Want your infant to grow up and appreciate what a technological marvel a touchscreen tablet really is? Fisher-Price has revealed three additions to its preschool learning line: new educational toys inspired by retro gadgets of the ‘80s and ‘90s that will let parents teach their kids what life was like before streaming services and 3D gaming.
Our favourite retro gadget being added to Fisher-Price’s Laugh & Learn line is the Lil’ Gamer, which was inspired by the original Nintendo Game Boy. It can’t actually play video games but it has a pretend screen that lights up with coloured LEDs (remember, these are designed for toddlers, not a kid who’s already comfortable with a smartphone or tablet), as well as action buttons and a directional pad that triggers music, retro gaming-inspired sound effects, and instructions designed to help kids learn about shapes, colours, and numbers. There’s a spring-loaded cartridge on top that pops in and out of the handheld, and on the side is a set of sliding tetrominoes that perfectly stack together when all bunched up.
Can you really put out a line of retro gadget inspired toys and not include the Sony Walkman, the gadget that started the personal electronics revolution? Obviously not, so toddlers can learn about the history of pre-streaming personal audio with the Fisher-Price Puppy’s Mixtape cassette player. It features light-up playback buttons that trigger songs, sound effects, and phrases designed to help teach concepts like the alphabet, counting, and colours. (You’ll need to bring them up to speed about the challenges of taping songs off the radio yourself.) More importantly, the toy teaches kids about the hardships of a malfunctioning Walkman eating your favourite mixtape with a pretend tape ribbon that extends and can be retracted by turning a spinning dial.
No gadget epitomises the extravagance of the ‘80s like the boombox. Walking through your neighbourhood with a home stereo on your shoulder forcing everyone to embrace your taste in music is a rite of passage that kids raised on wireless headphones will never know. They can get a taste of the boombox lifestyle with the Fisher-Price Busy Boombox, which features a wide assortment of dials, buttons, sliders, wheels, and even a pop-out drawer where three decades ago a cassette tape could be inserted. There’s even a make-believe radio tuning dial that helps teach toddlers numbers and important historical lessons about a bygone era when you had to sit through hours of endless ads and DJ banter to hear your favourite song.