Tsk tsk tsk. These poor children today. They’re so deprived. Their playthings click and whir and toot and talk but they lack character and charisma. The bells and whistles of all these fancy schmancy digital thingamajigs don’t necessarily make playtime any better.
I’m an '80s baby, loud and proud, so yep, I’m gonna say it: when we were kids (you knew I was gonna take it there) and even when our parents were kids, the toys were just better. Remember Baby Skates? Lite-Brite? And a moment of silence for my poor Rubik's cube’s stickers, which were so mangled from all my strategic peeling and repositioning that the edges refused to lay flat and basically told on me. Ah, the memories.
Think back real hard. (Some of us harder than others.) What were the dolls, the games, the weirdo whatchamacallits that gave you so much entertainment pleasure? And more importantly, do your kids have them in their toy boxes?
Roller skates. Bummer to you folks who never learned how to skate (or ride a bike!) and have denied yourself the experience of dancing around a rink or gliding across a city sidewalk with the uncertainty of four wheels wobbling underfoot. I still fit in the same pair of Roller Derbies that my mama bought me back in the fifth grade, and I whipped them out to teach The Girl how to roll bounce.
Easy Bake Oven. Was there ever a greater thrill than shoving that little circular silver pan into the center of that little plastic appliance and then pressing your nose against the side to intently watch your handiwork rise? The cakes were far from gourmet, the cookies tasted like tiny hockey pucks, and the ingredients in the macaroni and cheese may just now be fully digesting through your system, but the joy of being a bona fide cook made the Easy Bake Oven the hottest commodity in your kitchen — next to the Snoopy snowball maker, of course.
Sidewalk chalk. So simple, so versatile, so freakin’ utilitarian. You could use it to draw a picture or whip up an impromptu game of hopscotch all without leaving the 40-foot proximity your mother invisible-choke-chained you to. Those thick sticks were portable enough to stuff in your pockets and came in shareable packs that made the artistry and — admit it — experimental vandalism easy to share with your pals.
Walkie talkies. Teen Girl is the only one of her friends without a cellphone. It’s not that she hasn’t hinted, suggested, asked, and even pleaded for one. Little does she know, Christmas will be the big day. But before the miracle of modern technology enabled us to reach out and touch someone from half a world away, we got a kick out of 10-4ing and rogering on walkie talkies. My cousin and I would take them into the woods behind my grandmother’s house and pretend like we were extra members of the A-Team or, if there was a car nearby that could stand in for the General Lee, Dukes of Hazzard. Yee haw.
Barbie Dream House. Back before I had a social agenda and railed against everything that that plastic, big-chested, tiny-waisted doll represented, I was just a girl who loved styling Barbie’s hair and fantasizing my way through little skits and storylines. Now, it should be said that I never actually had a Dream House. My guess was it was too expensive for my single mom’s birthday and Christmas budget but I don’t mind telling you I flat-out lusted after them — and lived vicariously through Girl Child when she got one. That was one day I didn’t mind being invited into her room to play.
Super Soaker. Now that I’m strapped into a jacket and I’ve tucked my flip-flops away, I have an even greater appreciation for the blasting cool from a jet stream of water. To be fair, I grew up with regular ol’ water guns. You know the little plastic kind that you filled up in the bathroom sink and secured with that little white tab? But once the Super Soaker was released with its pure backyard assault genius, it became a must for ... well, everybody.
What would you add to the list of the best toys of all time and, even more importantly, do your kids have them?
Image via Jim, the Photographer/Flickr