Toys may go high-tech, but not child's wonder

Excitement is same even if dominoes, Etch a Sketch, puzzles have faded
2013-03-28T00:00:00Z Toys may go high-tech, but not child's wonderOpinion by Sarah McKeown Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

As youngsters, we played with Cabbage Patch Kids and G.I. Joes, Etch a Sketches and dominoes. Today kids amuse themselves with iPods, smartphones and high-tech video games.

I remember playing with dolls, puzzles and board games. Of course, they're still around, along with Play-Doh, coloring books and bubbles, but so many other toys today require batteries and have buttons to push that make sounds or light up.

No longer is the Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone all the rage (although I admit I bought one recently). Now toddlers have more upscale toys such as the singing and talking Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Piggy Bank and VTech and LeapFrog toys.

A friend made it clear how much times have changed when she talked about wanting to trade her son's motorized truck for good old-fashioned mud balls and forts.

Some things are making a comeback, but often in more advanced ways. Wind-up toys have gone from simple animals that totter around to a chicken, for example, that bobbles back and forth and lays a bubblegum egg. Legos include detailed instructions for creating characters.

On the other hand, there are also classics that have remained largely the same, including checkers, Battleship, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land and Cootie.

Don't Break the Ice was one of my childhood favorites, so I took it into my second-grade classroom. The kids were fascinated by this entertaining yet simple game.

I'm a sucker for kids' books - if I see an interesting one, it's hard to put it down. Today's baby and toddler books are more elaborate than those I remember reading in the 1980s. Now they feature touchable animals or objects and even moving pictures.

My old "Corduroy" book contained a great story yet very little color. Today, "Corduroy Helps Out" is full of colorful pictures and fun flaps to pull up, down or even sideways. Classics such as the Dr. Seuss books and Little Golden Books are great, too - I've already bought some for my son's collection.

Gone are the days of Smurfs, Rainbow Brite and Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Kids' shows are mostly digital.

I quizzed some of my nephews, ages 9 to 13, to find out about interests of kids their age. For television, Disney's "iCarly" and "Wizards of Waverly Place" came up, as well as Cartoon Network's "Ben 10" and "Batman." Another trend, of course, is YouTube.

When it comes to today's video game options, many of them make me nervous. I played Atari and Nintendo 64 games such as "Pac-Man," "Frogger," "Mario Bros." and "Mario Kart." Nowadays, my nephews play violent combat games such as "Call of Duty: Black Ops" and "Halo."

While contemplating the toys of today, I had a blast from the past. Visiting my sister and her family over the weekend, I happened to notice, tucked into the corner of a room, shelves of dusty puzzles and games from years ago. There were wooden puzzles depicting Elmo and "The Lion King," along with games such as Motor Mouth and Outburst Junior. I searched through them and chose several to take home for my family to play with.

Kids' entertainment options have changed over time, but what remains is the innocence of children and the pure excitement they get from toys and games, whether simple or sophisticated.

Email Sarah McKeown at east@azstarnet.com

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