"There's a little bit of nostalgia there," Grannis said.

Many newer, popular toys have either an electronic component or a connection to a cartoon, movie or TV show. And some don't stay in stock long, said Simmons, who was waiting Friday afternoon for a shipment to replenish store shelves.

As the last shopping weekend before Christmas loomed, the store had just a few Leappad Ultras — 7-inch tablets for kids — a half-dozen Furby Booms and a couple of Big Hugs Elmos, all that remained from shipments of 40. Also selling fast were Doc McStuffins Get Better Check Up Centers, doctor play sets based on the animated preschool TV show, and Sofia the First dolls. Simmons predicted that the next shipment would be grabbed up by shoppers before it could be stocked in the toy department.

At Toys R Us, big sellers this year include the Crazy Loom and So Cool Sewing Machine, said Kerry Smith, toy expert for the retailer.

Still, Smith said, "There's no denying the growing popularity of tech in play."

Anthony Ashton, shopping at the Toys R Us in Towson, went for nostalgia over technology when he snagged a Rock'm Sock'm Robots game, which dates back to 1964. The gift was for his father.

Ashton, a 24-year-old Towson University student, explained his choice this way: "Dad has not said what he wants. He liked this as a kid."

Nearby, in the Barbie aisle, Cockeysville resident Janeen Williams was looking for a Ken doll for her 5-year-old daughter, Ja'Liyah who has a collection of Barbies. Williams had already bought a Barbie Dreamhouse and a Barbie electric guitar, the types of toys she said encourage imaginative play.

"There are so many things they can do with a Barbie," Williams said. "They like to dress them up. They never go out of style."

Ja'Liyah also requested an Xbox, Williams said, adding, "I don't think she's old enough."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com