John Jones gets down to business when others go to sleep. Working through the night, he fills shelves with toys for Northern Virginia children. No, he's not Santa or even his Virginia helper.

Jones stocks the great wall of games at Tysons Corner, the one inside that giant childhood dream house, Toys "R" Us.

Through the night, Jones moves down the aisle, emptying huge crates of toys to fill bare shelves with board games, card games and video games.

"Oh man, I can't keep them stocked," Jones said at midnight Saturday. Pointing to a pile of the new charade game Pictionary: "People are buying them so fast we can't keep up. It's pretty hot right now."

The entire toy industry is hot. Last year, Americans spent $12.5 billion on toys and 70 percent of that was doled out in the last three months of the year, according to Toy and Hobby World, a leading toy industry journal. At Toys "R" Us, the nation's largest toy retailer, Christmas means working around the clock and keeping up with the demand, especially around Washington, one of the strongest toy markets in the country.

What's different this year, according to toy retailers, is that buyers don't seem obsessed with buying newfangled items. Old favorites are topping many stores' lists.

"There's no hot, hot fad, no single exciting toy, like Cabbage Patch, or Teddy Ruxpin, or Lazer Tag {of years past}," said Peter Harris, president of F.A.O. Schwarz, one of the most elaborate toy stores in the country. "People are buying more traditional toys, the great classics: Barbie, G.I. Joe, collector dolls, rocking horses."

Harris said old favorites are popular this season because no single toy "caught the public's eye," and because "in society, in general, there is a return to traditional values."

Pamela Awkerman, a Falls Church bookkeeper who was looking at the Toys "R" Us Lego display, agreed. She bought her four nieces and nephews sturdy, durable items. "I think people are getting away from junk that falls apart. No sense in spending hundreds of dollars on things that don't last until New Year."

Barbara Bowman, an accountant in Reston, was busy searching for a "plain old-fashioned truck" for her 2-year-old Jason at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Already her cart was brimming. "I'm looking for educational things and fun things," she said.

Bowman bought a plastic road system, complete with two interchanges, and a construction set with movable crane. She thinks parents are getting back to basics because "there is a concern that we still have to teach our kids to think," instead of letting computerized gadgets do all the work.

"Now," Bowman said, "I need a chalk board and some plain, wooden building blocks, ones that don't talk, don't walk."

Computer games are still in demand. ComputerSmarts, a $99.99 system that asks questions and waits for the user to type in answers, was drawing much attention near Jones' game wall.

Ann DiPlacido couldn't figure out whether she should get ComputerSmarts for her 4-year-old girl or stick with the two other computer games already in her cart.

The problem is, she explained, once the kids learn one computer program, parents have to buy more -- and often expensive -- software. "I saw one woman who couldn't decide," said DiPlacido, an Arlington County teacher, "so she bought it all."

Brian Voorhees, the area manager for Toys "R" Us, said there is a revival of video games. "They came out about six years ago and are strong again. I'm not sure why, but people are buying them." The Nintendo Entertainment Center, a $139 video game and entertainment system, sold out in most stores in the area, he said.

Also popular, Voorhees said, are those items in the "interactive doll category," which includes Baby Heather, who speaks, smiles, kisses, pouts, sneezes and costs $109.99. "Interactive plush," as furry animals are known in the industry, are selling well, too, he added.

Jones, still long hours away from his 7 a.m. quitting time, didn't seem to mind the Barbies, bats and bicycle parts thrown in with his games.

"I do that in the grocery store: take something out of the frozen food section and put it back in a different place. I don't feel bad, as long as I put it on ice," Jones said. "These people are in a hurry; they have got a million things to do before Christmas."

Jim and Josefa Stephan of Arlington examine keyboards. Many buyers are looking for toys that encourage creativity.