According to many psychologists, toys can dramatically influence how a child plays and therefore his or her development. Child's play has a role in establishing identity, as well as socialisation - they help children learn cause and effect, explore relationships, acquire skills and engage in 'rehearsing' for the adult world.
The consumables we offer up to our children say much about what we are about in any given decade. Toys and products we may have happily given them yesterday, we might cringe at today and some products we sell to children today would have horrified parents of the past. What would they have made of Bratz dolls or slinky underwear for primary schoolers? Indeed, what, if anything, does that say about our present culture? It's interesting to take a look at some of the toys of past decades to get a glimpse of where we were at, and whether or not those toys were successful....
Before there were Furbies, there were Glooks...non-mechanical, fuzzy clumps of fur with big eyes, little round noses and small, flat feet. Glooks didn't do much, they were just...Glooky. Yet in the late 1960s the strange little creatures were a huge craze.
The drawcard was the long fur, which little girls could comb, plait and gather into bows and top notches.
According to the Glook Museum (yes, there is such a thing) when the toys went on sale in Britain in 1966, over 78,000 Glooks were sold every week...a toy manufacturers dream.
Evidently Glooks were especially popular in Australia, where, as the museum website notes: Our records reveal that nearly every regional town and capital city in eastern Australian were Glook customers from 1967 to 1985. We loved our Glooks.
Gay Toy Cigarettes?
The incredibly politically incorrect Fags were edible cigarettes that were given to small children, presumably so they could get some practice in before they became real smokers.
A slender white candy stick, Fags had an authentic looking red tip on the end, to emulate a lit cigarette. The idea was to foster an oral fixation...the child would suck on the stick slowly until they reached the end, at which point the red tip would dissappear between the lips and a feeling of satiation would ensue.
Naturally such a heinous product couldn't survive much past the 1970s and at some point around that time, the red tip dissappeared and the product was renamed Fads. Eventually it was discontinued altogether - the long white stick was just too much like a cigarette, no matter how hard the manufacturers tried to disguise it.
Sometime in the forward-thinking, openminded, 2000s someone at Mattel decided it would be a good idea to bring out a pregnant doll, complete with baby inside. Barbie's best friend was chosen as the candidate, which was all very respectable, as Midge was married to "Alan" and already had twins.
What were they thinking? Not surprisingly, Mattels pregnant Midge doll never really caught on, which is just as well when you consider what a disturbing item she was. It turns out most children didn't want to know the nuts and bolts of embryonic development and were turned off by her spooky magnetic stomach that pulled off to reveal a cramped, fully developed foetus.
On top of this, many parents complained, claiming the doll 'promoted teen pregnancy and sexual intercourse'. The whole thing was a little half-hearted anyway...the baby did not come down the birth canal but was designed ala Macbeth, to be "ripped from it's mothers womb". Yikes.
Note that a pregnant Barbie was never made - perhaps because Barbie is destined to be eternally single and must not be sullied by any suggestion of sex. For a gal of her dimensions she's remarkably asexual. Of course there is Ken, but he's really just a fashion acccessory and besides, everyone knows he's gay.
Depending on your perspective Remco's Baby-laugh-lot is a cute, cheerful doll that will have your kids in stitches or a Chucky-like monstrosity that would scare the pants of any thinking kid. The hysterically laughing doll was brought out briefly around 1970, only to dissappear not long after from the toy shelves.
Beware autonomophobes, the creepy commercial made to go with this baby is enough to have you hyperventilating.. What's with the rapid head turning? Must have been made pre-Exorcist. This doll needs a firm slap across the face to calm her down.
- More Strange Toys
Following on from Weird Toys, I've been scouring the internet for strange, interesting and nostalgic toys...
- Old Fashioned Games for Kids
Oh I know in these days of whizz bang high tech wizardry, old-fashioned no-tech games probably seem incredibly lame to savvy 21st Century children.
- Toy Robots
The little tin and plastic robots that came off the production lines in the US and Japan were technological mini-me's...representations of an artificial intelligence we hoped to create in our own image. True, they were only toys...but the concepts fr
- Pedal Cars and other Desirable Objects
Mini-automobiles for children have been around almost as long as the real thing, ie; shortly after full-sized cars were modeled in the 1890's and were handcrafted from metal- steel and sometimes from wood. When the Model T was introduced, pedal car v
- Accidental Inventions - Amusements