From Beyblades to Webkinz, it’s safe to say that the 2000s was a strange time for children’s merchandising. Though the era gave rise tremendously successful properties like Pokémon and saw kids take to the streets in droves aboard Razor scooters, it also spawned an almost endless flood of cheap knock-off products and outrageously tired cash-ins.
In fact, it seems like the amount of off-brand junk which lined discount shelves and bargain bins after the turn of the millennium far exceeded the amount of genuine children’s products available for sale, and perhaps that’s to be expected from a decade which played host to one of the most calamitous economic downturns since the 1930’s. Of course, that’s hardly an excuse for the complete lack of ingenuity showcased by the industry at that time.
When furbies were big, the market was flooded with creepy, vaguely anthropomorphised robotic animal creatures. When iPods were the in-thing, every tech company seemed to throw their hat into the portable mp3 player ring. When Webkinz had every pre-adolescent pining for an overpriced stuffed animal, copycats were quick to follow. Chasing trends is nothing new in the world of business, but the 2000s were totally marred by that lazy mentality.
Nearly a decade removed from a time during which flip phones had taken the world by storm and American Idol captivated millions on a weekly basis, most of the products from that time already seem awfully dated. Let’s get our nostalgia on as we count 20 of the worst kids toys from the 2000s (and 10 that are surprisingly rare.)
30 Worst: Wonder Balls
Not so much a toy as a really cheap, plastic chocolate treat, Wonder Balls were sort of like a crude prototype of today’s Kinder Surprise. Usually found en masse in quarter-a-pop prize machines or dollar stores, some versions of this thing had little plastic toys in them, though most were hollow shells filled with some of the world’s chalkiest hard candy. The Kinder Egg thing may have fallen slightly out of favor recently, but the children of today will never quite know the immense dissatisfaction of biting into one of these unpleasant little candy confections. If the name doesn’t quite sound familiar, they were also packaged and sold by Nestle under the name Nestle Magic.
29 Worst: Heelys
We have to admit that Heelys were pretty cool… well, at least in concept. Skating culture was still very much the in-thing for the youth of the new millennium, and Heelys sort of served as a stepping stone, a link to that world for those who couldn’t quite get the hang of skating themselves. Unfortunately, though they seemed cool, they turned out to be a tremendous health hazard as tons of kids were left falling flat on their backs thanks to the wobbly wheels built into the soles of their shoes. Plenty of schools outright banned them, though that only contributed to the product's rise in popularity and synonymy with outsider counterculture. Bottom line, Heelys would have been a fun little idea had they not done more harm than good.
28 Rare: American Girl Dolls
Though originally developed and released by the Pleasant Company in the mid 1980’s, American Girl dolls were definitely still a coveted commodity following the turn of the century. Though they were marketed toward children, they garnered a major adult collector following, especially as the price and appeal of the rarer dolls began to skyrocket. Each doll comes with a cute and well-thought-out name and origin story, and there are tons of the things. However, some of the rarest releases can command thousands of dollars, and those looking to complete their American Girl collections need to be ready to open their wallets.
27 Worst: Zhu Zhu Pets
What would you get if you combined a stuffed animal with a malfunctioning RC car? Well, you would get a Zhu Zhu Pet, of course. Though innovative, these weird little plush hamsters were more than a little pricey and less than desirable to children who would have really prefer an actual pet hamster. Sure, they were a substitute for kids who probably couldn’t be trusted with the real thing, but their loud gears and groaning, squeaking speakers made them more off-putting than the motionless, porcelain stare of an American Girl Doll. Sure, they didn’t need to be fed or monitored at all, but watching a fake hamster race around an over-sized tube could sometimes impart something of an uncanny valley effect.
26 Worst: Mighty Beanz
Originally introduced in 2002, Mighty Beanz were a series of collectible, pill-shaped capsules that kids could trade and play a handful of games with. Each bean, typically designed to look like some sort of character from children’s media or the broader spectrum of pop culture, contains a small metal BB which can cause the bean to flop end over end if manipulated correctly. Clearly intended to capitalize on the collectibles trend inspired by Pokémon, Mighty Beanz have something of a desperate air to them. Worse still is the fact that they still make these things today; consumers can purchase a set of Fortnite Mighty Beanz from Amazon right now for eight bucks, which undoubtedly proves that we are living in the worst possible timeline.
25 Rare: Tamagotchi
Though primarily considered to be a relic of the late 90’s, Tamagotchi pets were still alive and kicking in the early 2000s—provided you didn’t forget to feed them, of course. Every kid who grew up around that time knew the pain of checking that little key-chain-sized contraption only to realize that their little virtual pet had kicked the bucket, and there were even cases of desperate owners leaving these toys with friends to look after while they were away. Elders often criticize the millennial generation of being hopelessly addicted to their phone screens, but it was these little menaces that got us into the habit in the first place. Though nobody cares about them today, the few hopelessly addicted Tamagotchi veterans will pay through the nose for some of the rarer models.
24 Worst: Sky Dancers
Launched (get it, launched) in the early 1990’s, Sky Dancers are usually thought of as a product of that decade. However, they did survive until the early 2000's. Though they were definitely neat in concept, much like Heelys, they were actually far more dangerous than any of the initial designers may have imagined. These little wind up dolls would shoot off of a launch pad and “dance” through the air, but they also stood an excellent chance of twirling into an unsuspecting child’s eye, which wasn’t much fun. Everyone is familiar with that classic America’s Funniest Home Videos clip in which the inaugural flight of a pixie lands directly in the fireplace, but that’s really only a small taste of the Sky Dancer’s destructive potential.
23 Worst: Sock 'Em Boppers
Everyone who entered adolescents around Y2K should be familiar with these things; essentially a set of inflatable boxing gloves, the advertisements promised a hilariously raucous time of innocent—albeit slightly violent—fun. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned, and, in an era wrought with frivolous lawsuits, these things seemed like a particularly bad idea for a children’s toy. Nevertheless, they were pretty popular in the early 2000’s and lead to plenty of nosebleeds and hurt feelings. They may seem great on the surface, but someone was guaranteed to go home in tears whenever the Sock ‘em Boppers came out. That may not have been everyone’s experience, but an inflatable fistfight is only a step away from the real thing.
22 Rare: Polly Pocket
Although not exceptionally rare when compared to some other relics of the era, certain collections of Polly Pocket figures and accessories can command surprising prices on eBay. For those who forgot what Polly Pocket is—and anyone could certainly be forgiven for doing so—they were a series of characterized, miniature Barbie Doll knock-offs which usually came paired with some elaborate dollhouse-like sets. Plastic junk was the name of the game when these things were big, so they came loaded with tons and tons of cheap little items. From plastic purses to plastic cars and even plastic houses, there must have been enough of this stuff to fill the Pacific Ocean. Somehow, some of the less common stuff is actually on its way to becoming valuable.
21 Worst: Gym Scooters
Like so many childhood playthings, gym scooters seemed like the most amazing invention in the world until we realize in hindsight how terribly dangerous they actually were. These scooters, which seemed to have infiltrated every elementary school gym in the country, would have been awesome were they not a finger injury waiting to happen. The idea was that kids would sit on them and use their hands and feet to roll around, but that virtually guaranteed that someone would accidentally roll over their appendages and be sent to the nurses office. It must have been quite harrowing for teachers; imagine being forced to stand by and observe the class as the likelihood of an accident steadily increased.
20 Worst: Silly Bandz
Trendy among a youth who would soon bring Justin Bieber's chirpy, childish song Baby to the top of the charts, Silly Bandz were an obnoxious, inane product which saw kids across the country loading up their arms with colored rubber bands which would morph into the rough outline of some animal or object when removed. While relatively inoffensive, their near omnipresence quickly became annoying, and parents likely grew tired of finding these things all over the house. The late 2000’s version of the fidget spinner, Silly Bandz were yet another totally stupid invention which had non-inventors everywhere desperately wondering why they hadn’t thought of that.
19 Rare: Lego's Bionicle
Anyone remember Lego’s Bionicle line of toys? They were a series of buildable mini-figures geared toward a slightly older male audience with a weird focus on tribal combat. Though their designs were strange, their ubiquitous anatomy meant that sets could be swapped and combined to produce the ultimate plastic Lego warrior. Though a good amount of the ancillary media surrounding the product was unbearably cheesy and low-budget, the actual toys were fairly well-done. Bionicle doesn’t seem like the thing that would have much of a following among collectors, but some dedicated Lego aficionados are willing to pay up for some of the less common sets and pieces.
18 Worst: Neopets
Started in the closing days of 1999, Neopets is a website which served as the impetus for many child-oriented online gaming experiences which permeated the mid 2000’s. Though Club Penguin and Webkinz would have at one time stood head and shoulders above this service in their heydays, they likely wouldn’t have been able to get off of the ground without this digital forebear. Neopets was mostly online only, but the platform’s popularity was once such that it sold a litany of Neopets plushies, and the franchise even managed to cash in on a lucrative tie-in deal with McDonald's restaurants. Though Neopets deserves praise for its ingenuity, it was otherwise a fairly bland and uninteresting experience which really only served to elevate the price of pay-per-minute net access.
17 Worst: Hit Clips
Hit Clips were just…. just the worst. Perhaps the least user-friendly method of listening to music aside from performing it yourself, Tiger’s tacky music service was a far cry to the high-quality, uncompressed sound CDs had been offering for well over a decade at that point. Songs, which were sold individually, came on small plastic cartridges not too dissimilar from something like an original GameBoy game. Users popped them into a very tiny set of plastic speakers molded into the shape of a boom box and rocked out with audio quality which was quite frankly unforgivably bad. What’s worse, these carts couldn’t even fit the full song, so Hit Clips were really nothing more than an exercise in self-loathing.
16 Rare: Special Edition Furbies
Everyone remembers furbies; those weird little robot/bird hybrid creatures which often came across as subtly menacing. For whatever reason, the late 90’s and early 2000’s played host to a very strange animatronic toy phenomenon, and these absurd little toys sold as if money had no meaning because the impending new millennium was going to bring about the end of the world. For one reason or another, Furbies actually made a small resurgence a short time ago, though they didn’t quite take off like they did nearly two decades ago. Those with a few special editions stowed away in the attic may want to check eBay, though, as some rare Furby models can go for a surprising amount.
15 Worst: Playmobil
Playmobil was like Lego’s unattractive cousin; it tried desperately to grab everyone’s attention, people laughed about it behind its back, and it was a real bummer whenever it showed up at birthday parties. As previously mentioned, the 2000’s were absolutely rife with horrible me-too knock-off toys, and Playmobil was the absolute pinnacle of lazy cash-grabs. Unlike the appealing, cute nature of Lego’s characters, Playmobil had a gangly, awkward design that clearly tried to be as similar to the other product without crossing over any legal boundaries. It was terrible, and, for some strange reason, mobile game publisher Gameloft actually put out a pirate-themed Playmobil game back in 2012.
14 Worst: Tech Decks
Skateboarding is thought to have been popularized by surfers in the late 1950’s desperate for something to do when they couldn’t hit the beaches, and it’s since become a counter-cultural focal point passed on from generation to generation. In the 2000's, Tony Hawk’s epic series of video games brought the sport to an all new audience, and the popularity of skating was further perpetuated. The decade also saw miniaturized skateboard hand toys briefly rise in popularity. Though short lived, these little toys were extremely popular for a time, and those who couldn’t actually skate could still impress their friends with their sick finger-skating techniques.
13 Rare: Hot Wheels
First debuted in 1968, Hot Wheels seemed like such a simplistic and natural children’s toy that it’s hard to imagine that they weren’t produced sooner. The quintessential item for every kid going through that inevitable car phase, these unique little items had a distinctive charm that was tough to deny. At this point, Hot Wheels has been going strong for just over half of a century, and there’s no signs of stopping. Though they aren’t typically classified as a toy unique to the 2000’s, they were definitely still a major part of the lives of most children at that time, and collectors will pay big bucks to snag some of the brand’s rarer offerings, including a few which saw limited release during that decade.
12 Worst: Homies
Based on a comic series by Mexican-American cartoonist David Gonzales, Homies was a quirky series of plastic figurines which were meant to represent various characters and memories from Gonzales’ childhood memories. Though the toy line may have been started with positive intentions, it’s hard to imagine these toys passing muster in today’s cultural climate. Needless to say, the Homies toy line was considered by many to be somewhat tasteless, and it wasn’t long until the brand faded into obscurity. Hilariously, the series actually got its own video game in the former of 2006’s Nintendo DS exclusive cart racer Homie Rollerz. The game is nearly unplayable, but the trailer is amazing.
11 Worst: Water Wigglies
The focus of an uncountable number of “90’s kids only” tumblr posts, Water Wigglies were perhaps the most perplexing toy of the turn of the millennium. Their purpose was beyond obscure, and they may have been anything from a weird arm band to some kind of super-awkward cozy. Though the popularity of this product seems to have reached its zenith during the late 1990’s, they were still present years later, and some teenagers today may still have early memories of playing with these things. Water Wigglies are actually readily available on Amazon, so nostalgic parties can stock up on these wacky oddities and party like it’s Y2K.
10 Rare: Muppets Action Figures
Created by famous puppeteer Jim Henson all the way back in 1955, the Muppets have become a beloved entertainment staple beloved by generations of fans. The franchise and characters have undergone something of a revival since the 2011 movie The Muppets, and original brand paraphernalia has since skyrocketed in price. Palisades Toys released a limited number of unique Muppet action figures in the early 2000’s which were marketed to collectors, and these figures have become some of the most coveted items in franchise history. While the rest of us are content to beep along with Beaker during the Muppets’ Christmas-time rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas, others are willing to pay up to own a little piece of Muppets history.
9 Worst: Tiger Electronics Games
Tiger Electronics have proven themselves to be the quintessential manufacturer of useless plastic junk over the past few decades, and there’s a pretty high chance that at least some of the gimmicky pieces of hardware occupying your basement right at this very moment bear their logo. While their long lineage of terrible handheld “video games” is usually thought to have been contained to the 80’s and 90’s, these awful, chirping monstrosities frequently found their ways into happy meals throughout the 2000’s. There are far too many Tiger Electronics games to count, and, unlike some other strange gaming anomalies, these are absolutely worthless today.
8 Worst: Lord of the Rings: Return Of The King Uruk-Hai Crossbow Action Figure
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings early 2000’s film trilogy was and still is heralded as the triumphant cinematic masterpiece that Tolkien's universe deserved. The movies were by-and-large phenomenal, and that naturally meant that they were ripe for marketing exploitation. Enter the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Uruk-Hai Crossbow Action Figure; a neat little model from the movie which came with the added bonus of being able to actually fire mini plastic arrows from a miniature bow! That didn’t go down well with most parents back in 2005, unfortunately, as the toy could pose a pretty significant threat to any unattended children. Who or what even is Uruk-Hai, anyway?
7 Rare: Bop It
Created in 1996, Bop It was a pretty big thing around the turn of the century. A simple test of skill which demanded players to obey a quick set of commands without flaw, it was a fun brain-training method that felt right at home in an era loaded with cheap plastic nonsense. Though Bop It’s legacy is still remembered today, the buzz surrounding the toy has long since died down. That said, there are still a couple of toy collectors out there who would pay for a first-edition release. They won’t sell for crazy amounts of money, but it’s interesting to know that a silly little children’s toy could, within the space of around a quarter of a century, warrant any sort of value at all.
6 Worst: Air Kicks
Remember moon shoes? A product which took off before the new millennium, they were essentially miniature trampolines designed to be tied to the user's feet. They didn’t work all that well, but they did succeed in impeding everyone’s ability to walk. Air Kicks, released slightly more than ten years ago, were sort of an enhanced version of moon shoes. These didn’t work all that well either, but the design came off as just a bit more refined. Unfortunately, it was equally difficult to stand on walk while wearing them, and they caused a lot of minor injuries to overeager children. Though the moon shoe concept still persists, it's safe to say that these were never exactly a great idea to begin with.
5 Worst: Bratz
Barbie dolls often catch flak for perpetuating impossible female beauty standards, but Bratz took things to a whole new level in the 2000’s. Marketed as something of a new take on an old formula, Bratz were dolls with attitude. They all had unique names, backstories, accessories, and they were all hideously ugly. Barbie may be far too slender and anatomically disproportionate, but Bratz had freakishly large heads and came off as totally obnoxious. There was also a ridiculously bad television series based on the property which ran for two seasons on Cartoon Network from 2005 to 2008, but the less said about that, the better.
4 Rare: Retired Webkinz
Webkinz was a major tween cultural phenomenon in the mid to late 2000’s and likely introduced a generation of kids to the internet. For somewhere around ten dollars, parents could purchase a little stuffed animal plushie which came paired with an access code for the site which granted players an in-game avatar of that animal. It was a cool concept, and the idea was spiritually succeeded by products like Activision’s Skylanders, and eventually Nintendo’s Amiibo. Though it’s long past its prime, Webkinz is still up and running, and some nostalgic collectors will pay far more than anyone should for animals that are no longer in production.
3 Worst: Tekno The Robotic Puppy
There are doubtlessly a ton of people out in their late teens and early 20’s who fondly remember Tekno the Robotic Puppy, but the benefit of hindsight should tell us that this little robot dog wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. A little plastic puppy molded to look like some sort of cyborg, Tekno’s eyes quite literally lit up when it saw you and could respond to a very limited number of voice commands. Though neat enough for the time, this thing was like the most primitive version of Amazon Alexa imaginable. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth to this concept, and it could by no means compete with an actual puppy, though it did come with the added benefit of never having to use the bathroom.
2 Worst: Beyblades
Beyblades were so laughably stupid that it’s hard to imagine how they managed to get past the initial design phase. Yes, the premise is sort of cool; players use a little plastic launcher to spin a top and shoot them off into an arena to do battle with someone else’s spinning top. It sounded neat in theory, especially to a youth raised on Pokémon and Yu Gi Oh, but, as Thanos famously put it in Infinity War, reality is often disappointing. Watching two tops duke it out in a plastic shell quickly grew old, and the property’s cast of characters couldn’t hold a candle to most of their competition. There’s even a hilariously cringe-inducing anime based on these toys which is somehow still running to this day.
1 Rare: Pokémon Cards
Though this famous Japanese card trading game was technically introduced prior to the 2000’s, it was very much a part of nearly every child’s life at that time, and it still is today. In just over 20 years, Pokémon has grown to become a global multimedia phenomenon with fans constantly clamoring to get a peek at the latest games, cards, and anime episodes. While some of the newer creature designs are critiqued by older players, there's no shortage of admiration for the original 151. Specific cards can go for exorbitantly high prices on eBay, and buying and selling Pokémon cards has become akin to something like stock exchange day trading for some. I’ll never be selling my original holographic (moldy, water damaged) Charizard, though,—it’s simply far too valuable.