‘90s Toy Flashback: Let’s Go Retro!
It’s a favorite hobby of the young adults of today: reminiscing about the stuff we loved from the ‘80s and the ‘90s. Buzzfeed definitely specializes in this kind of nostalgia, and even if we know exactly how manipulative this tugging at our heartstrings is, nobody is immune.
So yes, when they posted a roundup of “45 Awesome Toys Every ‘90s Girl Wanted For Christmas,” I was totally suckered in – of COURSE I coveted a Barbie with intensely long hair for Hanukkah! And a Power Wheels car! And a Dream Phone game!
Fortunately, this stroll down memory lane isn’t a fruitless exercise in whimsy: I found quite a few items in the Buzzfeed list that are still around, either in their original form or improved. Maybe if you get them for your kids, they’ll let you play with them too?
And as you’ll see, I also found a few humorous bloopers. Let’s see what they got right in this roundup, and what you can still get today…
What could possibly be more ‘90s? This game was clearly aimed at kids who identified with Cher from Clueless: the goal was to explore a two-story mall, purchase six items on your shopping list, and get back to the arcade or parking lot. And between the costumes, the music, and the utterly campy theme, there’s nothing about the commercial that isn’t hilarious today.
Today’s kids prefer a somewhat subtler version on the shop-til-you-drop theme: Shopkins encourage kids to pretend that they’re “lost in the imaginary aisles of a hyper-girly superstore.” These Aussie-born cutie-pies have the obvious appeal of any adorable mini-collectible, since kids can collect, compare, trade, and create stories with their little friends. Shopkins make great stocking stuffers, as does the new Shopkins-themed version of our well-loved Spot It game.
This looked way more fun than it was (thanks, commercials!). The Kidoozie Musical Super Skipper has a serious leg up on Skip-It for lots of reasons: kids don’t need to be quite as coordinated to make it work, there’s music, kids can play together, you can play indoors… it’s just better.
As great as it was to be able to fit a tiny pal and her entire house in your pocket, Polly has been plagued with problems over the years: some of these products contained dangerous magnets, leading to recalls. Also, Polly morphed into an entirely different character over the years, less child and more teen, and not all parents were thrilled about that.
However, take-along playsets are still a thing, and while the Playmobil Take Along Modern Doll House is far bigger than a pocket, it offers a ton of space for imaginative pretend-play. It has a modern, hip look and zillions of details and accessories, and it snaps neatly closed to keep everything contained.
Or, for a more stationary but even cuter pretend-play experience, how about Calico Critters? These wholesome-as-apple-pie fuzzy friends are absolutely irresistible, and their sweet little houses and accessories are loaded with detail.
(How carefully designed and considered are Calico Critters, you ask? This reviewer felt that the little girl chipmunk, Greta, had a name that didn’t match the rest of her family. However, the manufacturers corrected her: the names work because Greta and her brother Douglas are named for film legends Douglas Fairbanks and Greta Garbo, since their parents are actors. AMAZING.)
This guy is basically still around, in much the same form: I like how the Alex Toys Color & Cuddle Poodle gives you shapes to fill in, though. And of course, the color comes out in the wash, so you can color it over again.
Klutz Hair Wraps
Klutz is definitely still around, with a zillion different craft books that come with supplies – kids can make clay charms, Disney Princess Tiaras, and plenty of other great crafts to wear and share. Or, try out some Star Wars Thumb Doodles, make Pom Pom Puppies, or learn all about dragons while folding dragon paper airplanes that really fly!
This classic is back for a new generation – game play is unchanged, and it’s still a fun one-to-one logic challenge that kids will play over and over again. Just watching the old commercial is making me want to play it!
I maintain that nobody who was not Milhouse actually wanted these and that they were a manufactured phenomenon. ‘Nuff said.
Playmobil Victorian Dollhouse
Ah, the crown jewel of the playroom: the gigantic dollhouse. Similarly stunning habitats for dolls are still craved by millions of kids, and we’ve got plenty of variations on the theme: go traditional with a Melissa & Doug Victorian Dollhouse, rustic with a Calico Critters Cozy Cottage, magical with a Playmobil Unicorn Jewel Castle, spare and modern with the PlanToys Chalet, or even abstract with the Luca & Company Play House Play Carpet.
Ok, blue eyeshadow was more of an ‘80s thing (along with sky-high hair), but little girls have never been known for their appreciation for subtlety in makeup – it’s all about slathering it on. Modern tiny designers can exercise this ongoing passion for excess in appropriately retro style with the Kahootz Fashion Plates set, or go more modern with the Fashion Angels Fashion Stylist Sticker Set or Alex Tres Chic Designer Look Book.
Ok, we don’t actually sell anything like this (Sky Dancers were famously dangerous) – I just really wanted to end this roundup with this video.