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Top Toy the Year You were Born

I’m a sucker for anything labeled The Year You Were Born.  More than once I’ve read a birthday card listing the news of my birth year and then placed that card back on the sales rack.  I’ve listened to my birth year’s top songs even though I don’t remember them.  So, an online article entitled ‘Top holiday toys from the year you were born’ caught my attention.

            This list, published by stacker.com, begins with 1920 and was created using information from the national toy archives and The Strong National Museum of Play, neither of which I’ve heard of, but seem to validate the choices. 

            As I scrolled and looked at pictures, I realized toys include games, dolls, stuffed animals, books, and kits – many that were familiar and some that are still right here in Husband’s and my home.   The Raggedy Ann doll was the top gift in 1920, and the one that Mom made for Daughter in the late 1970’s is still on my doll bed.  We still have Tinkertoys, which were the best gift in 1922.  And everyone has probably received or given the 1925 top gift, a Teddy bear.

            Anyone else have happy memories of opening a box of crayons?  In 1926, a box of 22 Crayola Crayons was the best gift. By the early 1950s, a box of 64 crayons, with a built-in sharpener on the side of the box, was popular.

            Other top toys of the late 1920’s were a Radio Flyer wagon, a yo-yo, and a pop-up book, and all have stood the test of time.  All were gifts for my children in the 1970s and for my Grands thirty years later. 

            Scrolling past the 1930s, I found the top gift for the year I was born:  a Tonka truck.  I never owned a Tonya, but Son’s heavy metal truck sits on our garage shelf and one day while we watched his son fill the bed with sand, I suggested he take it.  Son answered, “No, let all the kids play with it here at your house.”  All eight Grands have filled that big yellow truck with sand or dirt or gravel or mulch in our backyard.

            Top gifts of the 1950s were under my childhood Christmas trees and are still around.  The wine-colored Scrabble box is taped together, but the small square tiles are just as they were almost seventy years ago.  My blue hula hoop is long gone, but my Grands sometimes spin the sparkly purple one I bought a few years back.

            Most girls of my generation had at least one Barbie, the 1959 top toy, and I remember being excited one Christmas when Barbie’s clothes were my favorite gifts. Yes, my Grands have dressed my Barbie with those clothes.

Fast forward to 2021’s top toy, a reversible octopus plushie that is happy on one side and angry on the other.  It won’t be under my Christmas tree, but yo-yos and books – those are gifts that my Grands would like.  Please don’t tell them those are old toys.

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5 Best Toys of All Time

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 9.29.59 AMIt’s birthday season around our house. Since all eight Grands were springtime babies, I’m shopping – almost like Christmas. Legos, paint sets, American Girl clothes, riding toys, super hero figures, play dough. Gifts for Grands from ages 1to 11. And I know what would really ignite their creativity and they love to play with, but can you imagine a child’s response after tearing open a birthday present and finding sticks?

This column is inspired by an article on wired.com and written by a self-professed geek dad, Jonathan H. Liu. He wrote that he worked hard to narrow down a long list to five items that no kid should be without. A list that fits everyone’s budget and appropriate for all ages. Time-tested and kid-approved. I’d add parent and grandparent-approved. Liu’s choices of 5 Best Toys of All Time are a stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt.

I amend his list to include a stick, a box, dirt, water, and a balloon.

  1. Stick. All sizes. I rode one as a horse that went as fast as I could run and I never fell off.  A stick is a giant pencil to write in mud and sand. It lifts leaves from a running creek. And, even though parents prohibit violence, a stick is a sword and a club and a rifle. There’s something about hitting a large tree trunk or big rock with a stick that makes you feel good.
  2. Box. Who hasn’t created a clubhouse from an appliance box? Shoeboxes with doors cut in the ends are train tunnels and garages. Decorated boxes create a neighborhood – stores, homes, and businesses.
  3. Dirt. I’ve written about my Grands’ dirt pile. The one that’s a climb-to-the-top-of-the-mountain and a track for toy racecars and bicycles. A place to dig. When one Grand was five years old, she screamed, “Mama, Lucy’s in my dirt!” Her dirt, where she was digging a hole to pour water, another best gift. Hide a few treasures, shiny trinkets or seashells or colorful rocks, and watch a kid dig. And then there’s pretend food. During my childhood, I patted enough mud pies to feed the multitudes.
  4. Water. A creek. A swimming pool. A bucket of water. Kids like water. How many have been entertained all afternoon with a pail full of water and an old paintbrush? Paint a concrete driveway and watch it dry, and then paint it again. A bucket or sink full of water, a funnel, pouring pitchers, and empty bowls – all a toddler needs to be happy.
  5. Balloon. “Blow it up, Gran! Let’s play balloons!” my four-year-old Grand said to me. Hide the balloon. Take turns hitting it to keep it up in the air. Try to toss it like a ball. Sit on it, but don’t burst it. Make it stick to the wall. Punch it, but not Gran who is holding it. Blow up another and let it swish thru the air. Blow it up, tie a knot, prick it with a pin.

So eight birthdays and eight boxes filled with sticks, balloons, and two zip lock bags: one filled with dirt, the other with water. My shopping is finished.

But I won’t because my Grands have sticks, boxes, dirt, water, and balloons and they play with them daily. That’s how I know these are the 5 Best Toys of All Time – at least for my Grands.