13 of the Best Old-School Girl Toys
by Theresa Romano | 12:40 pm, July 13th, 2011
Girl toys. No matter how much we considered ourselves tomboys in our youth, there were some toys that were marketed to us that we just couldn’t help but want. At the time we didn’t know, but we weren’t sold on the mainstream “girly toys” (Barbie being the most obvious), but some may have caught our attention. Sure, I myself wore baseball caps to the side and thoroughly enjoyed playing handy-woman with my Cool Tools, but, there may have been a pink doll or two that I stored at the bottom of my toy chest, safely tucked away from prying eyes. Behold, in no particular order, a list of some of the coolest girl toys of the 80‘s, 90‘s that us girls – and some boys – enjoyed with great zeal, and possibly not in the the way the manufacturers intended. And, of course, there are many other toys out there that you may not find on the list, but please feel free to let us know the ones you loved! Tell us your most girly secrets; we won’t judge.
Easy-Bake Oven (Hasbro/Kenner)
The Easy-Bake Oven is timeless. Since its first appearance in 1963, the Easy-Bake Oven has kept little girls busy, waiting for that bulb to cook their vanilla cakes – which may take forever. As the years went on, the lightbulb that couldn’t pop a corn kernel eventually evolved into an actual heat source (courtesy of Hasbro) and the look went from an actual mock oven, to a modern microwave, and back to a stovetop model – which was recalled back in 2006 due to reported injuries. Kenner was the first to manufacture the toy created by toy inventor Ronald Howes, who was inspired to invent it after learning how chestnuts were cooked on the streets of New York City. Again, this toy was, and still is, just too much fun for girls to bogart; I’m sure there are millions of girls out there with terror stories of their little brothers using their Easy-Bake Ovens to make bug cakes or something even worse; all for the sake of science, of course. Now, enjoy the original Kenner commercial for the Easy-Bake Oven, featuring puppets courtesy of Jim Henson. Don’t forget to get the mix to make “coo-kies”!
Littlest Pet Shop (Hasbro/Kenner)
Now owned by Hasbro, Kenner once again paved the way in the early 90’s with great toys. The Littlest Pet Shop had an abundance of animals in the beginning with cute little gimmicks: some pets were magnetic which allowed them to grasp onto their toys/babies/bones/etc., some were stamps that glided across paper (or your mother’s white kitchen counter), birds that flapped their wings when you pressed on them, heat sensitive features that allowed colors to change (mostly associated with the reptilian pets), and more. The Littlest Pet Shop line grew substantially with zoo, garden and woodland pets; they were just too cute for words. The Littlest Pet Shop also had its own cartoon series like most toy lines in the 90’s. An updated version of the Littlest Pet Shop resurfaced in 2005, but their look is characterized with brighter colors and bigger heads (think Bratz Dolls-like) that are uncomfortably in your face.
My Little Pony (Hasbro)
One of the best smells in this world – to me at least – is my box of My Little Ponies; such a sweet perfume-y, plastic-y scent exudes from the box that would soothe any beast. But, I digress. My Little Pony was all the rage in the 80‘s and 90’s, following the My Pretty Pony toy back in 1981, which was a larger scaled pony that blinked and had hair you could brush. There are so many sets and series of My Little Pony that it’s hard to pinpoint all of them. Some Little Ponies were specially manufactured as mail-order exclusives, making it hard for the masses to collect. Some rare mail-order ponies included the Birthflower Ponies line, the excessively long-maned Rapunzel, baby ponies and the first boy pony named Lucky. The luckiest girls in the world were those who had the much coveted My Little Pony Dream Castle Playset!
Polly Pocket (Bluebird Toys/Mattel)
To think that Polly Pocket was invented by a father! That’s right, back in 1983 Chris Wiggs designed a toy fashioned out of a cosmetic compact that his daughter could easily carry around with her. Bluebird Toys of England licensed the Polly Pocket toy line, but Hasbro eventually bought out the rights to the toy and company. We all remember the small Polly Pocket with numerous play sets, including a weird set that involved Polly sharing her everyday life with some creepy-looking humanimals in the Animal Wonderland sets. A number of other companies ripped-off Polly Pocket’s appeal; there were even some Disney-themed Polly Pocket-esque toys roaming around. In 1999, Hasbro came out with a much larger Polly, with rubbery clothes with “Polly Stretch” that made it easy for little girls to dress and undress their new three inch Polly. Boys also were anxious to jump on the Polly wagon, so Mighty Max was born; not only into similar play sets, but a successfully complex cartoon series and videogame as well.
Doodle Bear (TYCO)
Unlike the popular stuffed Popples of the 80’s, the Doodle Bear actually encouraged kids to graffiti their lovable toy. Sorry, Popples, you didn’t have a chance. What better way for a kid to defer their attention from drawing on the walls of their room than to take out their artistic aggression on a bear. The Doodle Bear didn’t care! Go crazy, kids! Moms would approve, especially since you could just throw the bear into the washing machine when you were done humiliating it with non-permanent ink. Boys would probably be fans of this toy too: drawing and writing obscenities on the bear while their little sisters cried and urged their mothers to wash it off, but mommy can’t because she just put a load in… Yeah, I promise that never happened to me.
Sky Dancers (Galoob)
“Fly for me, just for me, take out my eye for me.” Yes, Sky Dancers were just a toy recall waiting to happen! Nevertheless, they were a lot of fun; I especially liked it when I caught them right on the end piece below their feet as they spun back down, which resulted in them gracefully spinning to a halt – and I would then proceed to tell them my deepest secrets. This toy needed a lot of man power to really get them launched into the air. They wouldn’t even jump off of their base unless you really gave it a chainsaw-like pull to get them going. They were launched during the holiday season of ’94 and had (well, what do you know?) an animated series. Seriously, people at the Hub, let’s play this again! Funny enough, boys needed their own masculine version of the toy and it came in the form of Dragon Flyz – which had its own popular animated series before Galoob turned it into a toy line. Take cover!
The boys had Creepy Crawlers (which was awesome in its own right), but the girls had their own feminine version: DollyMaker. Both ideas have been around since the 60’s (much like the Easy-Bake Oven), with the Plastigoop and highly dangerous die-cast metal molds us kids handled with not much care. The DollyMaker allowed us to make actual little rubber-like dolls and a bunch of accessories; the Plastigoop was also given a feminine touch being referred to as “Glamour Goop.” The best part was using my brother’s Creepy Crawlers’ goop – especially the green-colored one – to turn my dolls into aliens. Seriously, how many dolls can one make? You have to get a little creative, so I turned my dolls into mutants. As the 90’s rolled on, other companies made their own versions – with much safer regulations, how boring! – based more on actual cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants and Pokemon, but that just seemed too forced.
Pound Puppies (Tonka)
Let’s face it, Pound Puppies are just looking for some love. And after seeing them literally falling out of the cage in the commercial, you need to buy one or they’ll put them all down for good! Of course, Pound Puppies weren’t just for girls; boys liked them too, and corporate business men (you’ll see in the commercial). Pound Puppies were like Cabbage Patch Kids, you could give them a name, officially adopt them, and they came in an array of sizes and breeds. I just remember them being so flat – which was probably the result of being thrown in to that cramped cage, forced to lay on top of each other. They are still going strong today and had their own cartoon series back in the 80’s animated by Hanna-Barbera. You can now find the new version of the show on The Hub with the same title, but with a completely different look.
These quintuplets didn’t have their own reality show, but they did have some pretty neat stuff. Consisting of two boys and three girls, coming in your choice of blondes or brunettes (and other ethnicities), Quints were little dolls that came with color-coordinated accessories: 5 adjoining bottles, beds, blankets and more, which was probably kept in mind for the moms out there who didn’t have to go on wild goose chases, slithering on the floor trying to find the minuscule items. They even had their own tricycle built for five! But, you can imagine how many accidents these little hell-raisers caused, so that is why they also came out with Cousins (which I used as the Quints’ baby-sitters), which consisted of three identical preteen sisters who were also color-obsessed and the only way you can tell them apart was by who was wearing pink, purple or turquoise. This line had a lot of accessories to buy, my favorite being the Quint’s bed and blankets set and the Cousin’s own hair salon. I wonder if they’ll freak out in life if something doesn’t come in their color.
Li’l Miss Singing Mermaid (Mattel)
When it came to the 90’s there was one thing all girls wanted to be: a mermaid! The Li’l Miss Singing Mermaid was part of the Li’l Miss line from Mattel which produced other dolls including the very popular Li’l Miss Magic Hair (remember how dipping the comb in cold water could streak her hair with different colors?). This mermaid doll was pretty big. I remember my cousin and I both getting it for Christmas, and I rushed to the bathroom to throw it in the tub! She was top heavy heavy too, since the batteries that made her sing were located in the crown. What was so cool about her was that she had water repellent hair! And she would change color in the water, without short circuiting. Of course, there were other mermaid type toys in the 80’s, even before Disney’s Little Mermaid, like the Sweet Sea Mermaid made by Tomy back in 1985.
Sweet Secrets (Galoob)
Us females are secretive by nature. You really think we’re going to let just anybody know that our comb is actually our little doll friend? I don’t think so. Sweet Secrets first popped onto the scene back in 1984. They were like the girl version of Transformers (on a very small scale) or, better yet, the Japanese toy line Microman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82-y9LE3ivE that catered to the male demographic with little robots changing into everyday items like wrist watches and guns. But instead, the girly version turned from combs, makeup and jewelry into dolls and playsets; the dolls would easily fold their head and limbs into circular gem-like objects. The Sweet Secrets line resurfaced back in 2007, with the idea of the tiny dolls fitting into cosmetic tubes and purses.
Puppy Surprise (Hasbro)
Oh… my… god, puppies! Puppy Surprise was nothing revolutionary, but the 90’s had a way of grasping little girls’ attention by adding an element of surprise. The thing was that you knew the mommy dog was pregnant, but with how many pups? And, most exciting of all, was it going to be all girls? One girl, two boys? I can’t take it any more! And so, the only way you would find out what type of litter you had was by physically pulling out the puppies from the dog’s uterus. Just like in real life, each puppy had a pink or blue bow to tell the sex of the puppy. They then released a Kitty Surprise and Pony Surprise with the same gist, although it was quite fun putting the horse babies in the cat mom and telling your little cousin to take it out. What?!
Calico Critters (Tomy)
Sylvanian Families, as they were originally called, were created in 1985 by David Sylvian. The line is both a collectible toy line and video game series. Many companies around the world have distributed the toy line under different names: Sylvanian Families (“sylvan” meaning “of the forest”) were released in both Japan and North America at the same time. Tomy eventually lost the rights to use the name and thus Calico Critters was born. The line is still very popular today, with numerous animal family sets available. The whole line has a very simple rustic theme with some extravagant houses and playsets.
(Photo via Cracked)