The lasting favourites and the comeback kings...
What child wouldn't love to be surrounded by toys? All temptingly bright and colourful, all with some unique thrill to offer, and all perfectly attuned to meet their target age group's entertainment needs. The recent UK Toy Fair at London's Olympia served up just that, and the International Toy Fair, that took New York by storm earlier in February, sure elevated toy-lovers to equally exciting heights; but which toys have enjoyed a place in the hearts of children for the longest time? Mother and child brand Vertbaudet took a look at the toys that have endured over the decades - some from right back in the 50's - to retain their popularity in the present day, and asks what makes something that kids loved all those years ago a bestseller to delight their own children today.
One interested visitor to the UK Toy Fair was Professor Jeffrey Goldstein, a psychology expert with the National Toy Council. Professor Goldstein identified a trend among the shiny new toys and dolls: "A lot of retro toys are back," he said, "including the re-furbished Furby and Power Rangers."
While a recent report by the BBC suggested that the prosperity of today's toy market may lie in the fact that parents believe toys that combine educational value with entertainment value are a frugal buy, perhaps retro toys are a popular purchase because parents feel that they too offer something more. Professor Goldstein suggests that, to parents and even grandparents, these toys may represent a link to a simpler time, and they may buy the toys in the hope that they'll provide today's children with some of the fond memories they themselves associate with those toys.
So what are these nostalgia-prompting playthings? Vertbaudet's top picks look back over the decades to reveal all about these timeless toys, including what made them so great and what level of success they've enjoyed in recent years, or, in the case of some toys, what has brought them back from the past and into the toy boxes of kids everywhere?
The first Barbie introduced by Mattel back in 1959 and was an instant success, with more than 350,000 dolls sold in the first year of production. The 1/6th scale doll was soon joined by boyfriend Ken in 1961 and has subsequently had over 40 pets and numerous accessories, as well as a fair share of controversy over the depiction of women and representation of body image. Despite this, three Barbie’s are still sold every second.
Fun Fact : Barbie's real name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
The idea behind Etch A Sketch was simple: two knobs move a stylus which leaves a trail of aluminium powder on the screen, make a picture then shake it up and start again. The 1960 launch was extraordinarily popular and 50 years later the same design has sold 100 million units.
Fun Fact: The Guinness World Record for the largest Etch A Sketch drawing ever made involved the use of 144 of the devices joined together
First released in the late 60s, the Space hopper was all the rage in the 70s. For some kids it was the only way to travel, and you could barely walk down a suburban street without seeing kids bouncing around on the oversized, brightly coloured rubber balloons.
Fun Fact: The 100m record for a man on a Space Hopper is 30.2 seconds.
Fun Fact: If you had a Rubik's Cube for every permutation of colour combinations, you could cover the Earth's surface 275 times.
Fun Fact: By 2000, a Game Boy had more computing power than all the technology used to put the first man on the moon
The introduction of the Teksta Robotic Dog gave parents the chance to let their children enjoy the fun of a puppy, without the hassle of having to feed, walk and clean up after it - and you didn't have to let it stick its head of the window on car journeys. The robot could fetch, lick, sniff and howl, but also responded to nurturing; if you treated it well, it would be more affectionate.
Fun Fact: In some ways Teksta was better than a real dog - the robot could do card tricks!
It's a game of scooping up after your dog, and while this may sound bizarre it proved to be a huge hit with kids in 2011. Players feed the Dachshund plasticine 'food' then roll a dice to see how many times they have to pump the lead, and before long the pup poops. Launched across Europe and in the US, it has now sold more than one million units.
Fun Fact: In France, the game is known as Tou Tou Rista and was named Game of the Year for 2011
One of the biggest toys of the 90s, 2012 saw the Furby return with a vengeance, with December demand seeing the critters selling out in many UK stores. The gurgling voice and wiggling ears have been upgraded, and a raft of sensors and LCD eyes make the new Furby even more interactive. What's more, it learns - meaning it will behave differently depending on how you treat it. Enjoying the upgrades that today's advances in technology have provided, including its own smartphone and tablet app, could this be the ultimate retro revival toy?
Fun Fact: The original Furby was banned from the offices of the US National Security Agency, as it was feared that its ability to record conversations and communicate them could compromise state security.
Tipped for 2013! – Symphony in B
A toy which allows kids to conduct their own orchestra - it lets youngsters create their own classical music by placing colourful instruments in an orchestral pit. It is aimed at children as young as three and comes with thirteen different instruments that can be placed in the centre of the plastic pit in different combinations. The Symphony in B has already picked up awards stateside after its launch last year, where it was named the Top Toy of 2012.
By giving children the chance to choose their own way to play, and to create a unique outcome, could this game hold the recipe for lasting success?
Professor Goldstein believes that in many cases, innovation is key to a toy finding a place in the hearts of children who then grow up to buy them for their own children. He provides an example: "I think the Game Boy was one of the first hand-held game-devices and made playing games a mobile and personal thing. It was a real shift."
Perhaps the feeling of being a part of something new is what cements a toy in the heart of a child, thus creating an enduring and happy memory of that toy and the desire to pass on the enjoyment of it to their own children in years to come. Then again, perhaps in spite of all the modern advances out there, the oldies really are the best!