Saturday, October 6, 2012

My 20 Favorite Childhood Toys from the '80s

A few years ago I was working at a bookstore and one of my coworkers said, "I was born in 1990. I completely missed the '80s." My first thought was, "Damn, I'm old." My second thought was, "You poor, unfortunate soul." Not only did he miss out on side ponytails, snap bracelets, hair-sprayed bangs, the baddest 10 years of Michael Jackson mania and "Star Search," but he also never got to play with some of the coolest toys ever made.

I was born in 1980, so I was fortunate enough to actually own and play with some of the most iconic toys of the decade. Sadly, instead of keeping the toys as a reminder of my loving childhood, my mom decided to throw all of them away. I guess she couldn't wait to get rid of them, and me. Oh well, at least I have the memories.

Here are 20 of my favorite childhood toys from the '80s (with links to purchase them on eBay) :

1. Jem Doll

Released by Hasbro in 1985 as an homage to the popular MTV-esque cartoon, the Jem doll was like Barbie...on steroids and with a split personality. One minute she's Jerrica Benton, the blonde-haired owner and manager of Starlight Records. The next minute, she's transformed into the pink-haired lead singer of Jem and the Holograms. The coolest feature of the toy was Jem's pink, twinkling star earrings.


2. Teddy Ruxpin 

A talking teddy bear that sings and reads bedtime stories to us...instead of our parents. What's not to love about that? Although his animatronic eyes were a bit creepy, and you always felt like he was watching you in your sleep, Teddy Ruxpin still became the best-selling toy of 1985 and 1986.

3. Glo Worm

If you really think about it, a worm whose head lights up is kind of disgusting. But if you throw in a soothing lullaby then it's totally okay! This toy was so popular with kids that Hasbro later released a line of other Glo toys, including snails, crickets, butterflies and yes, skunkbugs.

4. Skip-It

"But the very best thing of all, there's a counter on this ball, so try to beat your very best score, see if you can jump a whole lot more." Yes, I know the whole Skip-It theme song, and yes, I skipped-it until the counter cracked and the plastic ball became disfigured from street wear and tear.

5. Pound Puppy

Before I ever got a real puppy, my parents bought me a Pound Puppy. This lovable creature didn't poop in the house or hog my bed at night, and I could cuddle him endlessly without fear of being slobbered on. The line of toys became so popular that they inspired an animated TV series and a feature film.

6. Koosh Ball 

The Koosh ball looked like the lovechild of a sea urchin and a disco ball. I'm not quite sure of the point of these rubber balls because they didn't bounce and you couldn't hit them with a baseball bat, but boy were they fun to throw at my brother's head!

7. Poochie

Poochie was a cute white poodle with pink hair and purple sunglasses. I owned the plastic version of the dog whose paw doubled as a rubber stamp, and went crazy putting the stickers on everything in my house (including my brother's G.I. Joe action figures).

8. My Little Pony

I don't know any girl from the '80s who didn't own a My Little Pony. These ponies came in every color imaginable (mine was hot pink)  and they all had cute symbols on the sides of their butts. Some of them even smelled like ice cream! The only downside to these toys was that their long, lustrous hair would often get tangled up, and you'd end up throwing the toy across the room because of brushing frustration.

9. Slip 'n Slide

Slip 'n Slide was probably the simplest and most abusive toy of the '80s, but definitely one of the funnest! I would spend hours slipping and sliding on this on my front lawn, damaging the grass and my kneecaps.

10. Barbie Bubbling Spa

Although I loved my Barbie colls, I think that I loved my pink Barbie Bubbling Spa much more. Why? Because I could put my Barbie dolls and my brother's Masters of the Universe toys in there together! This was probably my mom's least-liked toy because I left large puddles of water on the carpet.

11. Snorks Collectibles

The Snorks were colorful creatures that lived underwater in Snorkland. Although they were often compared to the Smurfs, I liked them more because they had cool snorkels that stuck out of their head (and were easy to pick up and throw). The pvc toys were especially fun to play with in the Barbie Bubbling Spa.

12. Cabbage Patch Kids

These dolls weren't the prettiest, and I don't know of any child who could pronounce the name of the creator (Xavier Roberts), but Cabbage Patch Kids were still one of the most popular toys of the '80s. I wasn't a huge fan of the yarn-like hair, but I loved the lumpy, outward belly buttons.

13. Rainbow Brite

This was one of the coolest, funkiest dolls of the '80s. Rainbow Brite's clothing looked like a cross between a workout outfit and a space suit, but it was still very cool. I also loved the tiny star that appeared on her left cheek. Her horse Starlite was great for taking Barbie and Ken on a date.

14. Strawberry Shortcake

I wanted to hang out with Strawberry Shortcake in Strawberryland with her deliciously named friends and her cute cat Custard. And I wanted to fall asleep every night smelling her strawberry-scented hair. In addition to watching every animated TV special about the gang, I didn't go anywhere without my vintage Strawberry Shortcake baby stroller.

15. She-Ra

Everything that made He-Man cool for boys made She-Ra, the Princess of Power, even cooler for girls. She was both a princess and a butt-kicking heroine, she was super strong and very acrobatic, and her horse Swift Wind was a unicorn and a horse!

16. Care Bears

Every little kid cared about the Care Bears. When I wasn't watching Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, or an animated TV special, I was playing with my cuddly stuffed pal Grumpy Bear. The bears came in different colors and each had a unique image on their stomach that defined their personality. Originally created for American Greetings for use on greeting cards, they eventually spawned a series of "Cousins" and are still being reintroduced to kids today.

17. Rose Petal

The Rose Petal dolls lived in Rose Petal Place, a garden that was created when a girl moved away from her home. Her teardrops of love, mixed with the wish that her flowers would live forever, magically created Rose Petal and her friends. Yes, it's ridiculous, but when you're a 5-year-old girl you'll believe anything. I loved this doll because just like Strawberry Shortcake, her hair smelled great.

18. Popples

"A soft fuzzy ball that turns into a friend." This describes the Popples, stuffed creatures created by the same folks who made Care Bears. These stuffed animals looked like a cross between a Care Bear, a kangaroo and a pom pom. They were great to sleep with at night, and perfect for younger brothers to use as soccer balls.

19. California Raisins Collectibles

Every '80s kid remembers the claymation commercial of the California Raisins singing "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." In addition to other commercials, a primetime special and a short-lived animated cartoon, the raisins also had their own collectible figures. They were sold at Hardee's to promote the Cinnamon 'N' Raisin biscuits. I would play with these for hours trying to replicate the commercial!

20. Little Miss Makeup

This doll narrowly made it to my list of favorite '80s toys because it was released in 1989. I loved Little Miss Makeup because with the stroke of a brush and water you could put on eyeshadow, lipstick and blush. Too bad makeup was never this easy in real life. I still haven't mastered eyeshadow to this day.

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