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As parents, we want our kids to experience all of the things we loved in our childhoods, and more. I still strolled the aisles of toy stores well into my twenties, and when I finally became a parent, I was thrilled to have an excuse to buy all sorts of playthings for my kids.
Which is why I was pretty psyched this year when I got to attend the annual Chicago Toy and Game Fair, an exciting platform for brands and inventors to debut toys that are either brand new or soon to hit store shelves.
It was inspiring to see all the innovation that’s been going on in the toy industry (and incredibly cool to meet the guy who invented both the game of Twister and Nerf products). But what I was most excited to see were just how many amazing new toys there now are that are drawing a little retro inspiration.
1. The Oregon Trail Board Game
Yes, you read that right: The very first display I encountered was a board game version of the Oregon Trail, the first-ever educational computer game that stole all our hearts in the ’80s/early ’90s. It taught me the realities of 19th century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail, and also that someone could die of typhus very easily.
Remember going to Grandma’s house and playing that ancient game of Rummikub? You can now relive the nostalgia with your family, thanks to this “updated” version that packs in all the same fun as the classic version.
Topple was one of those perennial board game favorites that ’80s kids just couldn’t get enough of. This revamped version of the classic balancing game remains pretty much the same — by challenging players while reinforcing STEM skills — with new and exciting colors.
4. NES Nintendo Classic Edition
For the ultimate (and probably hardest-to-find!) throwback gift, this plug ‘n play version of original Nintendo is pretty much your best bet. It comes pre-programed with 30 classic games, like Dr. Mario. Um, move over, kids! Let Mommy get you past this hard level!
5. Klask: The Magnetic Game of Skill
Tabletop games can’t be modernized, right? Wrong. The KLASK game board has the familiar shape of a ball field with two goals at each end of it, but your gaming piece is a black magnet that you control by holding a large magnet under the board. The result is a fine-motor challenge and a visual that looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie: pieces that look like the move on their own!
5. The Death Star™ Electronics Lab
Circuit kits are familiar, and they’ve existed long before the Internet. But who had the genius idea to combine a real circuit lab with Star Wars?! The Death Star™ Electronics Lab activates light and sound effects from real Star Wars movies for some impressive STEM learning — all in the shape of the Death Star.
The fact is, any one of these toys would make the perfect holiday or birthday gift for any kid. But here’s the real bonus: Even “big kids” (aka you) will have a blast playing them. After all, parenting has its privileges.More On