Barbie and Friends
Back in the '60s, Barbie was naturally on most young girls' holiday wish lists, but don't forget boyfriend Ken (introduced two years after Barbie, in 1961), BFF Midge (1963) and little sis Skipper (1964). For true collectors, there was also Ken's friend Allan (1964) and Skipper's friends Skooter (1965-1966) and Ricky (1965). The Mod Era (1965-1970) ushered in baby siblings Tutti and Todd, plus assorted other family and friends, followed by Malibu Era (1970-1976) characters … oh, never mind.
Barrel of Monkeys
Low-tech, and how we loved them! Believe it or not, they're still around—and even made an appearance in the 1995 movie "Toy Story," when the toys chain them together to rescue Buzz Lightyear.
Before there was the movie franchise, there was the doll—er, movable fighting man. Originally introduced in 1964 to represent the four branches of the military, the G.I. Joe line defied the conventional wisdom that boys would never play with dolls. We know one little girl, an only child, who had a whole camp going on in a sandlot behind her house, complete with Barbie nurses, size-appropriate toy horses and dogs, and tents made of sticks and dad's old handkerchiefs.
A pull-string "talking" doll manufactured by Mattel from 1959-1965, Chatty Cathy emerged as the second-most popular doll after Barbie. Presumably that's the reason this reporter never got Cathy despite asking for her incessantly (spurred by a blitzkrieg of TV commercials beginning in 1960), but did get a handwritten note of apology from Santa. An early lesson in disappointment and the essential unfairness of life.
Generations of youngsters have nurtured creativity and problem-solving courtesy of these miniature notched logs, which were invented by John Lloyd Wright (second son of the famous architect Frank) in 1916. Lincoln Logs were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999 and are still manufactured today, by K'NEX Industries.
Another brilliant building toy that will probably outlive us all, this Danish line of colorful, interlocking plastic brick has been around since the early 1930s. Having replaced Ferrari earlier this year as the world's most powerful brand, according to Brand Finance, the simple construction toy has given rise to board games, video games, children's clothing, magazines and books, theme parks, retail stores and a movie, not to mention increasingly elaborate sets. More than 600 billion Lego parts have been produced.
Chutes and Ladders
Based on an ancient—as in second century B.C.—Indian game called Snakes and Ladders, this pleasant board game for preschoolers and their families has players race to the top of the board, with moves determined randomly by a spinner. Along the way, they find ladders to help them advance and chutes or slides, which cause them to move backward. Who knew the ladders represented good acts in the traditional Indian game, and the chutes were slides toward evil?
This easy race game (no counting or strategy, which makes it appropriate for very young children) is built around a storyline that involves a search for King Kandy, the lost king of Candy Land. Locations and characters like Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain, Queen Frostine and Gramma Nutt, reinforce the sweet theme, which was first introduced in 1949.
Although now this stereoscopic 3-D viewer is available as a smartphone app, the original system was introduced in 1939, four years after the advent of Kodachrome color film made the use of small, high-quality photographic color images practical. Tourist attractions and travel views predominated in View-Master's early lists of available reels, most of which were meant to be interesting to users of all ages. This was sightseeing at its most accessible.
Who among us, boy or girl, didn't use the contents of this fun little egg-shaped stocking stuffer to transfer images from a favorite comic strip? Did we care that it was based on siliconepolymers and contained a viscoelastic liquid silicone, a type of non-Newtonian fluid? Or that it was originally created during research into potential rubber substitutes for use by the United States in World War II? No, we cared only that it had remarkable ability to stretch and bounce, break when given a sharp blow, and flow like a liquid. Oh, and transfer newspaper images onto other surfaces back when ink was petroleum-based.
And who didn't try to eat this ubiquitous modeling compound, harmlessly (we think) composed of flour, water, salt, boric acid and mineral oil?
Despite its resemblance to today's iPad, the classic Etch-a-Sketch was a mechanical drawing toy that operated in a distinctly low-tech way—with knobs and a stylus that displace aluminum powder on the back of the screen. Introduced in 1960 for $2.99, it sold 600,000 units in that year alone. Four decades later, the Toy Industry Association put Etch-a-Sketch on its list of the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century.
Oh, ho, ho, the mischief we could make with this iconic '60s game, which tied players up in knots down in the finished basement where our parents couldn't see us.
Also known as a spirit board or talking board, this popular and harmless parlor toy has a long and storied history that goes back to 100 A.D. in China. Popularized in spiritualists' camps in Ohio in the late 1880s, it was later criticized by certain tight-assed religious groups, but served as an important means for declaring love and divining crushes in our youth.
Hippity Hop Inflatable Ride-a-Ball
Woe to the parent who bought their kids one of these oversize bouncing balls and let them use it indoors. The warnings were extensive: Don't hop on a full stomach, don't hop when it's dark, don't hop with two riders, don't hop around in the garage where you may encounter sharp objects. Maybe that's why we like 'em so much, and they sure did burn off energy. Outdoors! Now! I mean it!
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