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Boys Toys from the 70s and 80s

Updated on September 6, 2012

Boys Toys from my childhood in the 70s and 80s that I have also bought for my children

I'm sure we all have fond memories of a favourite childhood toy, or a toy we wished we had that Santa just never left under the tree.

Now, having two boys of my own, I've not been able to resist buying some of the toys that left an impression on me, for them too.

Here are some of my favourite boys toys from the 70s and 80s that are still available today.

My Favourite Boys Toys

In no particular order - yet

#1 Action Man

#2 Rubik's Cube

#3 Big trax

#4 Meccano

#5 Etch a Sketch

#6 Top trumps: Cars and Tanks to Spongebob Squarepants and even Plop Trumps!

And the runners up:

100-in-1 Electronics set

Model railway or Scaletrix (Deferred gratification or instant fun?)

Airfix kits


Matchbox cars (Hotwheels)

HM Armed Forces - the new Action Man
HM Armed Forces - the new Action Man

Action Figures

G.I.Joe / Action Man / H.M Armed Forces figures

Action Man figures were one of the earliest toys I remember playing with and must have been well made, as an old tank and canoe survive to this day. So, it felt natural that my boys should have their own action man figures too,

Introduced in the UK in 1966 Action Man was a copy of the US G.I. Joe figure.

The Action man figures went through several changes (mine had flock hair, gripping fingers and a cheek scar) until finally being discontinued in 1984.

From 1996 to 2006 a more futuristic Action Man was available, with his own 'part mutant' nemesis.

However in 2009 the MOD (UK Ministry of Defence) launched a more realistic, back-to-basics, military style Action Man range, sold as HM Armed forces figures.

Image from Wikipedia
Image from Wikipedia

Rubik's Cube

I was at school when the Rubik's cube craze took hold in the early 1980s.

Some of the smarter kids could even do it with their hands behind their backs.

Still available today and, at least in my house, still unsolved.

Widely believed to be the best selling toy of all time, over 350 million Rubik's cube have been sold worldwide.

The Great Rubiks Cube Poll - or how much time did you have on your hands ?

Did you have a Rubiks Cube and could you solve it?

See results
Link to How to Solve the Rubiks Cube
Link to How to Solve the Rubiks Cube

How to Solve the Rubiks cube

Free printable step by step guide to solve the Rubiks Cube with pictures.

Here are some of the easiest to follow instructions on how to solve the Rubiks Cube.

The instructions are free, printable and the moves are illustrated with easy to understand diagrams rather than a letter based notation.

The picture link takes you to the Rubiks Cube solution page curtsey of scaredcat.demon :

Rubiks Cube


OK, I confess I never had this when I was a child don't even remember any of my friends having it either.

But I do remember the adverts and desperately wanting one , so I was over the moon to see that it had been re-released some 20 years later, and at the original price !

Couldn't wait to play with 'my sons' new toy.

Bigtrak has a keypad on the back and you can program it with up to 16 steps.

Meccano crane by my1eye
Meccano crane by my1eye


I used to play with a type of plastic Meccano that had big chunky pieces, for little hands, but never graduated on to the 'real' stuff, which was metal, with lots of easy-to-lose nuts and bolts.

However, my eldest has just got a set of proper Mecanno, and jumped straight in to building the hardest model in the kit.

I think it looks pretty good.

Picture of a Maccano Crane (by My1eye) built by Tom age 10.


The Etch-a-sketch has been around for longer than you may think and was originally launched in 1960.

After some 'blocky' pictures, I remember trying to draw half decent circles - not so easy, as the two dial controls only move the pointer horizontally and vertically.

However, some very talented people have created some amazing artwork using this little toy.

The Image here was created by artist George Vlosich III , and the picture link takes you to his site.

An Etch-a-sketch character was also featured in the Toy Story movies and this was excuse enough to see if my kids were any more artistic than me.

Top Trumps random
Top Trumps random

Top Trumps

I had quite a collection of Top Trump decks from when they were originally launched in the late 1970s, all nice sensible subjects like cars or tanks and boats.

The Rules:

Each card had a large picture of one of the items and a list of statistics about it.

To play you would turn one card over, select one of the statistics e.g. for cars, you could chose maximum speed, engine size or type, etc and compare that to your opponents card.

The winner of that round would then take both cards, until one player had won the whole deck.

It wasn't always clear which card would win in some of the categories, for example; a 4 cylinder engine was beaten by a 6 cylinder or a V12, but did a 'rotary' engine really beat everything ?

The Top Trump decks of the last decade, that my children now play with, cover a much wider range of subjects, including animals, sports, film and television characters (Including Buffy the Vampire Slayer - brought for me, not the kids) as well as vehicles.

Top Trumps have even spawned imitators and Plop Trumps has to be one of the worst (or one of the best if you are a 10 year old boy). Inevitably, my kids think is is great fun comparing the smelliness, size, hardness, and so on, of a variety of animal 'waste products' all helpfully given a numerical value and identification picture.

Top Trumps - Plop Trumps

Really this is just too gross - kids love it!

What were your favourite 'boys' toys that are still available today? - P.S. Girls allowed ;)

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    • ManipledMutineer profile image

      ManipledMutineer 4 years ago

      I too was into Action Man (WW2 kit only, of course), but also Action Force (which appears to have morphed into GI Joe too?), Airfix kits (still going strong) but also the 1/32 scale polythene Airfix model soldiers for wargaming, which I used to be able to buy from Hannants for £1 a box!

    • my1eye profile image

      my1eye 5 years ago

      @JoshK47: Thanks for the like and thanks to one of your many excellent lenses, I now know that a geek is a circus freak who ingested strange things ;)

      Happy Eating !

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Action figures of any sort... I still collect the nicer ones. But then again, I'm a huge geek. :)

    • my1eye profile image

      my1eye 5 years ago

      @tabster2: Haha ! Yes Star Wars toys - didn't have any myself, but I do remember some children who weren't allowed to play with them anyway and had to keep them in the boxes, lol

    • tabster2 profile image

      tabster2 5 years ago

      any star wars toys. I'm still pissed I didn't get a millennium falcon :(

    • my1eye profile image

      my1eye 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi naheedahsan, I've just managed to complete my Rubik's cube for the first time ever. But only with the help of the cheat sheets, lol.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i like Rubik's Cube

    • my1eye profile image

      my1eye 6 years ago

      @favored: Tonka toys :) How could I have forgotten those, lol.

      Nice to see you stopping by my other lens.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 6 years ago from USA

      Didn't have many toys growing up, but I can remember my brothers having some of these. Tonka trucks were something they liked.

    • my1eye profile image

      my1eye 6 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: Wow, that Erector set sounds like it would be a bit of a collectors item now.

      Yes, isn't it funny how our friends always seemed to have the best toys ? Grass is greener, maybe, lol ?

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 6 years ago

      Meccano, the real metal stuff, no contest! But it actuallly belonged to the neighbours; my at-home constructions were done with an ancient "Erector Set" that probably came into my dad's family sometime between the wars.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I would have to say my Star Wars and GI Joe action figures. I spent a lot of time playing with them as a kid.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I spent many happy hours playing with Etch-a-Sketch.

    • Gabriel360 profile image

      Gabriel360 6 years ago

      I just found some old cars that belonged to my uncle and dad in the 80's. The Hot Wheels Cars, and the old G.I. Joe toys. They were really cool.

    • Herman IV profile image

      Herman IV 6 years ago

      Personally loved my Atari! Wish I could find the gamebox today. This is a great lens. Brought back nice memories of my GI Joe men!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hmmm ... my favorite boy's toy was the "tree." Does that count? Great to see a fellow Squidoo newbie on here. I just completed my second lens as well (and am a stay-at-home mom, temporarily -- cough, cough). I must say, I really like the Squidoo environment and the virtual encouragement from members and design features. Hopefully, I'll still be saying that down the road, and hopefully, your experience will be an awesome one as well! I wanted to welcome you on the Forum board, but you know, being new to this and all .. . I couldn't find the button for submitting a comment. Ugh! Take care. Best of luck to you!!!!