Out with the old and in with the new? More like, reinvent the old and make it new.
The toy industry is constantly upping its game, adding shiny, new playthings for kids to obsess over throughout every stage of childhood. This is thanks to its ability to adapt to the taste of today’s kids.
My favorite kinds of toys aren’t necessarily the latest and greatest additions to our beloved collection, but rather toys that have actually been around for years, most which age even myself! Grandparents, parents, and older siblings probably recognize some of the most popular toys of today from their childhood play days. While many are aware that Barbie comes with a long and impressive history dating back to the ‘50s, they may be surprised to find out that the first video games go as far back as the groovy ‘70s!
With just a little revamping and reworking, the hottest toys from over the course of the last six decades are still alive and well today. Kids may cringe at the thought, but those super cool, must-have toys that make up their wish lists probably topped their parents and grandparents lists long before they were even a thought.
Take a look at some of our favorite timeless toys from the course of the last 50 years and see how they have changed from then to now.
Before Barbie became a cultural symbol with its own brand, it all started with Ruth Handler’s idea of creating a three-dimensional, “grown up” doll for kids. At the time, a female doll that was the epitome of fashion and liberation was not well-received.
When Handler suggested the idea to her husband, co-founder of Mattel, he was not convinced. With a little persistence—and a slight redesign to the original pitch—Barbie was born. The OG Barbie doll was available with blonde and brunette hairstyles, and sported a zebra swimsuit. Within just a year of her introduction, Barbie became the biggest selling fashion doll of all time. Mic. Drop.
Fast forward more than half of a century later, and just last year the line got a 21st century makeover with the introduction of Barbie Fashionistas. This new line of dolls is available in a variety of different body types, skin tones, and hairstyles with both female and male dolls.
With a brand that extends well beyond a collection of trendy dolls, the latest “OMG” toy that Barbie plans to launch will quite literally bring Barbie to life. Hello Barbie Hologram lives insides a Bluetooth speaker and is a personal assistant for kids to help them pick out an outfit, get a full weather report, play music, and become a personal yoga instructor. While the official launch date is not yet confirmed, we can bet that even Handler would be in awe!
‘60s: Etch A Sketch
When the Ohio Art Company saw Etch a Sketch—to put it gently—it was not impressed. A year later, the company decided to take a chance and run with it. Despite the low expectations, the mechanical drawing toy launched in time for the 1960 holiday season, and it wasn’t long before it became the most popular drawing toy in the biz.
Last year, Spin Master acquired the rights to the Etch A Sketch name and design, continuing to feed our addiction for this simple but innovative style of drawing. Etch A Sketch Freestyle, a personal favorite of mine, actually lets kids draw freestyle and stamp in color. Using LCD technology, this Etch a Sketch allows kids to exercise creativity while staying true to the classic shake-to-erase feature. Freestylin’ has never been this fun!
‘70s: Arcade Video Games
The world of gaming as we know it would not be what it is today had it not been for the first arcade games to hit the scene in the early ‘70s. Long before Pac-Man and Frogger, Atari Inc.’s Pong was the pioneer of arcade video games. The two-dimensional sports game stimulates table tennis, where players control an in-game paddle by moving it vertically across the left or right side of the screen.
Last year’s all-female Ghostbusters remake re-ignited the obsession for the ‘80s film, but only true fans have seen the live-action TV series that started it all: The Ghost Busters. After airing in the mid-70s, it inspired the 1986 animated series, Ghostbusters. From there, the Real Ghostbusters toy line, from Kenner, launched in time to top almost all holiday wish lists in 1986. The line was made and added to—as well as constantly sold out—up until the early ‘90s.
Last year, mega fans had the chance to relive the paranormal with awesome toys and collectibles based on the film’s remake. The movie-inspired collection featured building, role-play, R/C, plush, action figure, and interactive toys. Playmobil even launched an entire line of play sets inspired by the blockbuster films.
Playmobil’s Ghostbusters Ecto-1 brings the iconic ghost-chaser to life. This action vehicle has tons of room for proton packs and ghost traps, and features original sounds and functioning lights. The vehicle also comes with Winston Zeddemore and Janine Melnitz in their official uniforms with two detachable proton packs and proton lasers, a ghost trap, PKE mete for measuring psychokinetic energy, and silicone slime splatters that stick to smooth surfaces. Who you gonna call? Play-mobil!
‘90s: Tickle Me Elmo
Oh, that laugh, that adorably, irresistible laugh! The first Tickle Me Elmo, from Tyco Preschool, was an interactive plush toy that talked and laughed when he was tickled. During the 1996 holiday season, Tickle Me Elmo won the hearts of preschoolers, kids, and parents, all who could not get enough of Elmo’s uncontrollable, belly-shaking laughter.
The line has since expanded with various editions of the furry, laughing friend, as well as some variations featuring other Sesame Street characters. Tickle Me Elmo, by Hasbro, is a slightly smaller version of the original Elmo, and will bring all the feels this holiday season. When kids get Elmo laughing on a roll, he’ll even start to move and shake, a new feature not previously seen in any other Tickle Me Elmo model. Time to get tickling!
The compact folding scooter first hit the scene in the early ‘00s and sold more than 5 million in just the first six months of its launch (I am proud to say that I am a part of this statistic!). These scooters were the apple to every kid’s eye, and parents loved that they could easily pack it up in the car and head on over to the park.
A few years after its debut, the first electric scooter was released, and it soon paved the way for skateboards, wheeled shoes, hoverboards, and all types of thrilling ride-ons. The RSF350 and RSF650 are streetfighter style, electric ride-ons for kids that can cruise up to 14 mph and 17 mph, respectively. Vroom, vroom!