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Up-to-date toys don't have to beep, blink or buzz to be trendy. At the 2013 Toy Industry Association Toy Fair, there were lots of familiar old favorites and low-tech toys—with a twist—for the modern child. One of the benefits of the back-to-basics movement is the interest that these classic playthings spark in parents. When Mom and Dad see something that reminds them of their own childhood, they'll be more motivated to play together with their children and engage in the kind of intergenerational play that gives kids an added educational boost.
Check out these toys that successfully combine the new and the nostalgic:
Cityscapes 4D Puzzles. (4D Cityscape; ages 8–12; $29.99-39.99) Venture into the fourth dimension without electronics or expensive accessories. Your child can build the cities of London, New York and Paris from the ground up by piecing together the incredibly detailed, multi-layered landscapes and 3-D landmarks. The added dimension here is time—these puzzles pieces actually let curious kids assemble the city through history. The Manhattan puzzle, for example, includes topographical features and buildings from the 1800s through today. Kids can learn urban and architectural history while sharpening motor and logic skills. Parents will be captivated along with their kids, making these educational puzzles a great family activity. Available now.
Tic-Stac-Toe. (Accomplice Productions; ages 5 and up; price TBD) Everybody knows how to play tic-tac-toe—but both parents and kids will be surprised and challenged by the stackable version of this old chestnut. In a nutshell, Tic-Stac-Toe is the old, homespun strategy game played in 3-D with "expandable" features. Get three (or four or four) in a row, and you win! The rows can be up and down, sideways or multilevel matches. The big, bright X's and O's come in multiple colors and are "fat-finger friendly”—suitable for any of the family’s hand sizes. There's a reason that the super-simple game of tic-tac-toe has lasted through the ages—it's extremely addictive—and the stackable version is no different. There's an app that goes with the physical game—but that's just the cherry on top. Available summer of 2013.
Roll & Play. (Thinkfun; ages 18 months and up; $19.99) Your toddler isn't a baby anymore and she's starting to want more out of playtime than static stuffed toys and simple blocks. Still, she's a little too young for tech, and savvy parents know that toddlers and preschool playtime shouldn't be dominated by screens. Are there any low-tech toys that pack the same educational punch as the electronics and apps that are overwhelming the toy universe? Roll & Play is an automation-free game for the tiniest tots that reinforces rule recognition, logic, reason and cooperation, all in a toddler-friendly package. The plush cube comes with a pack of cards in bright colors with illustrations and some text (although no reading is required). Kids roll the cube and match colors to the card. Each card has an activity that parents and kids can act out together. Roll & Play is an actual game, not just a toy, and there's a right way and a wrong way to play. Learning the rules helps toddlers practice learning and school-readiness basics like listening and following instructions. The game is designed for two or more players, and your child will also be able to practice the all-important skill of "playing with others" before she hits preschool. Available now.