The Top 20 Iconic Toys from the Past Century

There are certain toys from our childhood that evoke strong memories. That the majority of us played with certain toys and pulled us into having the same experiences is what makes a toy iconic. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis invited people to vote for the toys that represent the last 100 years (from 1920-present). It is notable that these toys were mundane not flashy or had a lot of sophisticated bells and whistles. The toys inspired our imaginations, made us laugh, made our childhood safe but adventurous. In no particular order are the top 20 toys that got the most votes.

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Barbie always has great outfits.Boys will always have adventures with GI JoeRaggedy Ann always looks glad to see you.Transformers, robots that can transform into cars.  Awesome!Funny Mr. Potato Head. His only fashion accessory was a hat.
Barbie always has great outfits.
Barbie always has great outfits.
Boys will always have adventures with GI Joe
Boys will always have adventures with GI Joe
Raggedy Ann always looks glad to see you.
Raggedy Ann always looks glad to see you.
Transformers, robots that can transform into cars.  Awesome!
Transformers, robots that can transform into cars. Awesome!
Funny Mr. Potato Head. His only fashion accessory was a hat.
Funny Mr. Potato Head. His only fashion accessory was a hat.

The Favorite Dolls and Action Figures

Certainly Barbie and GI Joe made the list. Social commentators can say that these dolls lock kids in overly traditional roles. Kids don't think so. Little girls lives vicariously through Barbie who had her own cute pink car and could go anywhere. Little boys had adventures with GI Joe and learned to be noble, patriotic, and brave.

Raggedy Ann was my sister's best friend for awhile. She even made her a bed and confided her secrets with her over tea in little pink teacups. And Raggedy Ann never tattled any of it. And certainly sleeping with Raggedy Ann was comforting.

The craze over the Cabbage Patch Kids was understandable. Children got to adopt their own little doll and took care of their kid and became good caretakers and decent people in the process. These little dolls helped them to develop their best selves.

When The Transformers first came out, we couldn't believe how cool it was that a car could become a robot and vice versa. Although these toys were shiny and adaptable, they still stood for doing what is right and noble and protecting the world against evil.

Mr. Potato Head was just fun. You can have a new face just by changing the nose, hat or eyes. I was very glad when there was a Mrs. Potato Head so that Mr. Potato Head wouldn't be lonely.

Can you believe the stuff that you can make out of LEGO?
Can you believe the stuff that you can make out of LEGO?

Building Toys and Crafts

Little boys fingers were kept busy with LEGO pieces and Lincoln Logs. For the first time boys could create things that can approximate their imagination. It helped them to learn patience, figure out how things could be created and to feel proud of their creation.

Play Doh was a favorite of mine. I loved that I could make anything out of a lump of colorful dough and doing it over until I got it close to how I wanted it. With Silly Putty I was amazed I can bounce it like a ball and make impressions of illustrations. And if I got bored it was easy to shape the putty into something weird.

When I first played with an Etch-a-sketch, I found it liberating and frustrating. I can draw a straight line, I just couldn't draw it diagonally. Any mistakes was okay because I can just start all over again. But if I got a picture that I really liked, it was frustrating that I couldn't keep it that way forever.

What little girl didn't love the designs they could make with a Spirograph? You could use a riot of colors and come up with beautiful designs just by tracing a pen within a circle using a colorful plastic circle. Just like the Etch-a-sketch, I thought it was magic.

The smell of crayons is a smell distinctly remembered as part of your childhood. For me, the crayons had to be from Crayola, nothing else was just as good. Before school started I couldn't wait to get new crayons because there were always so many colors and I couldn't wait to try them all. And I always wanted the big giganto box if I could have it. By the time school started, the crayons were all already used. I always seemed to run out of black, blue, and red.

The Vew Master spurred my interest in photography. I would see pictures of places I've never been to and thought it was beautiful. I would often pretend that the View Master was my camera and I would take plenty of "pictures".

Board Games

Okay, I had a mild obsession with Monopoly. I wanted to play at being a kingpin and taking everyone else's money. Yes, even at a young age I was a capitalist at heart. Nowadays, what make Monopoly interesting are the many different editions. There is a Spongebob edition of Monopoly, a Star Trek edition, a Family Guy edition, and so on.

Candyland was fun for little kids because of the bright colors, the fun names like Molasses Swamp and Gumdrop Mountains and how easy it was to play.

Things With Wheels

As a girl, I thought Hot Wheels were cool, but I never fully appreciated them the way my friends who were boys appreciated them. They raced them, made noises for them, loved that the doors worked, and appreciated the styling.

It was different when I got my first bike. It was a Schwinn and had a white wicker basket with a flower design which echoed the flower design on the seat. I felt that I could go anywhere and appreciated the mobility, I felt more grown up. I didn't have training wheels but my Dad and I started at the park and he would coach me on how to keep my balance while riding. I slowly learned how to control the bike and have it go where I wanted to go. And then he and my sister would walk the sidewalks while I learned how to ride the bike.

I am of the old enough generation that I started on roller skates but quickly switched to inline skates. I can see why roller skates would have captured the imagination because it allowed kids to speed and travel on their own. Of course, like the bike, you had skinned knees and accidents but you learned that you were a lot sturdier than you think and not a delicate little flower.


Little Golden Books were what helped me to read and to nurture a love of the written word. Once I knew how to read, I couldn't get enough of the Little Golden Books with their colorful illustrations and fun stories.

As you can see from the list, there are very few toys that are splashy, however these have stood the test of time. It would be interesting how many of these toys will still be around for the next 100 years.

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mts1098 profile image

mts1098 4 years ago from InsideTheManCave

You know I do recognize many of these toys and the Transformers were derived from the Beast Wars (show and toys)...I also started on roller skates and we used to go to a roller rink for entertainment...I tried roller blades but it felt strange so now I just walk...great job on great memories...cheers

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 4 years ago from The East Coast Author

Thanks mts1098, writing this hub made me think about my favorite toys and I wonder what new ones will replace the old and what will still be a favorite.

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