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Introduce your kids to classic toys this Christmas

While shopping for iPods and video game systems this Christmas, don't overlook the classic toys. In addition to fulfilling your kids' wishes, consider giving them something that you enjoyed in the past.

"You're not just giving them a toy, you're giving them a story and a shared memory," said Tim Walsh, author of "Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them" (Andrews McMeel, $29.95).

You won't have to visit antique shops or search the Internet to find retro toys, though. Toys like Slinky, Silly Putty and Play-Doh - which were all introduced more than 50 years ago - can still be found on store shelves.

Walsh's book traces the history of more than 50 classic toys, from Lincoln Logs, which debuted in 1916, to Pictionary, introduced in 1985.

Classic toys are still in demand in the toy department at Target on State Bridge Road in Duluth.

"Hot Wheels are consistently popular," said Brian McNeil, a team leader for the toy, luggage and sporting goods department at Target.

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots have been another top seller, McNeil said. The punching robot game came out in 1965.

Classic board games, like Monopoly and Sorry, are another holiday favorite, McNeil said. Monopoly was first introduced in 1933, while Sorry hit the shelves in 1934.

"Games are a great way to connect with each other," said author Walsh, who has invented two board games.

This year, the board game Candyland was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y. Jack in the Box and cardboard boxes also made it into the hall of fame in 2005.

The museum looks for toys that have achieved icon status and have been enjoyed by multiple generations. The toys must also represent innovation in the industry, foster discovery through play and be accepted as safe.

The National Toy Hall of Fame was founded in 1998. Since then, 34 toys have been inducted, including the bicycle, checkers, Erector sets, Barbie, G.I. Joe, Play-Doh, Raggedy Ann, roller skates, teddy bears, Silly Putty, Slinky and View-Master.

Of course, a hall of fame spot hardly matters to kids - they're just looking for something fun to play with. Lots of toys first introduced in the 1980s, including My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, have become popular with a new generation.

At Target in Duluth, dolls and action figures from the past are still well-liked. Transformers, which debuted in the 1980s, are a top pick for Christmas shoppers this year. G.I. Joe figures, which debuted in 1964, are also doing well.

Barbie dolls, which were introduced in 1959, have been making Christmas wish lists for more than 40 years. "The Barbies are doing pretty good," said McNeil of Target.

Toy Timeline

•1903: Teddy bears

•1913: Erector sets

•1916: Lincoln Logs

•1918: Raggedy Ann

•1933: Monopoly

•1939: View-Master

•1945: Slinky

•1947: Tonka Trucks

•1948: Scrabble

•1949: Cootie

•1949: Candyland

•1950: Silly Putty

•1950: Magic 8 Ball

•1952: Mr. Potato Head

•1953: Play-Doh

•1954: Matchbox cars (U.S. debut)

•1956: Yahtzee

•1959: Barbie

•1961: Slip 'n Slide

•1961: Lego (U.S. debut)

•1963: Mouse Trap

•1964: G.I. Joe

•1965: Super Ball

•1965: Operation

•1965: Spirograph

•1967: Lite-Brite

•1969: Big Wheel

•1969: Nerf

•1971: Uno

•1978: Simon

•1980: Rubik's Cube (U.S. debut)

•1982: Trivial Pursuit (U.S. debut)

•1983: Cabbage Patch Kids

•1985: Pictionary

Source: "Timeless Toys" by Tim Walsh (Andrews McMeel, $29.95)