Retro gifts
Cheapism

Retro Gifts for Kids With Too Much Screen Time

View Slideshow
Retro Gifts That Kids Will Love
asiseeit/istockphoto.com

Blasts From the Past

While some toys are obvious fads from the start, others have a more lasting appeal, attributable to everything from adorable design to an exciting concept that can engage children in any era. To get creative with your gift-giving for young children, skip this year's fads in favor of classic toys.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

Related: Unique Gifts for Everyone on Your List

Mattel Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots Game
Target

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots

$25 from Target
Shop Now

This miniaturized boxing match has been a childhood classic since 1964, allowing two players to operate fighting robots until one knocks the other's head off to end the game. The toy of today is slightly smaller and features a few altered sound effects, but otherwise remains unchanged.

Slinkys
Target

Slinky

$4 from Target
Shop Now

Invented in the early '40s, the Slinky has been occupying restless hands far longer than, say, the fidget spinner with its number of "tricks," such as falling end over end downstairs with a single push to start -- not as easy as it sounds. There are dozens of colorful or themed variations such as the Slinky Dog, but even the simple (and cheap) steel original is good for hours of idle entertainment. Slinkys are among the shrinking number of toys still made in America.

Related: Gifts That Are Made in America

ViewMaster Boxed Set
Amazon

View-Master

$20 from Amazon
Shop Now

View-Masters are stereoscopes that come with corresponding "reels" containing images that appear in striking 3-D through the peepholes. Most reels contain images of animals or natural or historic sites from around the world. Though a virtual reality version has hit the market, the low-tech original is still as fun as ever.

Related: The Best Gifts for Photographers from Newbies to Pros

Lincoln Logs
Amazon

Lincoln Logs

$40 from Amazon
Shop Now

Lincoln Logs give children the chance to build, but whether they rely on the accompanying instructions or their own imagination is up to them. Given the toy's structural nature, it's no surprise they were invented about a century ago by John Lloyd Wright, the son of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Transformers: The Last Knight
Target

Transformers

$20 from Target
Shop Now

Even if there weren't a major motion picture franchise still promoting this line of Hasbro products started in 1984, they would probably still be popular for having such an enticing toy concept: mechanical robots that fold up into everyday objects. The quality of the movies may be questionable, but the Transformers themselves are still inexpensive fun.

Tinkertoy Basic Building Kit
Walmart

Tinkertoys

$35 from Walmart
Shop Now

Invented in 1914, Tinkertoys are like many other enduring toys in that they empower children to build things without imposing too much structure on them. Parents can also rest assured knowing the appealingly old-fashioned set of wooden spools and connecting pieces helps children develop fine-motor skills and spatial awareness.

Related: Great Gifts to Buy Your Grandkids

Toysmith Jacob's Ladder
Amazon

Jacob's Ladder

$6 from Amazon
Shop Now

A "folk toy" with uncertain origins, Jacob's Ladder consists of a string of flat wooden blocks connected by interlaced ribbons that allow the blocks to change order and cascade over one another in an optical illusion fascinating for all.

Originial TEDCO Gyroscope Twin Pak
Amazon

Gyroscope

$16 from Amazon
Shop Now

Gyroscopes are spinning wheels with many scientific uses, and since 1917, they've also made entertaining toys, similar to but more visually stimulating than the average spinning top. The classic version, perfect for placing atop a desk to occupy idle hands, is still for sale today through Amazon and other sellers.

Spirograph Design Tin Set
Amazon

Spirograph

$11 from Amazon
Shop Now

Invented in the late 19th century, the Spirograph is a drawing tool that lets anyone create hypnotic mandala-like designs. Modern Spirograph sets include multiple sizes of drawing wheels and different colored pens that allow children or adults to get creative with this uniquely mathematical design toy.

Related: Incredibly Fun Toys and Games for Adults

Toysmith Retro Magic Rail Twirler
Amazon

Rail Twirler

$8 from Amazon
Shop Now

Though not quite as versatile as the yo-yo, the retro rail-twirling toy is still about strategically keeping a spinning wheel in perpetual motion, in this case using a wire frame to keep it going. The toy is incredibly cheap, mesmerizing and can provide hours of play for children with otherwise idle hands.

Rhode Island Novelty Pin Point Impressions Metal Pin Art
Amazon

Pinscreen

$13 from Amazon
Shop Now

An executive toy as much as a children's one, a pinscreen lets the user create a three-dimensional image from crowded metal pins by pushing them from the other side, potentially creating a cast of one's handprint or face. It's a simple, creative gadget that can also help children with sensory processing difficulties.

Related: Unusual Gifts They'll Never See Coming

Polly Pocket
Target

Polly Pocket

$20 from Target
Shop Now

Invented by a father for his daughter in 1983, Polly Pockets differ from other doll lines in that they're unusually small—usually 2 to 3 inches tall, with proportional clothing accessories and playhouses to match. Subsequent updates by Mattel have made Polly dolls larger and more fashion-oriented with clothes that can either stretch onto the dolls or attach magnetically.

The Bridge Direct Lite Brite Magic Screen
Amazon

Lite-Brite

$13 from Amazon
Shop Now

Children use colored pegs to create vibrant glowing images from templates or on freeform sheets on the Lite-Brite. The toy invented in 1967 has managed to stay relevant because it encourages children's creativity and often includes templates inspired by popular children's franchises such as My Little Pony.

Hasbro Connect 4 Game
Amazon

Connect 4

$10 from Amazon
Shop Now

A little like a more-involved, gravity-based form of tic-tac-toe, Connect 4 is a cheap, portable two-player game that's simple enough for young children, yet involves enough strategy to engage adults. There are many versions produced today of the 1974 Milton Bradley original, including a "Twist and Turn" version.

Related: Fun Games for the Whole Family

Simon Electronic Memory Game
Amazon

Simon

$21 from Target
Shop Now

Simon is an electronic memory-based game in which players try to remember and repeat an increasingly long sequence of flashing lights and tones. Though it's no longer the pop-culture phenomenon it was in the late '70s and early '80s, Simon remains a simple yet challengingly effective form of entertainment for anyone older than 7.

Haktoys Playful and Educational Penguin Slide Race Set
Amazon

Penguin Race

$17 from Amazon
Shop Now

Miniature penguins scale an icy staircase before swirling around an ice slide back to the bottom in this adorable electronic playset. The flashing lights, constant motion, and cute figurines together can entertain children for quite a while, which is why newer models of Penguin Race have quieter mechanics and an on-off switch for the accompanying music.

Kahootz Fashion Plates Deluxe Kit
Amazon

Fashion Plates

$29 from Amazon
Shop Now

Originally popular in the '70s and '80s, Fashion Plates are the creative toy to get for any young aspiring fashionista, allowing children to design unique outfits in one self-contained set featuring an idea guide to get started. By mixing and matching rubbing plates featuring different garments, they build outfits and color them in using the include crayons and colored pencils.

Tupperware Shape-O Toy
Tupperware

Tupperware Shape-O Toy

$30 from Tupperware
Shop Now

Most children probably grew up with something like this rattling ball toy from Tupperware, which has yellow geometric pieces that fit through cutout spaces. Infants and children from 6 months to 6 years can work on identifying shapes and increasing dexterity while playing, then store the pieces within the ball so they aren't immediately lost.

Related: Holiday Gifts for New Parents

MAGICYOYO Responsive YoYo K1-Plus
Amazon

Yo-Yo

$11 from Amazon
Shop Now

Though the modern yo-yo gained popularity in the '20s, this deceptively simple toy has survived for centuries in various forms and in various cultures, most prominently in Japan. Today it's easy to find cheap simple yo-yos as well as "professional" versions including specialized gloves, replacement strings, carrying cases, and sometimes books teaching tricks.

GP NextX Magnetic Drawing Board
Amazon

Magna Doodle

$17 from Amazon
Shop Now

Invented in 1974, the ever-popular Magna Doodle — now known as the Geekper magnetic drawing board — consists of a display panel where children can make temporary illustrations of tiny magnetic powder using a magnet-tipped stylus, similar to but easier to use than an Etch a Sketch. Newer versions include multicolored magnetic powders as well as stamps.

Radio Flyer My 1st Wagon
Amazon

Radio Flyer Wagon

$20 from Amazon
Shop Now

First produced in 1923, Radio Flyer's red wagon became an icon of American childhood for a simple reason: It encourages kids to get outside, whether they're riding in the wagon or hauling it around themselves. Today there are different models to suit different ages, like the toy version above, the full-fledged original ($99), and a more rugged all-terrain variation ($140).

PlayMonster Original Wooly Willy
Amazon

Wooly Willy

$6 from Amazon
Shop Now

First produced in 1955, this simple but classic toy uses a magnetic wand to move metal fillings like hair follicles around a bald cartoon face. Inspiring several knockoffs, Wooly Willy survives as a toy today because it's creative, entertaining from a young age onward, and still wonderfully cheap.

Related: Fun and Hilarious Gag Gifts for the Prankster in Your Life

Easy Bake Oven
Walmart

Easy-Bake Oven

$35 from Walmart
Shop Now

This working toy oven has been letting children safely bake cookies and miniature cakes since 1963. Though the design may be far more futuristic-looking, Easy-Bake Ovens are still made by Hasbro today to give kids the joy of cooking without the worrying risk of a real oven.

Fun Central Glow Hula Hoop
Amazon

Hula Hoop

$40 from Amazon
Shop Now

Like many of the best toys, the perfectly simple hula hoop encourages children to have fun through exercise, so they've become popular with adults for the same reason. (This version is glow-in-the-dark for an extra element of fun, but prices for more basic versions can go down to the single digits.) The modern version made of plastic tubing was invented in 1958, but people have been twirling, rolling and even hulaing in hoops from rawer materials for far longer than that.

Related: Gifts for Teenage Girls (That They'll Actually Like)

Basic Fun Fisher Price Classic Chatter Phone
Amazon

Fisher-Price Chatter Phone

$16 from Amazon
Shop Now

This beloved rolling toy still has the same old-fashioned rotary dial as it did upon its initial release in 1962, having undergone a short-lived update to push buttons in 2000. The design is no longer modernized, but young toddlers around 2 years of age still enjoy the chatter phone's flashing lights, ringing noises, and moving eyes.

Schylling Classic Tin Kaleidoscope
Amazon

Kaleidoscope

$11 from Amazon
Shop Now

The kaleidoscope relies upon repeated refraction of light to create an infinity of visual patterns, and it's been around in some form or another since at least the 16th century. These inexpensive toys can be captivating for adults and especially children.

Hasbro Classic Operation Game
Amazon

Operation

$18 from Target
Shop Now

A variation on a buzzing carnival game invented in 1964, most children who grew up playing Operation probably had no idea it was testing their eye coordination and fine motor skills the entire time. The toy, which is best for ages 6 to 14, is still easily found online and in stores today, often in themed versions where the patient is Shrek, Homer Simpson, and other characters.

Rubik's Twist
Amazon

Rubik's Twist

$14 from Amazon
Shop Now

A phenomenon among adults as much as kids upon its release in 1980, the Rubik's Cube ($15) may be a little heady for most children, while the shapeable Rubik's Twist isn't quite as challenging but just as stimulating.

Hasbro Twister Moves Skip-It
Amazon

Skip-It

$16 from Amazon
Shop Now

Invented in the '80s but based on an earlier toy from the '60s, the Skip-It is an anklet that encourages exercise, with an attached ball meant to be spun around one leg while the other jumps over it upon each revolution. Today many versions come with built-in counters to monitor how many hops you can manage without losing momentum.

Geodes
Store For Knowledge

Geodes

$20 from Store for Knowledge
Shop Now

A hammer tap can open a world of wonder for a child with this gift bag that features 20 whole Moroccan geodes. Expect plenty of oohs and aahs when the crystal centers are exposed — and use the moment to share some geological facts. (Hammer not included.)

Clay
Michaels

Clay

$13 from Michaels Stores
Shop Now

A little Rodin in your house? The easy-to-use Crayola Air-Dry Clay allows him or her to create sculptures that need no oven or kiln to set. Projects can be stamped, beaded, or imbedded with found objects and also painted with tempera, acrylic or watercolors when dry.

Ball and Glove
Dick's Sporting Goods

Ball and Glove

$15 from Dick's Sporting Goods
Shop Now

This Backyard T-Ball Glove & Ball will start young folks on the road to athletic prowess … or at least make for some fun afternoons playing catch. The synthetic leather glove comes with a soft training ball.

Art Set
Amazon

Art Sets

Starting at $11 from Amazon
Shop Now

Alex Art Sets encourage creativity in kids of all ages, with the more expansive options ideally suited to tweens and teens. Select from a variety of options that include numerous crayons, markers, watercolor cakes, and pretty much all the accessories a budding Picasso might need.

Related: Creative Gifts for Artists That Are Sure to Inspire

Microscope
AmScope

Microscope

$15 from AmScope
Shop Now

Want to encourage a science-minded child? Get them on the road to discovery with the AmScope Kids 100X-400X-1200X Beginner Microscope that comes complete with slides and other accessories. Be warned — you may be asked for a hair sample.

Related: 25 Toys and Games That Will Trick Kids Into Learning at Home

DIY Jewelry Kit
Jo-Ann