Kids these days have it easy, at least when it comes to toys. Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for mom and dad to hand little Timmy a utensil and tell him to get away from them for as long as possible. These days, the utensil would be made of foam, come in several vomit-inducing pastel shades of green and pink, and come with a War and Peace-sized warning label on the side.
Of course, the downfall of Toys 'R Us is a good reminder that kids don’t play with toys these days anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s because modern toys just aren’t as fun as those from the 60s or 70s. On the other hand, when you look at how weird some of those old toys were, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Heck, even more recent toys than that have been extremely weird for one reason or another. Toxic chemicals, poor construction, or just plain bad ideas in toy design was persistent all the way up through the early 2000s.
For a nice blast from the past, how about we all put down our video games and phones for a minute and take a look at some truly wild toys? The following 30 child’s playthings of yesteryear would never, ever get made today. Though, again, looking at some of these that may be a good thing.
29 Swept Away By The Nimbus 2000
Harry Potter is one of the biggest multi-media franchises in the world. Perhaps one of the best things about the original books were that they grew up with their readers. The first, The Philosopher’s Stone (named The Sorcerer’s Stone in the US), featured a young Harry Potter first finding out he was a wizard. By the final book, The Deathly Hallows released 10 years later, he was an adult and saving the world.
The tone of the books grew darker and more mature with each installment, just like Harry and the reader. No better example of this was when Mattel released the Vibrating Nimbus 2000, which was the flying broom Harry owned. This was essentially a long rod-shaped broom handle with a rounded end that vibrated quite vigorously. Yeah, you can see where this is going. Mattel ended up pulling it.
28 Can't Wiggle Out Of This One
The Water Wiggle was released in 1962 by Wham-O, a company that’s now infamous for creating some of the most problematic kids toys ever made. The Water Wiggle might have been their worst creation ever, which resulted in the passing of at least two people in the 1970s. This Water Wiggle was a device you stuck on the end of a garden hose, and when you turned the hose on, it rocketed up into the sky.
From there it would wildly dance around like the Tasmanian Devil, sending water flying everywhere.
The problem was that it was unpredictable, and if you turned the water pressure up too high, it could either hit you in the face, and this thing hit like a brick. A component could be removed from the toy, causing the escaping water to shoot out at high levels of pressure.
27 Suzy's Standards
Nothing like good old fashioned gender prejudice with children’s toys, am I right? The Suzy Homemaker line of “toys” is exactly what you’re picturing–a line of productions from the 1960s made specifically for young girls, featuring fake vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, ironing boards, ovens, blenders, etc.
The ads in particular were specifically marketed towards socially conservative households during the hippie 60’s with the ad campaign “Suzy Homemaker is a square.” “She doesn’t wear love beads,” one magazine ad reads. “She wears shoes. She even washes regularly! She gets more fun out of being a cook than a kook.” These became so infamous during the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s that “Suzy Homemaker” became a bad term. Eventually, the toy line ceased production specifically because of the negative associations.
26 Waiting On His Call
The Dream Phone was a board game released in 1991, aimed at teenage girls. The idea was that you moved around the board and had to guess which “hot guy” was your secret admirer. It was basically Guess Who for teenage girls.
What set the game apart, however, and why it would never happen today, is the titular Dream Phone it came with.
To play the game, you have to pick up the phone and randomly call other men and ask around about what they’re into. The game basically promotes young girls making random phone calls to men, getting them to chase after boys they don’t know, and blindly accept whoever likes them simply because they look nice. At the very least, the idea of getting girls to gather around a fake, pink plastic phone and pretend like they have a bunch of guys fawning over them is… strange.
You know what kids really love? Picking their nose. That’s not even a joke, which is exactly why Gooey Louie is on this list. Why would kids want to play with a fake plastic head that they can pull snot out of when they already do that themselves? Oh, yeah, that’s what Gooey Louie was, by the way. Pulling green tubes out of a plastic toy’s head is already strange enough, but that’s just the start of it. To get the “snot” to come out, you have to push down on a rod sticking out of the back of his head, which also has a brain on the end of it. Oddly enough, this was a 90s toy, fairly recently. It’s overall grossness would normally indicate an 80s release, so maybe it was the last of a dying generation of disgusting toys.
24 The First Rule About Sock'em Boppers...
Sock’em Boppers, also known as Socker Boppers, was a popular 90s boys toy. They were inflatable tubes that kids wore as boxing gloves and used them to actually fight each other. I mean, sure, we had toy guns and swords growing up back in the day, but you never actually shot or stabbed someone.
With these, you were literally punching people.
Nobody’s ever perished from these, at least as far as we know, I’m not even sure anyone’s been injured from them. The tagline on the box says these are “more fun than a pillow fight,” and these are probably as weird as that. Still, it’s impossible to imagine in this day and age parents giving their kids inflatable boxing gloves and telling them to go see the neighbor’s kid.
23 Don't Play With Your Food
The Food Fighters was an odd toy line from the 80s. They were semi-anthropomorphized food items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and cookies, and made into action figures. The Kitchen Commandos and the Refrigerator Rejects fought each other in a possible food civil war and came with a ton of accessories like bases that were refrigerators and tanks made from grills.
These would never be allowed today, though, because when they were first made, they came with realistic weapons. Eventually, the guns were changed to more fictionalized ones and came in different colors, but the whole thing was just too surreal. Humanizing random objects and animals and giving them guns was a common trend in the 80s, for some reason. Another line of toys was the Barnyard Commandos, composed of farm animals with guns and rocket launchers.
22 Watch Out For The Toilet
Hey kids! Do you want to play with a toilet that has a tongue sticking out of it? You’re a gross kid, so you probably do! It’s not hard to imagine that could have been the tagline for the Fearsome Flush, a toy from the Real Ghostbusters line, based on the animated kids show. The Fearsome Flush really is just a regular toilet with a tongue coming out of the “mouth” and some eyeballs on top.
It’s pretty gross looking, which was probably the point.
The real question is, what would a kid have done with this? You open the lid, see the tongue and eyes, and that’s it. It’s not like it has some kind of battle feature, and it doesn’t even come with guns like the Food Fighters did. It’s just a toilet. Toys back then were so weird and wonderful.
21 Baking Some Bugs
These days, Creepy Crawlers is a fun little toy that lets you make weird bugs. There’s not much point in the final product, but the act of making these things is what makes it worth it. But the original iteration of the Creepy Crawlers in the 1960s was slightly less fun. Originally, kids had to put the “plastic goop” into a mold and put that on a hot plate in the device. The plate would heat up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit which would fully melt the plastic into shape. The problem is that kids aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and many of them didn’t wait for this plate to cool down before reaching for the finished Crawlers. Mattel pulled the initial run of toys and released an updated version, but the popularity of the Creepy Crawlers fluctuated up and down for years after the 70s.
20 Giddy Up!
Yep. This was an actual product that was made and sold in what was clearly a more innocent time. What part of this toy is the weirdest? The name? The cowboy aesthetic? Or is it the actual premise behind the toy itself? This was a somewhat realistic looking horse saddle that one could only hope a child’s actual father would strap to their back and let what could only hope was their child ride them around like a horse. The original ad for this toy says “For hours of the most exciting fun any child and parent ever had playing together.” Imagine what kind of people would think this is the most possible fun thing they could do for hours. That daddy would break either his knees or his back.
Oh well, you know what they say. “Giddyup, ole Daddy!”
19 The Youngest Teletubby
Nothing is worse than a toy that says “bite my [behind].” In 1998, the Teletubbies were a big deal, so it would make sense that toys were made of the strange, monstrous characters. One such character was Po, the red one and thus presumably the leader, was a female… Teletubby.
That’s important, because when the dolls came out, they gave them voices from the show.
The Po toy says things like “faster, faster” and “slower, slower” for whatever reason, but that’s not what parents heard. Instead, they heard another word, and somehow the thing about bottoms. The controversy became so big that the head of Hasbro himself commented on the situation, explaining what the doll was actually saying and that it just sounded that way because of the actress’ accent.
18 Almost Like Stress Balls
Yo-Yo Water Balls are exactly what you think. Yo-Yos that are full of water. That’s really all there is to it. It was made of the same elastic plastic you’d find in a stress ball so you could fill it with water and play with it in a pool. Honestly, it doesn’t sound all that fun, but kids are easily amused, so it was probably fine.
The problem was, these weren't super safe. They broke a lot. The problem could easily be remedied by setting them on fire, as it turned out the material they were made of was also highly flammable. Phew! The toy was ultimately banned in the US states Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. In 2003, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also issued a mild advisory against the problems with the toy.
17 A New Way To Tube
In 2006, WeGo released the Kite Tube, which was a combination of a tube you pull behind a boat in a lake and a kite. The idea was that you put a child unit on it, pulled the Kite Tube behind your boat like you normally would, and the tube would take off several feet into the air like a kite, with the munchkin on it.
If that sounds like a good idea to you, then you must be a WeGo executive, because I can’t think of anyone else who would. The thing wasn’t aerodynamic at all. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the tube can rise 25 feet off the ground, and anyone riding the thing can fall and hit the water at up to 50 miles an hour. As a result, WeGo recalled the product and it was pulled from store shelves.
16 Barbie's Trying Some New Things
Spanish Barbie is probably exactly what you think it is. A normal Barbie doll dressed up as a matador, complete with red cape. Mattel was bombarded with letters demanding the doll be changed or removed, as this was viewed as a stereotypical portrayal of Spanish people.
Teen Talk Barbie became infamous for its talking functionality, with one line being “math class is tough.”
This was viewed as insulting to women, and several national organizations, such as National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and American Association of University Women criticized the doll of reinforcing the belief in girls that they should become mathematicians or scientists. In 1993, a group of performance artists swapped out the voice boxes of these Barbies with GI Joes and snuck them onto store shelves in the same packaging. Girls who bought these dolls were treated to new phrases.
15 Playing With Darts
Jarts are lawn darts, which means they’re like regular darts but much bigger and much heavier. In 1987, they came under fire for their design. David Snow campaigned against Jarts, and a commission began investigating the toy. What they found was strange.
“Over a period of eight years, lawn darts had sent 6,100 people to the emergency room,” reports MentalFloss. Turns out that people didn't know how to use the darts properly, and they were questioned as to whether or not they were suitable for the children they were being marketed towards. After these findings, the US and Canada both banned Jarts and any form of lawn darts. In this case, this is maybe for the best.
14 The Witch Doctor
The Witch Doctor Head Shrinkers Kit was made by Pressman in the late 60s. The kit came with a mini-cauldron, several bags that came marked with skull and crossbones, and a mold. A kid would mix up the powder with water in the cauldron and put it into the mold. It would then harden, allowing the kids to paint it.
Then they were to leave it sitting around, and over time it would shrink on its own.
I don’t know, maybe it’s the commercial that makes it look creepier than it is. The black and white film grain combined with the low resolution makes these look gross. The weird witch ritual at the start doesn’t help either. Or maybe it’s because the commercial looks like it came straight from Manos: The Hands of Fate.
13 Teaching Kids That Plastic Is Fun
The Vac-U-Form is a weird thing. First off, why would they think that kids playing with plastic would be fun? Just like the Creepy Crawlers maker, the Vac-U-Form required kids using an extremely hot piece of metal to mold plastic into shapes to make their own toys.
Made in the 60s, the Vac-U-Form was made by Mattel. It was a big box that had a heating plate to heat up plastic sheets and a vacuum chamber that would pull the heated sheets down over a mold. The plastic would cool, and the child unit could cut away the excess plastic and use it with other pieces of plastic to make their own toys. It’s hard to imagine kids spending the time to make their own toys these days. Especially ones like boats and cars, as was suggested in the instruction manual.
12 Bouncing To Freedom
Moon Shoes look utterly ridiculous. They’re giant boxes a tiny human would strap to their feet that would let them jump high in the air. They were basically mini-trampolines attached to your feet. Originally in the 70s, these were made of metal, but when Nickelodeon started making them, they switched to plastic. Hey, one regular shark is a whole lot safer than two sharks that are on fire.
Yeah, it didn’t matter much, because these were poorly designed.
You could get some good hang time on these, but the problem was landing. You can’t really control yourself in the air, and you don’t have an actual trampoline to land on in case you propel yourself too far forward or backward. Even if you did land on your feet, there was no guarantee you could keep your footing.
11 What Were These?
The Jibba Jabber was a doll with thin, wiry arms, legs, and neck. They slightly resemble Bratz dolls with their colorful hair and uncanny valley faces. But what set the Jibba Jabber apart was that if you shook its neck, it would make gagging noises. Seriously. That’s literally all the toy did. This was released in the 90s too, it’s not some bizarre antiquity from the 50s or 60s.
It’s pretty obvious why this would never be allowed today. Kids just don’t appreciate Pablo Picasso inspirations in modern toys, and it’s a real shame, as the craftsmanship on these fine dolls is exquisite. These are truly wonderful works of art, and that’s just not what kids want these days.
10 Teaching Kids About Physics (For Fun!)
The Atomic Energy Laboratory kit was meant to inspire kids (or given when this was released, boys) to love science, and want to learn more. One look at this thing gives you the strong indication that Gilbert wasn’t messing around. The kit is full of all kinds of hardcore science equipment, just on a smaller scale. The kit contained a cloud chamber, which let kids watch particles travel at 12,000 miles per second, a spinthariscope, which lets the user view the effects of radiation on a fluorescent screen, and an electroscope that let the user measure the radiation levels of various items in the kit.
Yes, you read those last two correctly. This kit actually came packaged with radioactive material. The kit included four samples of Uranium ore. Not enough to make The Johnson’s resident a nuclear nation, of course, but it was absolutely enough to be bad.
9 It's A Fun Thing
Back in the 90s, we had this toy called the Skip-It. It was basically a one-legged version of jump rope. It was a little thing you strapped to one leg, and you spin it around and jump over the rope with your other leg. And it was loads of fun, by which I mean we played with it for five minutes, got bored, and never touched it again.
Now, imagine if someone took that same concept, but instead of wearing it on your leg, you put it on top of your head.
That would be the Swing Wing, best known today for its crazy commercial and for all the parodies in movies and TV shows. The idea of the Swing Wing was… I don’t know. You just put it on your head and spin your head around to make the rope go around fast. That’s it. It’s like one step above stick and a hoop or the Pet Rock.
8 When They Can't Afford A Trip To The Theme Park
“A real roller coaster in your own backyard,” an ad from sometime in the 1960s reads. “Climb up 26 inch high, 2 rung welded tubular steel ladder.” Presumably they mean the ladder is in the shape of a tube, but one can’t help they’re one pizza away from calling this monstrosity “radical” and “far out!”
The backyard roller coaster wasn’t a single toy made by a single company, rather a somewhat generic kit made by several different manufacturers. Regardless, it was the same basic idea each time–a three or four year old climbs a couple feet up a ladder onto a cart that slides down an incline. It was a roller coaster for babies. It wasn’t that high off the ground, so it probably wasn’t all that crazy. By the idea of a faux-roller coaster in your backyard doesn’t sound like the best idea in the world.
7 Got Milk?
Not much more to say here other than “what were they thinking?” Seriously, what were they thinking? Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow was made by Kenner in 1977, and it’s a semi-realistic cow toy that you can milk. That’s all it does.
Milk sales were beginning to decline during this period, for whatever reason, and the milk industry began its first major marketing campaign, “Milk: It Does the Body Good” in 1980. It turns out Milky was one of the Big Milk’s first attempts at mounting a comeback. They toy was created in partnership with General Foods, now Kraft Foods, who was looking to promote both their cereal products and accompanying cereal juice. It turns out you couldn’t fill it with milk or anything, instead it came with a non-toxic but still non-edible ooze. Just the thing to help advertise a dying beverage!
6 Coming Of Age Barbie
Originally, Skipper was released in 1964 as Barbie’s 10-year-old sister. In 1975, Mattel thought it would be a great idea to change up the sacred Barbie lore, and allow her to grow up. They really took this concept to heart, as it was you who would physically force Skipper to grow up.
With the snap of her wrist, the Growing Up Skipper toy would turn from a 10-year-old to an adult, growing taller and magically getting a chest.
A lot’s been said about the nature of this toy, and that’s true, but it’s also just weird. Barbie toys have long been criticized for their body proportions, and this toy reinforces those stereotypes. Besides, it shows this as a magical thing that happens overnight, but as any pizza-faced teen squawking like Mickey Mouse can tell you, it takes some adjusting.
5 It's Fun! We Swear!
Our old friend A.C. Gilbert makes another appearance on this list with the Glass Blowing Set, released in sometime in the late 1950s. This was a set in which boys, and only boys as dictated by the instruction manual, would actually heat up class tubes, and blow through a tube to shape them. The thing is, though, glassblowing was a useful skill at this time because universities at the time required students to blow their own glass beakers in science class. The fact that Gilbert’s kits were ever considered for children, much less actually made, really shows how radically different the world was just half a century ago.
4 A Breath Of Bad Air
Breath Blasters of the were 4-inch lumps of rubber molded in the shape of ugly monsters. Think along the lines of Garbage Pail Kids. What set them apart was when you squeeze them, they got off some funky smells. We’re not talking “oh that smells a bit like bad breath,” bad, I mean the kind of bad smell that made people instantly sick.
These were made with chemicals that turned out to be toxic, which gave them not only their noxious smell, but the ability to stick around for a long time.
The Americans for Democratic Action declared they were “the products of the sickest mind” in an article from the Los Angeles Times, and even relayed a story about a local store removing them from shelves because they smelled so bad even in their packaging.
3 Why Was This Necessary?
The Belt Buckle Derringer “toy” gun was just that – a tiny pistol that came with a belt buckle that remained hidden in the buckle. Whenever the kid thrust their hips forward, the gun would swing away from the buckle and fire a cap. Released in 1959, Derringer’s last minute submission for “most stupid toy of the 1950s” hasn’t gone unnoticed. It would be one thing if the gun were simply hidden in the buckle, and you had to grab it to use, but activating the thing like that? The gun didn’t work on air pressure either, similar to the Austin Magic Pistol, it used a tiny amount of gunpowder to propel the cap.
2 The Story Of Steve
Steve the Tramp is a homeless man and a criminal in Dick Tracy, a comic book and movie from the 1990s. He has a kid known only as Junior, who’s also homeless, and forces him to steal and cheat people. He then takes everything the kid steals for himself.
In the comics, he was missing an eye, but for some reason, in the movie and this action figure, he has a severely deformed, burned face.
In fact, his own packaging referred to him as “an ignorant bum,” and “you’ll smell him before you see him.” Reverend Donald Wildmon, a popular TV and radio pastor, famous for his “Campaign for Decency” in the 1970s, actively spoke out against the figure. Thanks to these efforts, the toy was recalled.
1 Saving The Planet
Captain Planet was all about saving the environment, a good, meaningful message to pass on to kids. However, the concept was parodied by Don Cheadle for Funny or Die. This version of the character violently killed anyone and everyone who he thought was hurting the environment. One can only assume it was this version of the character that led to the Sparking Action figure based on the character Wheeler.
You see, Wheeler had a ring that let him shoot fire. For his figure, Tiger Toys wanted to make the figure as accurate to the show as possible. “Real sparking action!,” the box reads. In the back of the figure, there’s a lever that you can flick to make the front of the figure spark. At least, it was only supposed to spark (which is bad enough).