-or-batteries-required glory…

The Jack in the Box. This toy dates back to the Middle Ages, invented by some dude named Jack who got in a box and popped out and everybody laughed. Max has a Sock Monkey jack-in-the-box. Crank the lever to churn out the classic yet creepy “Pop Goes the Weasel” and – BOING! – a Sock Monkey, doing a poor job at pretending to be a weasel, springs out from inside. I’m glad it’s not a clown popping out of there; I watched Stephen King’s “It” way too early in life. Sock monkey – way friendlier. He’s made from a SOCK, for cryin’ out loud! But Max was frightened shitless of the thing nonetheless. As soon as I started to turn the handle, he’d start to back up in sheer terror. And when the song came to an end and the monkey popped up, his lips would start to wriggle – a prelude to tears. And yet, seconds later, he’d set the little metal box on my lap once again. “Do it again, mommy,” his big brown eyes beseeched me.

You can buy a Sock Monkey jack-in-the-box at Chapters online for about $25. Or scope out a local boutique store. I bought this one at Target in Florida for about $18 US.

Wooden blocks. These date back a trillion years. I bet young Jesus had such blocks; his father was a carpenter for Christ sake. (SFX: short drum roll with cymbal crash.) Max’s blocks are extra classy, each one sporting the Montreal Canadiens logo. A gift from daddy, straight from the Bell Centre. They’re chunkier than most blocks you’ll find in stores – a better fit for a curious but clumsy hand. Though they feature letters, numbers, and pictures to boot, Max has learned nothing from them except how to incorporate them into his arsenal of weapons.

Blocks are pretty easy to find. Winners has a decent set by Melissa and Doug™ for about $15. Or take one for the team and order a set of Habs blocks on ebay for about $25, or get the real deal at the Bell Centre for about $30.

The Spin Top. This toy is older than dirt. In fact, clay tops were uncovered in the ancient city of Ur, near modern-day Baghdad, dating back to 3500 BC. Even Shakespeare wrote about the “whipped top” in his plays. To us, it’s a classic toy from the 1960s, revived in the 1990s, and still adding a touch of old school charm to playrooms everywhere.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a metal “push top” at Winners for about $15. For just a little more dough, get a metal Thomas the Tank Engine spin top at the Railway Coastal Museum on Water Street.

Up next: MY version of classic toys for toddlers, for fun-seeking but frugal folk. 🙂