All the Weird Toys From Your Childhood

I don’t know you.

I don’t know where you’re from or what you look like or how old you are.  You might be a judge or a cook or a priest or a clown.  I don’t know.

But what I’m pretty sure about is that at one point or another, you’ve been involved with most of the toys below.  It’s just one of those things that we all have in common.

Let’s go through them—
 

Toy: The Sticky Hand

Age when I became obsessed with it: 7
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 week
Downside: Gets dirty and loses stickiness; unclear exactly what you’re supposed to do with it; the torture of not being able to eat it
Overall rating: 7/10

Comments: Odd that someone ever just decided to invent these, but I’m pleased that it happened.  I may also like these more than most people do.

 



Toy: The Slinky

Age when I became obsessed with it: 4
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 month; recurring obsession
Downside: Inevitable tangling
Overall rating: 6/10

Comments: A new slinky ends up in my life once every two or three years.  They’re great in theory, but always a little disappointing in practice.
 

Toy: The Thing With All the Pins

Age when I became obsessed with it: 9
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 4 minutes
Downside: Putting it against your face is a somewhat violating life experience
Overall rating: 5/10

Comments: Creative invention, but has limits.  After I’ve done all the normal things I end up in a fairly dark place doing weird unfun things like pushing all the pins up together with my palm or pushing just a few edge pins up with my finger.

 

Toy: The Snap Bracelet

Age when I became obsessed with it: 11
Amount of time before I became bored with it: A week and a half
Downside: They hurt a lot
Overall rating: 4/10

Comments: You remember this whole thing, right? They’re a fidget toy more than anything, but in a spastic, stressful way. Not much room for nuance with a snap bracelet.

 

Toy: The Bead Thing in the Dentist’s Office

Age when I became obsessed with it: 4
Amount of time before I became bored with it: When it was time to see the dentist
Downside: It kind of sucks
Overall rating: 4/10

Comments: These things leave you with a sense of longing and the dread of pointlessness.  It’s designed to mesmerize kids in a way where the kid is aware that it’s not worthy of mesmerization but is helpless to stop and do other things. Like sudoku for children.
 

Toy: Devil Sticks

Age when I became obsessed with it: 15
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 2 months
Downside: It’s not a cool thing to be good at
Overall rating: 6/10

Comments: My friend got these when I was 15 and I became obsessed with them for a period of time. Devil Sticks as an activity is one of the few things that really understands a pubescent 15-year-old boy, and vice versa.

 



Toy: The Ball and Cup

Age when I became obsessed with it: 12
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 20 minutes
Downside: It leaves you feeling inadequate and irate
Overall rating: 3/10

Comments: The kind of toy your dad used to play with in 1957.
 

Toy: The Hanging Ball Thing

Age when I became obsessed with it: 6
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 3 months; recurring obsession
Downside: Not much
Overall rating: 8.5/10

Comments: A delightful contraption. The only bad thing is that cheap ones suck and most people have cheap ones.
 

Toy: This thing

Age when I became obsessed with it: 1
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 second
Downside: It’s not fun
Overall rating: 2/10

Comments: For some reason, playing with this thing is a requirement of being 1, even though it’s groundbreakingly underwhelming.

 

Toy: Magnets in General

Age when I became obsessed with it: 3
Amount of time before I became bored with it: Never
Downside: It can be frustrating when you can’t get repelling magnets to touch; after awhile the smooth coating wears off and the underlying rough metal seeps into your skin
Overall rating: 9/10

Comments: The fidgeter’s best friend.
 

Toy: The Floating Globe

Age when I became obsessed with it: 45 seconds ago
Amount of time before I became bored with it: N/A
Downside: None I could imagine
Overall rating: 10/10?

Comments: I’ve never owned one of these, but came across this picture while searching for a picture of magnets. I’ve never laid eyes on something I’ve wanted as badly as I want this.
 

Toy: The Doll

Age when I became obsessed with it: 5
Amount of time before I became bored with it: When my dad took it away
Downside: There’s not really any way to play with them, you just kind of spend time with them
Overall rating: 3/10

Comments: The only way I’ve found to engage a doll is to swivel it up and down and watch the eye ball stay where it is.  Also, searching for this photo led me to a Google Images search for “old doll” and I had to turn all the lights on and watch a sitcom for 20 minutes before my sense of self returned. What the hell.

 

Toy: The Super Soaker

Age when I became obsessed with it: 11
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 year
Downside: Someone always has a radder and more expensive one than you
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Comments: Teenagers need to enjoy these while they can, because there’s no endearing way to use one of them as an adult.
 
Toy: The Yo Yo

Age when I became obsessed with it: 7
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 week; recurring obsession
Downside: The string gets twisted and then you have to stand there and let it spin itself untwisted while your limited time on this earth diminishes
Overall rating: 5.5/10

Comments: Yo yos have their place, but bouncing them down and up quickly becomes meaningless, and yo yo tricks just don’t look very fun to do, so the hobby becomes unsustainable.
 

Toy: The balancing man

Age when I became obsessed with it: 8
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 3 months
Downside: The possibilities are limited
Overall rating: 7/10

Comments: My grandfather gave me one of these when I was 8, and my fascination bubbled over. Still not really sure how he just stands there and balances.
 

Toy: The Paper Clip

Age when I became obsessed with it: 4
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 10 minutes; recurring obsession
Downside: The effort required to make one completely and perfectly straight isn’t worth the payoff
Overall rating: 4/10

Comments: I’ll resort to the paper clip as a fidget toy when options are scarce, but it’s not a great situation.

 

Toy: Legos

Age when I became obsessed with it: Never
Amount of time before I became bored with it: Immediately
Downside: They’re not fun at all
Overall rating: 1/10

Comments: I’ve never understood the lego fetish. What the hell is fun about putting dumb legos together?

 

Toy: The Etch A Sketch

Age when I became obsessed with it: 10
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 minute; recurring obsession
Downside: Everything you draw on it is horrible
Overall rating: 2/10

Comments: An overrated toy. Who has ever had fun on an Etch A Sketch? Somehow though, it always ropes me back in.

 

Toy: The Far Flying Football

Age when I became obsessed with it: 10
Amount of time before I became bored with it: Until I lost it
Downside: They give you false perceptions about your athletic ability
Overall rating: 8/10

Comments: Never in any other situation will I be able to throw a football 70 yards. Similar appeal to the delicious Aerobie.
 

Toy: The Little Absurd Dog

Age when I became obsessed with it: 13
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 3 months; recurring obsession
Downside: I’m allergic to them; they expire
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Comments: Given my track record of quickly getting over toys, I’d be well-advised to avoid buying one of these.  Tempting though.

 

Toy: Metal Puzzles

Age when I became obsessed with it: 7
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 terrible hour
Downside: They’re upsetting and they lower your self-esteem
Overall rating: 3/10

Comments: We needn’t discuss this further.
 

Toy: The Rubik’s Cube

Age when I became obsessed with it: 21
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 2 weeks
Downside: The guilt you feel when people call you a genius because you solved it even though you used instructions and just did what they told you to do
Overall rating: 8/10

Comments: Um
 

Toy: The Woodpecker on a Pole

Age when I became obsessed with it: 13
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 2 days
Downside: The woodpecker has very few facets to his personality
Overall rating: 5/10

Comments: Though delightful initially, playing with this is a passive and ultimately empty experience.

 

Toy: Stretch Armstrong

Age when I became obsessed with it: 12
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 3 years
Downside: It breaks eventually, and the stuff comes out
Overall rating: 8/10

Comments: That’s right. 3 years. I had a phase.
 

Toy: Silly Putty

Age when I became obsessed with it: 6
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 2 weeks; recurring obsession
Downside: It eventually becomes disgusting
Overall rating: 9/10

Comments: The rating is so high because I’m currently in the heat of one of my sporadic silly putty flings. A fidgeting masterpiece only paralleled by magnets.

 


Toy: The Mexican Jumping Bean

Age when I became obsessed with it: N/A
Amount of time before I became bored with it: N/A
Downside: N/A
Overall rating: N/A

Comments: I’ve never owned a Mexican Jumping Bean, but I wanted to put this picture on the site.

This was originally posted September 2013. Updated April 2014.

Currently dehydrated in Myanmar. Next new post coming 4/22.

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47 comments - jump to comment field »

  1. GREAT POST. It really made me want to go buy a toy.

    I object to your ire toward legos, and you might have over-hyped silly putty just a bit, but for the most part your instincts were right on point. Interesting how timeless most of these toys are. Many were probably just as popular in each of the last five decades.

  2. You don’t know how happy it made me to see that you are blogging again. Every so often, I would go back to your blogspot blog and get SO disappointed that the drawing of you hating the sun was still the first post on the page. Then today, a new post! I’m thrilled.

  3. Anonymous

    Super Soaker – YOU CAN INDEED USE AS AN ADULT – have a child and have a water fight. the neighbors will think you are a great parent!!!

  4. If you keep the Mexican jumping beans long enough the bugs inside them will hatch! Luckily they didn’t chew through the package and come out . . . I found the bugs dead in my closet, still in the package next to the beans – the beans unable to jump anymore.

  5. You think the floating world is cool, go to instructables dot com and check out how you can make it look like the Death Star and even add a green laser into it, then it’s even cooler!!! price wise not so much it’s expensive :(

  6. Anonymous

    the devil sticks killed me, unbelievable! love those, obsessed with them age 15 to 17, got quite good and they turned out to be great crowd pleasers haha

  7. Bea

    Up until the Legos, I thought you were my soulmate, I swear. I’m an engineer at heart, what can I say?

    The sticky hands brought back bad memories, though. I had one that was shaped like a Pikachu rather than a hand (great product evolution – I know) and one of my friends somehow stuck it to my really high ceiling. It took us days to pull it away, and to this day there’s a yellowish stain there (ah, the scars of childhood).

    The magnets are a thing for me, too. I actually own a pair that attract tremendously, and the point of them is to separate them and throw them up to watch them meet in the air. The sound of their meeting is profoundly satisfaying.

  8. Anonymous

    Being bored by paperclips is due to a lack of creativity. I’ve found a link to instructions to make a cool toy out of paperclips that I’ve been doing since the 5th grade or so:

    http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Jumping-Paper-Clip

    What makes it more fun, from an engineering standpoint, is that you can slightly bend parts of the paperclip in certain ways to create more resistance, which cause them to jump higher. Also, I’m fortunate to wear glasses now, because a jumping paperclip to the eye hurts.

  9. Anonymous

    The Ring/Tower is great for infants and toddlers. My kid loves it, especially when I stack the rings on my head.

    The floating magnetic globe would be cooler if it was a Death Star.

  10. I liked wood blocks better than Lego blocks. My kids liked Legos because I wouldn’t let them have toy guns, and they could use the Legos to make them.

    My boys were also obsessed with miniature plastic figurines. My older son used to chew the limbs off; he said that made them better for pretending. My younger son created battle scenarios across the entire house.
    I blame their dad.

    Just because my Barbies were headless did not mean I BIT the heads off.

  11. The so-called “The Hanging Ball Thing”, aka Newton’s Cradle with its rhythmic tctch-tctch-tctch-tctch, was actually (or, at least, should have been marketed as) an educational “toy” that demonstrated conservation of momentum and energy, as well as elasticity (equal and almost opposite reaction, in that my observation was: old mo would decay over time due to gravity heat & friction). When my Mom got it for me I thot Physics was what gramma called those fizzy drinks to take when one had constipation. The thing was called something like “Executive Time Waster” or “Executive Ball Clicking Desk Machine.”

    But what about the “Clackers” those hard acrylic balls suspended on a tether resembling something of a hybrid between testicles and bolas. One would hold them suspended from the midpoint of the cord and swing one’s arm up & down causing the balls to fwap into one another with an intense “Clack!”. I played with these with naïve glee and focus exactly until I knocked out my front tooth (the 9 — number 9, number 9) with a muthaclacker. It was back to Hot Wheels & my Skilcraft chemistry set!

  12. Love this post! HATED Etch-o-Sketch. I mean really, how many staircases can you make? My favorites were Wheelo and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots. The latter only got tired of it when it broke many months later.

  13. Hahaha… that was fun! Really enjoyed your comments about your personal experiences and opinions. Never had Lego and never felt interested. Guess we all not have an engineer soul. I had a phase with GIJOE and Plymobile. Use toys till videogames came to my life (my favorite “toy” for long long time). also not a bad subject for an article in case u have played them.
    Enjoy your stuff and wait for them evey week. Thanks, really!
    BTW, can somebody tell my why is there a chick with the biceps of rocky balboa between pictures in the “old doll” google search?
    I am not the only one that has it, am I?

  14. Pingback: All the Weird Toys From Your Childhood | Wait B...

  15. Pingback: Wait but why: a blog about those toys from yesteryear.. | Straight Zigzag

  16. Paula Pant

    “Groundbreakingly underwhelming” (from your description of the Fisher-Price rainbow toy) might be my new favorite phrase.

    Age when I became obsessed with it: 30
    Amount of time before I became bored with it: Never
    Downside: If I’m really honest with myself, it’s underwhelming
    Overall rating: 7.5/10

  17. Anon

    Dude, have you tried playing with magnets WITH Silly Putty? It is amazing to see a magnet being pulled into the blob of Silly Putty like Lightning Sand from The Princess Bride.

  18. Kung Fu Grip

    Very good selections given you were going for humor (ie, this toy thing) and you hit many high points IMHO. A couple additions: Hot Wheels (including the multiple tracks they could run on), GI Joe, Simon (maybe, maybe not)….but the ultimate toy for a prepubescent boy=electric race cars! Not only could they speed around customized tracks, they could also rocket off the track and hit things like walls, coffee tables, siblings/parents, AND if you were incredibly skilled…household pets!!!!!! Oh yeah, the track would also give you a noticeable shock if you laid your hand across the entire track.

    One important clarification, skilled use and proficiency of ‘devil sticks’ at a Grateful Dead concert was a very cool thing to be good at.

    • Kung Fu Grip

      And, oh yeah, hacky sacks. I consider that a childhood ‘toy’ because at that age I was mimicking the teenagers who crushed it at ‘rocker soccer’.

  19. Kimberly

    Honestly my favorite toys were the old beat up tools my dad didn’t want anymore that he then passed to me.

    Tree Forts. Oh so many tree forts/shanties in the woods behind our house.

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