The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

No matter when you were a kid, there were certain toys that everyone was obsessed with having. Sometimes these fads lasted just a few months, but sometimes their popularity endured. How many of these toys were you obsessed with growing up?

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The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods
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1) Slinky

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

While they first exploded in popularity in the ’50s, they never went away. These were way more fun than a coil of metal or plastic had any business being. While it worked the best if you made it go down stairs, the possibilities were pretty much endless. Tables, book shelves, your own hands, pretty much anything could be used as a surface to send a slinky rocketing to the floor. But the worst thing was when it would get all tangled up. You’d spend forever trying to fix it, but even if you untangled it, it would never really work the same again.

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The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods
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2) Sea-Monkeys

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

Another weird product of the 1950s, sea-monkeys are basically very tiny shrimp. They largely became popular thanks to the ads for their kits appearing in comic books throughout the ’60s and ’70s. If you were an irresponsible kid that your parents couldn’t trust to look after a real pet, Sea-Monkeys were the perfect alternative. They had a short life span (around 3-6 months) and are very low maintenance. While they’re certainly not as popular as they were 40 years ago, Sea-Monkey kits are still easy to find in most toy stores.

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The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

3) Trolls

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

While they first became popular in the 1960s, Troll dolls seem to have a return to popularity at least briefly in just about every decade. The look of the Troll toys was largely unchanged up until last year when Dreamworks gave them a (honestly unnecessary) reboot complete with a movie. Guaranteed most of us at one point or another decided to play hair stylist and gave ridiculous hair cuts to our trolls.

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The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

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4) Ouija Boards

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

While the idea of spirit or talking boards have been around for centuries, but in the ’60s the board game company Parker Brothers bought the rights to the “Ouija” board from the Ouija Novelty Company. Their popularity really took off for a time in the ’70s, thanks to a little movie called The Exorcist.

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5) Pet Rocks

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

It’s definitely no surprise that the Pet Rock started as a joke. It’s “inventor” Gary Dahl came up with the idea after hearing his friends complain about how much work it was to own their pets, which led him to think that a rock would make the perfect pet since it needed no care or maintenance. What is surprising was how big it blew up for 6 months in 1975, though its popularity faded along with the end of the Christmas shopping season. The Pet Rock came with a jokey “care manual” and a cardboard carrying case complete with air holes. Needless to say, the ’70s were a weird time.

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The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

6) Mood Rings

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

Mood rings first became popular in the 1970s, but as with a lot of ’70s trends they ended up making a comeback in the 1990s. While they supposedly told you what your mood was based on it’s color, what it was actually telling you was the temperature of your finger. No matter what I tried my mood rings just always stayed blue, which according to the chart below isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I guess.

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The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

7) Rubik’s Cube

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods
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For a few years in the early ’80s, Rubik’s Cubes were the toys that everyone had to have. What kicked off its popularity was a string of best toy and game of the year awards in the US, France, Germany, and the UK. The craze died down by 1983, but there was a revival in the early 2000s, and they’ve stuck around ever since. Thanks to the patent expiring, there have been all sorts of crazy versions coming out over the last decade, and the popularity of “speed cubing” has also grown.

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

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8)Teddy Ruxpin

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

Teddy Ruxpin was all the rage starting in the mid ’80s. Teddy was an animatronic bear that would “read” stories off a cassette that you would load into a deck on its back. But of course we wouldn’t actually use the story cassettes, instead we would make Teddy sing along to Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leppard, because why wouldn’t we. They recently rebooted Teddy Ruxpin, only this time around he’s legitimately a little terrifying.

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

9) Cabbage Patch Kids

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

If there was one toy fad that defined the 1980s, it was definitely Cabbage Patch Kids. Over the Christmas seasons, parents desperately trying to get the dolls for their kids’ Christmas presents were getting into legit brawls over what little stock remained. While they aren’t absolute must-haves like they were in the ’80s, they’re still easily available though they seem to be more geared towards adult collectors than kids.

10) Garbage Pail Kids

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

What started out as a simple parody of the insanely popular Cabbage Patch Kids quickly took on a life of its own, spawning not only the card series, but also a movie and a TV series. Topps, the trading card company, started releasing the collectible cards in 1985, and they were basically memes for the ’80s generation.  Considering how weird and gross a lot of these cards were, it’s a little surprising that our parents even let us collect them in the first place. Then again, it was a different time, and it’s sort of a miracle any of us even survived our childhoods.

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11) Slap Bracelets

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

These things were all the rage in the ’80s and ’90s. They weren’t much more than old strips of measuring tape covered in fabric or plastic, but the joy we got out of slapping them on our wrists (not to mention using them to slap other people) was just too real. Between their popularity and the wounds they inevitably left behind, it’s easy to see why so many schools ended up banning. them.

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The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

12) Skip-It

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods
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The Skip-It is another toy that in hindsight was probably a bad idea seeing as it was a tripping hazard just waiting to happen. It was initially successful in the 1980s, but it had a second “renaissance” in the ’90s thanks to the addition of a counter that would tell you how many skips had been completed. The Skip-It as we know it was discontinued in 2009, but in 2013 they released a crossover with Twister called the Twister Rave Skip-It.

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods
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13) Beanie Babies

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

The funny thing about Beanie Babies is that – unlike many other toy fads – they weren’t actually all that popular when they were first released. It got to the point that by 1995, two years after they were first in stores, many retailers were refusing to carry them since they didn’t sell. That changed however, after the simple decision to change Peanut the elephant’s color from a deep royal blue to light blue. Suddenly, thanks to a group of families in the suburbs of Chicago, the popularity of the toys as a collectible took off, and the toys started selling for truly obscene amounts on Ebay. Even though we tried so hard to protect their tags, most Beanie Babies are no where near the gold mine we once believed they would be.

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

14) Furby

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

I still haven’t decided if Furby’s are cute or terrifying (though honestly it’s probably both). These little furry owl-esque creatures were the must-have toy of the late ’90s. They were basically little robots that would learn English (or whatever language applicable to the region) over time as you interacted with them. They could definitely be cute, however once their batteries started to die things would quickly turn into a horror film as their cute little voices started to sound more like Satan. That there were also plenty of stories of them just turning on and doing things on their own made things even worse. Apparently Hasbro decided the original Furbies weren’t terrifying enough since in 2012, and again in 2016, they released new versions that came with glowing LED eyes. At least now you’ll know for sure when your Furby is watching you sleep at night.

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

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15) Pogs

Pogs were hands down the best mostly-useless thing we could collect as kids. The history of pogs is a bit of a weird one. The basic concept begins as ceramic pieces 17th century Japan, evolves to milk caps in early 20th century Hawaii, and explodes worldwide as the pogs we know in the early 1990s. The game was pretty simple, each player would contribute the same number of pogs into a stack, then they would take turns throwing a slammer at the pile and collecting whatever pogs landed face up. Because the true way to play was “for keeps” so many games led to heartbreak for those who would end up losing their beloved pogs. At least that was the case, until schools started banning them since encouraging kids to gamble is apparently a bad thing.

16) Tamagotchi

These little digital pets taught us all that were not at all prepared for the responsibility of caring for another living thing. The name Tamagotchi came from a portmanteau of the Japanese word for “egg” (tamago) and the English word “watch.” While digital pets in general were popular in the late ’90s/early ’00s, Tamagotchi was the brand name that everyone knew and used for them. In an era before fidget toys, these little guys were all over schoolyards everywhere, to the point where most schools began banning them. They recently brought Tamagotchi’s back to Amazon, but the real question is when will they bring back Giga Pets?

The 20 Biggest Toy Fads From Our Childhoods

17) Tickle Me Elmo

Tickle Me Elmo absolutely dominated the Christmas seasons in the late ’90s. Christmas 1996 in particular saw a frenzy for these toys that would probably only be rivaled by the original obsession with Cabbage Patch Kids. Both shoppers and store employees were getting trampled and injured in the chaos that erupted. Fortunately the craze died off after that Christmas season, however Tickle Me Elmo, and its many variations remained relatively popular well into the 2000s. Recently, a video surfaced showing what Tickle Me Elmo looks like under that red fur, and it honestly messed us right up.

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18) Tech Decks

Who would have guessed that tiny scaled down skateboards would quickly become so popular. While they were technically called “fingerboards,” like Tamagotchis before it, the brand name Tech Deck became synonymous with the toy that everyone needed to have. While they were actually first invented in the 1950s, it was in the late 1990s that their popularity really took off. Compared to a lot of other fad toys, fingerboards had the added bonus of being relatively affordable. Their popularity waned in the mid-2000s, but there remains to this day a lively subculture that actually holds competitions. Meanwhile I barely even mastered an ollie.

19) Crazy Bones

Like Pogs, Crazy Bones were a modernized version of a very old game. “Astragal” or “Knucklebones” was a game purported to have been played in Ancient Greece and Rome, using sheep’s knuckles instead of cute and colorful pieces of plastic. In a lot of ways, Crazy Bones were sort of the late-90s replacement for Pogs. Most of us never actually played the “game,” we just collected them, but really how could we not? You could even get a convenient coffin to store them in!

20) Silly Bandz

Silly Bandz are only one of the more recent examples of how quickly fads can come and go. In a lot of ways they were the initial stage of the fidget toy obsession sweeping the nation now. The man behind the company described in an interview with Business Insider how he knew they were going to be popular thanks to most people’s tendencies to fidget, what he called the “idle hands” theory. The fact they also came in all sorts of shapes and could be traded only added to their popularity. Schools quickly began banning them, since not only were they a distraction, but kids started getting injuries from putting too many on their wrist and cutting off circulation.

Emma C
Freelance Writer