I like to consider the 1990s a golden age for kids’ toys. Toys today seem to be boring. You expect the same old action figures, the same old large brand names, and the same old rehashed ideas. Don’t get me wrong, toy manufacturers in the 90s also had a propensity to rehash old ideas, but there was still a great deal of diversity and originality in 90s toys.
Toys in the 90s are primarily understood through several different “crazes” or trends. I could not possible touch on every single craze in this article, and several of them frankly wouldn’t belong. However, there are a few trends that are perfectly strange and completely absent from the toy industry today. For example, there was a trend of gross-out toys. Gross humor in general was a big thing in the 90s, and toys were no exception. The grosser the toy, the better the marketing it seemed. Instead of ugliness being a hindrance, it became a selling point. I can only imagine the geniuses who managed to pull off that marketing miracle.
Kids in the 90s also went outside sometimes, so there are several toys involving physical activity that just seem a little bit dangerous to our 2018 sensibilities. Maybe we have just gone soft, or maybe we have wised up a bit. That’s for you to decide. I fondly remember a number of these toys, and I am sure you will too. Here are 30 kids’ toys from the 90s that would never be allowed today.
30 To The Moon And Back
Everyone remembers the commercials for Moon Shoes. How could one forget? They looked like so much fun. For those who are fortunate enough to have never seen the atrocious invention known as “Moon Shoes,” they were shoes that were supposed to be like “mini-trampolines for your feet.” The ones I remember were a strange purple and green color.
It seems like a cool idea except for one small oversight: they are dangerous.
They are nothing like real shoes, and kids used to fall all the time while wearing these things. When I was younger, I knew someone who suckered their parents into buying them a pair of moon shoes, and I can confirm that they were dangerous. That’s probably why I only knew one person who had a pair of these.
29 The Miracle Of Babies
Thankfully, Puppy Surprise is not as dangerous as other toys on this list, but it is still quite inappropriate. The 1991 commercial for Puppy Surprise started with a kid uttering the phrase, “Puppy Surprise is having puppies!” Another kid responds, “how many?” “That’s the surprise!” the other kid replied back. How clever… The jingle to accompany the commercial asks, “how many puppies are inside?” You probably get the idea by now. The novelty of Puppy Surprise is that the large mother dog contains puppies inside of it. Each puppy is also different, so the commercial says. How could nobody at any stage of production suggest that this toy was a bad idea? There is just something unsettling to me about a kids’ toy which requires you to help a dog give birth to puppies.
28 Sneaking Around
Don’t Wake Daddy is not technically a toy; it is a board game. However, it is a strange 90s board game. Here’s how the game works. Two to four players take the role of children who are attempting to sneak into the refrigerator late at night. They are trying not to wake their sleeping father while they do so. The centerpiece of the board game is the father character lying in bed with his eyes wide open.
It is pretty creepy looking.
Players use a spinner to determine how far they move. If they land on one of the noise pieces, they have to push the alarm clock next to the sleeping dad. After enough presses on the alarm clock, the dad will spring up. It is a strange idea for a game, and even stranger execution.
27 Teaching Girls They Need A Man
Dream Phone is the perfect representation of the “girly” 90s toy. Like Don’t Wake Daddy, Dream Phone is technically a board game. However, Dream Phone came with a pink plastic 90s-esque phone. The game’s premise is even more bizarre than the phone itself. There is a list of 24 different guys, and you have to figure out which one likes you. You call the various different boys and listen to a clue about your secret admirer. Don’t worry: the game changes every time you play! From Carlos, to Bob, to Jamal, you will have a different secret admirer each time. Honestly, the game does not seem very appealing, and I have a hard time believing a young girl from the 90s would find it appealing. It seems like the result of bad targeted marketing.
26 Why Did Fish Have To Be In Them?
You might have seen these before. They are incredibly cheap toys, and therefore were pretty common. Water Snakes are long plastic tubes that have water inside of them. They come in different colors, and some of them have little plastic fish inside of them. That’s about it.
It is honestly hard to describe the toy without making it sound weird.
I am not sure what the appeal of these toys were either. I guess it’s just amusing to have a tube full of water. My theory is that the toys were not meant to be fun at all: they are simply cheap to make, so they were mass produced for easy money. Unfortunately, water snakes have not become extinct yet. I have seen some kids still play with these toys in recent years, but only rarely.
25 At Least People Didn't Use These Indoors
The Splash Off Water Rocket should be self-explanatory. They were 16-inch rockets that would take off after enough water pressure was accumulated in the rocket. The rocket connected to a launch pad, which could connect to any normal garden hose. At least that means most people used these outside instead of inside of their homes. Anyway, it goes without saying that these toys are dangerous. There were at least 37 cases of rockets causing lacerations to children. Eventually, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission banned these toys all together. Over 67,800 units were taken off shelves and recalled. The toys stayed on shelves for four months until finally being banned. Many more unexpected injuries could have happened if they were not taken off shelves.
24 Parent Problems
Tickle Me Elmo is a toy that has a simple concept. You tickle Elmo and he laughs. Of course, this is the Elmo from the long-running Sesame Street series. There was something particularly charming about this toy, which made the demand for the toy extremely high. Unfortunately, the demand for the toy resulted in a tragic scarcity around Christmas of 1996. Over a million toys were sold within a year, in part thanks to television advertisements.
Around the country, brawls occurred as people scrambled to purchase the toy.
A Wal-Mart clerk was even trampled by a crowd of 300 people looking to purchase it. Honestly, I do not quite understand the craze around Tickle Me Elmo. The concept of the toy seems kind of strange to me.
23 Sorry, What Do You Have To Pull?
Good old Gooey Louie. Just one look at this toy will leave you assured that this toy is a vestige from the 90s. Gooey Louie himself has a rather minimalistic or cartoonish design. He has a large round nose (from which “gooeys” come out of), two large round eyes, and a long mouth. You must put your finger up Gooey Louie’s nose and pick a “gooey.” If you pick wrong, then his head will pop open and cause his brain to fly out. This toy is sometimes advertised as helping kids develop motor skills, but let’s call a spade a spade: this toy is just meant to be gross. There’s nothing wrong with that; I also would have found this toy amusing as a kid, much to my mother’s dismay.
22 Today's Technology Outshines It
It is kind of interesting the kind of toys that manufacturers would make in the 90s before the widespread proliferation of smart phones. Yak Bak is one of several toy ideas from the 90s that would eventually become obsolete as cell phones became more common.
Yak Bak was essentially a handheld voice recorder.
There were only two buttons on the device: record and play. The device could only hold 6 seconds of audio. It was a pretty primitive device, and it is pretty unbelievable just two decades ago, people would pay a lot of money for a device to record 6 seconds of audio while today most people have the capabilities to record hours of audio. Yak Bak is a nice little relic of the 90s that will forever stay in the 90s.
21 Raising Kids To Be Dentists
You could guess that Crocodile Dentist is one of two things: you are either a dentist who is working on a crocodile patient or you are the patient of a crocodile who happens to be a dentist. Either way, both ideas are a bit lame. In this game, it happens to be a game where you are a dentist and a crocodile is your patient. What better way to relieve kids’ fear of the dentist than to associate dentistry with crocodiles? That is sarcasm, of course. This game was a bad idea. Crocodile Dentist was released in 1993, and despite the dumb idea, it looks kind of cool. The crocodile has an appealing design. This seems like something I would beg my parents for as a kid and then later realize how bad the game is.
20 Sounds Tasty
You may be disappointed by this toy. Unfortunately, Yum Yums is not referring to a food in this case. Yum Yums is not even a toy that you can eat. Yum Yums were a series of toys produced by Hallmark in the early 90s. They are colorful plush bears, mice, poodles, bunnies, lions, and kitties. They all had colorful patterns and glitter strands. I guess they were called Yum Yums because there were pictures of various treats on them.
The fact that these toys are not edible makes me a little upset.
They get a pass for at least having pictures of treats on them. This toy line was not very successful and only managed to stay in the market for a few years.
19 What Was Wrong With Silly Putty?
Gak is perhaps the most popular toy to come out of Nickelodeon’s series of toys. The concept is so simple and is still a relatively popular concept today. Gak is simply a molding compound that is stored in a container to keep its plasticity. It is otherwise known as “slime” or “goo” or whichever term you prefer to use. Gak was marketed as special and different because of its ability to… fart. Gak made a fart noise when squeezed into its container, and so it was adored by children everywhere. It is not unlike similar “slime” toys seen today. Unlike knock-offs seen today, they are nowhere near as shamelessly marketed as “Gak” was. Gak was nothing special, and yet it was successful. I guess marketing is the most important aspect of selling.
18 Darts For Kids? Seems Bad
JARTS was actually not a new concept before their surge in popularity (or infamy) in the late 1980s. JARTS was just a rebranding of boring old lawn darts. You could probably guess what these bad boys are just by the name. They are pointy things that you throw into your lawn for fun. It’s like horseshoes, but more dangerous.
Unfortunately, lawn darts proved to be bad.
One incident in particular sparked an eventual ban on lawn darts. A young boy and a group of his friends were messing around with some JARTS, and one happened to fly too high and land on the boy’s sister. In part because of this incident, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission banned JARTS and all forms of lawn darts in 1988.
17 Nickelodeon Thought This Was A Good Idea
You have heard of “Gak,” now get ready for Smud. Smud is another one of the toys marketed by Nickelodeon. Smud was actually more similar to Play-Doh than Gak. While Gak had more of a slimy and “farty” consistency to it, Smud was supposed to be clay-like. Smud had a thick and firm consistency. You could purchase smud in blue, green, pink, or purple. Like Gak, Smud would not dry out if left in its container. However, there really was not a huge difference between Smud and Play-Doh. It seems as though Nickelodeon had a knack for marketing things that had already existed in order to make those big bucks. Smud was a total rip-off because everyone already had Play-Doh. That probably explains why Smud is no longer sold.
16 Hydrophobic Sand
We have covered both Gak, and Smud, but there was another ridiculous compound marketed by Nickelodeon: Squand. It has a weird name, but Squand seems to be a play on the words “aqua” and “sand.” Squand was a “magic sand” that could be put in water. Normal sand would get wet, by through the power of magic, Squand was able to stay dry and in-tact when put in water.
In actuality, this has been done for decades before Squand.
It is not magic; it is called hydrophobic sand. The colorful hydrophobic substance that coats the sand allows each particle to stay dry. Hydrophobic sand is actually pretty neat, but it was not exactly a new idea. Just one more example of Nickelodeon profiting off of old compounds.
15 Flying Into The Sky
The fate of Sky Dancers is quite tragic. Sky Dancers was a line of toys which was paired with an animated show spin-off. In fact, Sky Dancers was quite successful in the mid-90s. The Sky Dancers were winged girls with colorful clothing. It was just like your typical 90s show and toy line that was marketed towards young girls, except for one fact: the Sky Dancers could actually fly! Well, they could kind of fly. The toys had a pull string base which you could use to propel your Sky Dancer into the air. They spun their wings like propellers. Unfortunately, Sky Dancers caused several injuries. Over 100 injuries were reported because of these toys. They were finally recalled in June 2000, after six years of success on the market.
14 It's Clear Where They Went Wrong
While we are on the topic of dangerous toys, let’s talk about Clackers. Clackers are two plastic balls connected by a string. As you could probably guess by the name, Clackers are meant to be clacked together. I am actually not quite sure what the appeal is. I suppose they make a loud clacking noise, which could be appealing. Regardless, it is a wonderfully simple toy. The reason for its simplicity might be because the toy actually originated from the 1960s and 1970s, but there was a resurgence of popularity in 1990.
I’m sure that the safety concerns with this toy are already running through your head.
Anyone can think of a million reasons why this toy could go terribly wrong. They were eventually deemed a “mechanical hazard” in a United States district course case.
13 Amplify This
Water Talkies is obviously a play on the term “walkie talkies.” In fact, they weren’t like walkie talkies at all. They weren’t a pair of devices you used to communicate from a large distance. It was a water toy (obviously) that amplified your voice underwater for only up to about 15 feet. It’s not too exciting of a toy, but the story behind the toy is kind of interesting. Water talkies was invented by a ten-year-old boy in 1995 by the name of Richie Stachowski, Jr. By the time he was 13, he had sold an entire line of pool toys. In addition, Water Talkies won him the 1999 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. You probably won’t see any Water Talkies in 2018, but at least there is a nice story behind them.
12 No Time For Snack Time
Cabbage Patch Snack Time Kids is a line of toys that you could swear you have seen in your nightmares. This line of Cabbage Patch Kids was supposed to feature toys that simply ate plastic snacks, such as plastic fries. There was a pair of a one-way smooth metal rollers behind the toys’ lips, leading the plastic fries down the toys’ backs and into their backpacks. For some reason, this toy was really popular during Christmas 1996.
Unfortunately, several incidents where dolls were attempting to snack on the fingers or hair of children were reported.
For some reason, there were a lot of dangerous toys in the 90s. Don’t worry, because there is one way to end the nightmare: the eating mechanism was disabled if you released the backpack.
11 Accidents Do Happen
Skip-It is another toy that is actually a simple concept. Skip-It consisted of a hoop that connected to your ankle, which was connected to a string with a ball on the end. If you are having trouble visualizing it, think of a ball and chain. They were originally produced in 1960, but had a surge in popularity throughout the 90s. As a testament to the popularity of the toy, the CEO of the company that manufactured the toys called the 90s the “Skip-It Renaissance.” Some Skip-Its of the 90s were rather decorative. Some had glitter, and most of them had vibrant colors. It was meant to look cool while you were spinning the ball around. I have got to admit, these toys were pretty cool. However, I now look at them as an accident waiting to happen.
10 A Collector's Dream
Everyone who was around for the 90s is familiar with Pogs. Pogs was a game that was pretty popular in the mid-1990s. While there are certainly connoisseurs of Pogs and the game associated with them even to this day, a lot of people were just casual collectors. Pogs were practically handed out everywhere.
There are even recorded instances of banks handing out Pogs.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Pogs is just the sheer number of Pogs that existed. I personally like the Pokémon Pogs the best. If you were really serious, there were even containers that you could store your Pogs in. Pogs suffered the inevitable fate of most fads. The Pogs phenomenon ended as quickly as it started and we have not seen something similar since then.
9 Caution: Small Parts
Polly Pocket was a toy line introduced in 1989. They were small toys marketed towards girls. You could give them various kind of outfits and they had small furniture as well. Polly Pocket was not exclusively from the 90s. In fact, a new line was introduced recently. However, there is a significant difference between the Polly Pocket toy line of the 90s from the Polly Pocket that is marketed and sold today. The original Polly Pocket was a lot smaller. That’s why they were called Polly Pocket; they could fit inside your pocket. It is almost like kids were incentivized to lose these toys because of how small they were. It really is a genius idea if you think about it, but I guess the small toys proved to be hazardous enough to warrant increasing the size.
8 Because Polly Pocket Was Too Girly
Mighty Max can be described as the young boy equivalent to Polly Pocket. The Mighty Max toy line was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1992. The toy line also came to Canada and the United States and was distributed by Irwin Toy and Mattel.
The toy line was successful and so it was adapted into various types of media.
There was a Mighty Max TV series as well as a Mighty Max video game created for the Super NES and the Sega Genesis. Unlike Polly Pocket, the Mighty Max toy line was more action-oriented. There several different “doom zones” or “horror zones” which Mighty Max had to fight through. The toys were incredible small and easy to lose, much like the Polly Pocket toy line.
7 A Balancing Act
Pogo Balls were something of a phenomenon in the late 80s and early 90s. It had a lot of different names, such as Lolo Ball, Disco-O, and Pogo-It among others. I’ll refer to it as Pogo Balls in this article. A Pogo Ball is a toy consisting of a rubber ball locked into a sturdy platform. As you could probably guess, you are meant to stand on the platform and use the rubber ball to jump around like you would with a pogo stick. However, you would probably spend most of the time just trying to keep your balance. Like a lot of the other toys on this list, I can see Pogo Balls being a disaster waiting to happen. We’ve gone a long way from Pogo Balls to hover boards.
6 There's Something Up With Mr. Bucket
Mr. Bucket is a game consisting of a Bucket with eyes, nose, and a wide-open mouth. You’re supposed to pick up little plastic balls with plastic shovels and throw them inside his top. It’s a pretty straight forward game.
Upon first glance, Mr. Bucket may seem like an innocent kids’ toy, but there is something that just seems off about him.
Maybe it is because his appearance is kind of of-putting, or perhaps this feeling of uneasiness is caused by the poorly worded 90s commercial that advertised him. In the commercial, Mr. Bucket bursts through the window and immediately starts singing, “I’m Mr. Bucket. Put your balls in my top. I’m Mr. Bucket. Out of my mouth they will pop.” I’ve got to admit, the song is catchy at least.
5 They Come Alive
Boglins was a series of toys distributed by none other than Mattel. They were hand puppets of grotesque monsters. Boglins were originally introduced in the late 80s and lasted throughout the 90s. Boglins seemed to be an attempt to cash in on the same craze that brought Critters and Gremlins. There were a variety of Boglins, including Boglins themed around goblins, aquatic creatures, and even Halloween. They were made out of rubber and you could manipulate their faces to create facial expressions. Boglins were also incredibly ugly. I am not sure why a young child would want these toys because they are just so darn ugly. I cannot be the only person with this impression because when they were re-released in 2000, the new Boglins toy line was considerably less ugly.
4 These Just Look Gross
Madballs are rubber balls that resemble grotesque monsters. They were introduced in 1985 and remained a trend into the 90s. Madballs were eventually re-introduced in 2007 and then again in 2017. They were unlike most rubber balls in that each ball had a story. With each ball, there was a character synopsis and a name associated with it.
The balls were actually really well designed, despite their gross nature.
The monsters are very intricately designed, and it is obvious there was a lot of consideration that went into their designs. For example one ball was based off of a baseball, which seems like a natural fit for the ball. But the added mouth, nose, and eyes are very exaggerated. Madballs fits right into the 90s and the 90s trend of gross humor.
3 Make Your Own Fight Club
I remember the commercial for Socker Boppers like it was yesterday. Perhaps I was a responsible child, because I remember thinking how dangerous it would be to beat on my brother with those things. I have the same opinion to this day. Socker Boppers, also known as Sock’em Boppers, were essentially giant blow-up boxing gloves which would allow you and someone else to beat each other up safely. However, that was only in theory, and I am sure some people got hurt somehow. I do not have any way to verify if that is true, but I am going to follow my gut on this one. My opinion might be validated by the fact that later iterations of the Socker Boppers design featured larger gloves before dropping the idea of gloves all together.
2 The Punisher's Rocket
Shape Shifter Punisher is the victim of a massive oversight by the people who designed this toy. Shape Shifter Punisher seemed at first to be an attempt to cash in on the Transformers craze, but there were unintended consequences of this decision. This Shape Shifter Punisher can transform into a cool little gun, which is not that bad of an idea. I just don’t know why Punisher would want to transform into a gun, and how he could be that flexible, but that’s not really the point here.
You can reveal Punisher’s rocket in an unfortunate position.
It does not look intentional, but it certainly is not a good look. At least it’s still functional! That’s right, you can shoot darts from Punisher’s rocket. I’ll save you the puns.
1 The Commercials Made This Look More Fun
Crossfire is the epitome of 90s absurdity. Crossfire is a board game that was originally created in the 70s but heavily marketed in the 90s. It had a cool commercial with explosions, fire, lightning, hover boards, and leather jackets. The commercial also apparently takes place “at some time in the future.” You would just have to see it to believe it. The commercial kind of overhyped the game. It’s a simple game: shoot small metal balls with a gun attached to the board game and try to shoot the puck into your opponent’s goal. It’s an interesting game, if you don’t mind losing all of the small metal balls that come with it. I don’t think it warrants fire, lightning, and leather jackets like in the commercial.