A few years ago, my youngest sister asked me what it meant to “hang up a phone.” It was a shocking wake-up call: The camera zoomed away, and I was left breaking the fourth wall, staring into space as I realized she had never used a phone with more than two physical buttons.

There are a lot of differences between me, a m*llennial, and her, a part of Generation Alpha. She texts memes to her friends instead of sharing friendship bracelets and playing rounds of M.A.S.H. Her favorite songs are on Spotify, not a burned CD. Her idea of a classic animated movie is more Ratatouille and less Aladdin.

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For all of our generational differences, there are some similarities. Sometimes during dinner, my sister has her child-safe headphones on, watching her favorite kid-friendly vlogger on her iPad while she eats after a long day of Zoom meetings. Not much has changed, really—if it were me, 20 years ago, I’d be in her chair, reading a book after a long day of in-person school.

Another thing that hasn’t changed: the way we play. Sure, my siblings’ dolls and action figures are famous on TikTok instead of on the Disney Channel, but the character narratives are otherwise the same. Their toys are centered around successful women and STEAM-focused activities, but they’re also just generally cooler, a refined version of what I had when I was young. The stuffed animals with speakers have volume knobs or mute switches, the Lego bricks come in all sorts of colors and shapes, the dolls have more than two skin tones.

“What did you do when you were a kid?”, she asked, jolting me out of my nightmarish divination. “Did you play with sticks?” No, ma’am, we did not. Well, not all of the time. I look forward to introducing her to the magic of Spirographs … and some of our other favorite retro toys.

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