No Gadgets Needed: Your Old Favorite Toys Were As Awesome As You Remembered

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With your sparkly glam makeup, and guitar-smashing hair bands, you were really something to remember.

I can instantly walk into any Claire’s and blink and I’m eleven again with a poodle-like hairdo pulled back in a scrunchie getting my ears pierced for the one and only time.

I’m wearing jeans rolled tightly at the ankles and an oversized shirt tied in a knot at the side. I’m nervous but I’ve got my Dirty Dancing soundtrack in my walkman, and I’m channeling Baby as I take a step toward adulthood.

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But dear 80’s, just as iconic in my memory is your toy selection: Cabbage Patch Kids, Easy Bake Ovens, Barbie dolls, She-Ra figurines, Miniature Micro Machines, and Slap bracelets.

The sheer number of hours we spent fiddling around with our tinker toys, army men, slinkies, and those silly wooden sticks that no one really liked picking up but pretended to.

I’ll never get those hours back.

Life presses on. But somewhere in my mother’s house I’m sure there is a box or drawer with a few remnants of that era of my life.

We weren’t all obsessed about how educational these items were back then. At least, I don’t remember my mother talking about it. And yet in the past few decades, the emphasis in the overall toy industry has shifted from “good old fashioned fun” to “brain-based”.

The problem is that a lot of toy companies are tricking us on purpose. The high-tech toys with the fancy labels aren’t actually so brain-based after all.

Someone either hasn’t studied child development or is more interested in a fat check than helping parents provide a quality education.


Fortunately, there are ethically-run toy companies that you can trust to have the needs of real children at heart (Monti Kids certainly comes to mind). There is also no end of DIY-obsessed parents sharing their tips, tricks, and hacks online through social media.

Inspiration for true brain-based toys really does abound when you know where to look!

As a mom and Montessori educator, I have always been interested in observing how children interact with their toys. Once you start watching, you’ll start to notice -- the toys with lots of buttons, the ones that spit out information and perform actions “on command” are played with very differently by children of all ages than, say, a simple wooden box and a ball.

Plus, the research confirms it. Classic and simple wins over fancy & tech-infused.

Maybe my 80’s nostalgia is well placed when it comes to toys, even though they were kind of silly when you look at them in retrospect.


Deep breath here. Let’s see if we can make a brief case for Popples, as ridiculous as they were. (They were. Don’t argue!)

1. They were cuddly. Can’t complain about that!

2. They didn’t speak, flash, or sing when you pressed a button. At least my little furball didn’t!

3. They could be “operated” entirely by a child’s hands.

4. They could be used imaginatively by a child like any other plush toy, especially if there was no television-show connection to influence the play.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Hey, are you Into Nostalgia Like I am?

Get my free guide to today’s best toys for kids: modern alternatives to all of your old 80’s favorites!

Here’s a sneak preview…

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Download your free printable toy guide.

  1. Download the guide. You’ll get all the fun of the 80’s with all the modern convenience of today’s most popular Montessori-friendly toys. Plus, when you join my community of readers, you’ll get gentle, compassionate parenting tips and information about educating your child at home.

  2. Keep it digitally, print, or share it with a friend.

  3. Add these toys, or toys like these, to your wish list for yourself or relatives. I can vouch for all of these personally!

LOVE THE 80's?
Get my FREE GUIDE to today's best toys for kids: modern alternatives to all of your old favorites!

Learn how to meet your child's cognitive, social, and emotional needs with a reasonable selection of the most brain-boosting toys the modern world has to offer.

And wallow with me - just a bit - in some well-deserved nostalgia.


    This is me in the 80’s: pigtails with those little hair ties with the balls on the ends, turtleneck stripes, and overalls. Nailed it!