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5 Awesome Toys From Your Childhood (That Your Kids Can Still Play With!)

Updated on November 30, 2014

Back in the day...

Up until the 80's kids had some really cool toys to play with (not that they don't have any cool toys today...). Still, there are some things that everybody had, no matter who you were. You had to make your own fun back then, so anything you got from the store was gold. No Minecraft or X Box for us. (Remember the Atari 2600?) Toys back then were made to last too. Remember those Evel Knievel dolls that had the motorcycle with the wind up base? How many walls did that guy run into and still survive? (With less broken bones than the real Evel K) And how many GI Joe's ended up on the roof, when his plastic bag parachute failed? Those were the days. But guess what, a lot of those toys are still around even though you don't see them on the shelves of Toys R Us, between the Bey Blades and Tickle Me Elmo's. Let's take a look at a few.

You know what these are...


(Light Bulb Not Included)

1. Lite Brite

Hasbro toys ruled the 60's and 70's. Another Hasbro toy that everyone had as a kid was the Lite Brite. Do I really need to describe it? I will anyway. Basically a screen with a light behind it, and some clear colored pegs. You'd put a black piece of paper over the screen to block out the light, then poke your pegs into the holes in the screen to make a picture. The light would shine through the pegs making them glow. Of course you'd run out of black paper, so you'd need to get refills, which was smart on Hasbro's part. Most people just used black construction paper, which was harder to poke the pegs through, but you wouldn't need to get the refills. Of course you'd run out of construction paper so it would sit in the corner of your closet until your friend that didn't have one came over and wanted to play.

They've solved the problem with the "magic screen" that doesn't need paper refills anymore which would've made life a lot easier back in the 70's.

Shrinky Dink Jewelry


2. Shrinky Dinks

Shrinky Dinks were invented in the 70's by Betty Morris and Kate Bloomberg as a Cub Scout project for their sons. They were licensed by many of the major toy companies of the time, notably Milton Bradley and Colorforms (both are still around today!). Not so much a toy as a craft project, shrinky dinks are simply clear sheets of polystyrene (the same stuff yogurt containers and plastic cups are made out of). They come plain, or with designs on them that you can color with markers or any non-waxy (no crayons!) colored pencil. Of course here in "modern times" we can use printers to print on them. When you put them in the oven, or heat them with a heat gun they shrink, and get hard and rigid. I remember making Christmas tree ornaments out of them in school. I think my mom still has some of a Santa and a candy cane. They've come a long way since my time though. There are scientific ones that you can make cells with, and there are people who make really cool jewelry with them. Pretty cool for a kids toy we used to do in kindergarten.

Make Shrinky Dink Jewelry!

3. Rubik's Cube

If you were alive in the 80's then chances are you had one of these multi-colored puzzles. At the very least, you had a friend (or two or three) that had one. They were everywhere. Of course there were books on how to solve the cube, and even competitions sprang up, some of which exist today.

The Rubik's Cube started life as the "Magic Cube", the creation of Hungarian architect and inventor. It was originally designed, because Rubik wanted to create a structure where all of the pieces could move, yet not fall apart. When he showed the cube to some of his architecture classes, they enjoyed playing with it. Rubik himself didn't consider it a puzzle, until he scrambled one of his prototypes and couldn't get it back to it's original configuration.

Spirograph on Amazon.

4. Spirograph

Remember the gears and the 4 colored pens that made psychedelic, geometric designs? The spirograph was originally intended as a tool to calculate the area delimited by curves. It's first mention as a toy is in the 1908 Sears catalog, where it is called the Wondergraph. Boys Mechanic magazine also had instructions on how to make one. It only used one color, and the mechanical parts are a little different, but the effect is still the same.

The Spirograph was invented by British Engineer Denys Fisher. He started his own company which was bought by Palitoy, a British toy company. It was later acquired by Hasbro. Kenner licensed the Spirograph and brought it to America in 1966. Probably every kid in the 70's had one. You can still get the too. Kahoots toys now make them, but they're still the ones you remember.


5. Tinkertoys

Is there anyone that was alive in the 1980s and earlier that didn't make a windmill with Tinkertoys? Whatever else you made, you at least made the windmill. Bet yours had tooth marks on the sticks too. (Remember how they'd get stuck in the spools?) The classic stick and spool building set came out in 1914 making them one of the few toys still consistently manufactured for over 100 years. Originally, all the pieces were made of wood, some of the connecters and other parts were later changed to plastic. They originally were not painted either.

They were invented by Charles H. Pajeau after seeing some children play with old spools of sewing thread and some sticks. The colors of the sticks relate to their length. There's also quite a bit of science involved in their lengths. The ratio of the sticks work out to be the square root of 2. Basically you can make squares and right triangles, but within that framework there's thousands of combinations.


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