In Christmas Past, children would find all sorts of simple games under the tree: Tiddlywinks, pickup sticks and board games could amuse young minds for hours.
Batteries and computer chips have made much of kid's play an electronic spectator sport today, but there are signs of some pushback.
Retailers are offering a variety of vintage-style games, and many baby boomers are seeking out the toys they remember fondly — puzzles, board games and the like.
Steven Josephson, owner of The Toy Box store in Mamaroneck, N.Y., said board games are always a big seller "but in the last couple of years, they've really been popular. People remember the old-fashioned games like Monopoly, Stratego, Sorry, and want their own kids to play them. Parcheesi's come way back this year."
At the New York International Gift Fair this fall, gift retailer Wild & Wolf drew crowds to its Ridley's collection of vintage-style games. The line features many old favorites, including marbles, jacks and tumbling blocks. (Available at Burkedecor.com, among other sites.) The package designs are retro too: cardboard or tin boxes, muted colors, early 20th-century-style lithography.
And indeed, the visuals are part of the appeal of these games. There's something charming about a toy that doesn't come in a loud, primary-colored box, or a plastic case.
Hasbro has teamed up with Target this season to offer classic board games in wooden boxes, including Life, Clue, Risk and Scrabble.
"Key words for Christmas 2011 are nostalgia, family, tradition and longevity," says Riann Henckel, a forecaster for Sphere Trending, in Waterford, Mich.
If you're interested in the actual, original board games you played as a kid, you'll find sources online. Prices are often surprisingly modest, in the $20 range.
Los Angeles-based game collector Desi Scarpone has been an aficionado of board games since he was young, and rues the day he let his mom get rid of his old ones. Scarpone, author of "Board Games" and "More Board Games" (Schiffer), sells games from the 1940s through the 1990s at his website, 4gamesgoneby.com. They include some rare ones like 1951's "Space Pilot," 1967's "The Monkees," 1939's "Pinocchio" and a copy of the only Beatles game ever made, "Flip Your Wig."
"There's been a steady resurgence in vintage board game popularity for the last several years. The children of my generation have children of their own, and they want them to feel the same joy and excitement they originally felt when playing these games," says Scarpone.
While today's game graphics tend to scream for attention, "People respond to the innocence of the artwork they remember in a vintage game," he notes.
At Vintagegameworld.com, there's a comprehensive array of mid-century games, and browsing can be a visit back in time. There are old faves like Aggravation, Monopoly, Hi-Q and Careers, but also Easy Money, Acquire and Stock Market ("Anyone can make a million!"). Before there were Gears of War or Battlefield, you could play "Tobruk," a war strategy game based in World War II North Africa, or "Arab-Israeli Wars," where you re-enact tank battles, or the classic Risk.
The site's also got games that exploited TV culture of the '60s and '70s: Man From U.N.C.L.E., Happy Days, I Spy, Six Million Dollar Man.
If you're lucky enough to still own an old favorite but misplaced some parts, they've got a substantial inventory. And if your instructions are long lost, you may find them here too.
www.burkedecor.com - Ridley's games, $6 - $16;
www.target.com - Hasbro classic games, $20 range;
www.4gamesgoneby.com - collectible board games;