Toys. What would a childhood be without them?
But there are toys, and then there are toys. You know the ones. The toys that define a generation of kids and have you remembering them fondly for years to come.
Of course, every generation has different defining toys dictated by changing fads and technology. And the history of toys, as a whole, goes back to ancient times. Here, though, are some of the toys that have provided pleasure, diversion and even education over recent decades.
Beyblade: These Japanese tops debuted alongside an anime series in 1999 and went international. The beyblade is a combative adaptation of the long-established and perfectly innocuous spinning top, with players pitting their tops against each other.
Fidget spinners: Although they had been around since the 1990s, these took off in 2017. Ostensibly stress-relieving toys, though teachers and parents might disagree.
Hatchimals: The flagship version of this toy - released in 2016 - features a robotic creature that "hatches" from an egg. The miracle of new life, made mechanical and commercial.
Shopkins: These tiny, collectable toys based on grocery store items were introduced in 2014. Each plastic figure had a recognisable face and unique name and there were also special finishes such as translucent, glitter, or squishy. Cute or creepy? You decide.
ZhuZhu Pets: These 2009-created hamsters are both plush and robotic, responding to stimuli and making sounds. They're a lot less messy than the real thing.
Beanie Babies: These animal toys included a dog, a platypus (for that special Aussie flavour), a whale, and a pig.
Nerf Blaster: While there were earlier pop guns, these toys produced by Hasbro - but originally developed by Parker Brothers - fire foam darts, discs, or foam balls, allowing kids to unleash their homicidal impulses as harmlessly as possible.
Tamagotchi: This Japanese handheld electronic "pet" - requiring lots of time and attention - was invented by Akihiro Yokoi and Aki Maita in 1996. It should put kids off pets, and parenthood, for life, but apparently doesn't.
Cabbage Patch Kids: "Adopted" - complete with certificate - rather than merely bought, these expensive dolls with earlier origins mired in litigation and controversy were sold by Coleco from 1982 with riots breaking out in stores the following year as people had to have them, one of many signs of societal decay.
Crossbows and Catapults: A personal favourite, this 1983 game/toy pitted two people against each other to knock down each other's castles with, yes, toy crossbows and catapults. Mayhem often ensued.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The demarcation between kids' programs and commercials had long been controversial but in the case, the Filmation cartoon came after, not before, the Mattel toys. In the magical land of Eternia, heroic, steroidal He-Man and evil Skeletor and their respective forces keep on fighting. He-Man is Prince Adam's alter ego but the disguise is worse than Clark Kent's glasses.
Polly Pockets: This line of tiny dolls first appeared in 1989 but when Mattel took over they became larger and more lifelike.
Rubik's Cube: Invented by Erno Rubik in 1974, this frustrating multicoloured puzzle - how many people gave up after a few minutes and simply reassembled it to its original form? - was huge in the early 1980s, inspiring how-to-solve-it books, a TV cartoon and a pop song.
Pet rock: Gary Dahl's 1975 fad only lasted a few months but made him a fortune. Evidence to support H.L. Mecken's idea that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
Playmobil: German inventor Hans Beck created these smiling toy figures that first came out in 1974 with the seemingly random selection of knights, Native Americans and construction workers.
Simon: This 1978 electronic game forced players to remember sequences of colours that kept speeding up in alarming fashion. Not for the easily stressed.
Star Wars: George Lucas made a fortune out of the merchandising rights for his 1977 blockbuster and its sequels and prequels. There were action figures, toys, games, ice creams, toothbrushes, you name it.
Etch a Sketch: Andre Cassagnes' mechanical drawing device incorporating a stylus and aluminium powder made its debut in 1960. Creating straight lines with the knobs is easy, curves are harder, and having to draw in one continuous line is a real challenge.
GI Joe: "America's movable fighting man" - note the absence of the word "doll" so boys would not be turned off - began his long march in 1964, during the Vietnam War. Coincidence or not?
Super Ball: Norman Stingley's 1964 invention can be made to bounce very high - some say as high as a two or even three-storey building but certainly higher than a cricket ball.
Barbie: Dolls go back to ancient times but the queen of them all is blonde Barbie, introduced by Mattel in 1959. She's survived multiple controversies and criticisms including sexism, body image and lack of diversity by adapting to changing times. Her entourage includes longtime beau Ken and younger sister Skipper. Some lucky girls get to play with Barbie's Dreamhouse. Earring Magic Ken, intended to make the character "cool", had many gay fans.
Frisbee: Walter Morrison had been tossing around a popcorn tin lid in 1937 but the official Frisbee wasn't manufactured until 1959 and inspired serious sporting events.
Matchbox cars: In 1952, Jack Odell, a partner in British company Lesney Products, was inspired by a rule at his daughter's school that only allowed toys that fit inside a matchbox to scale down Lesney's road roller toys. She got a permitted toy, he got a successful product. Now owned by Mattel, which introduced its own Hot Wheels toy vehicles in 1968.
Mr Potato Head: Invented by George Lerner in 1949, originally this was a set of parts - a hat, eyes, ears, mouth, and so on - originally intended to be inserted in a real potato, much to the horror of killjoy anti-food wasters. In 1952 the toy company that became Hasbro began marketing it and from 1964 a plastic potato "body" was included.
Play-Doh: This modelling compound with a distinctive aroma - a single sniff produces a nostalgia high - was invented in the 1930s by Noah McVicker as a wallpaper cleaner and was launched as a toy in the mid-1950s.
Skateboards: Manufactured from the late 1950s though people had made their own from roller skates and boards before that. Can be used as a means of transportation or a way of showing off gnarly moves, jumps and tricks. Be nice to grommets.
Troll doll: Dane Thomas Dann's ugly-cute 1959 creation has has recurring bouts of popularity.
Magic 8-Ball: Albert C. Carter and Abe Bookman's fortune-telling sphere for the credulous was invented in 1946. Its responses to queries include "Yes, definitely", "Very doubtful" and "Reply hazy, try again." If you're using a toy to make decisions, you probably deserve whatever happens.
Slinky: Invented by Richard T. James in 1943 and marketed successfully two years later, this coiled spring toy can "walk" down a flight of stairs, among other tricks. Don't try to take it apart.
Lego: In 1932, Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen founded the toy company that would become The Lego Group ("Lego" coming from two Danish words "leg godt", meaning "Play well'). The signature interlocking plastic bricks were introduced in 1949 and there have been many new products, including large Duplo blocks (1969) and minifigures (1978).
Mickey Mouse doll: Walt Disney's rodent hero, created with Ub Iwerks, debuted in 1928 and in 1930 seamstress Charlotte Clark was licensed to produce the first doll, a huge success - Disney became a leading merchandiser.
View-Master: Users could insert discs with "3D" images into this stereoscopic viewing device, enabling them to see anything from historical landmarks to images from TV shows and cartoons. It was even used by the military. A VR edition was produced a few years ago but this seems to be one toy made obsolete by technology.
Whoopee cushion: The modern fart maker - the epitome of sophisticated humour and a veritable laff riot - was invented in Toronto in the 1920s. Inflated animal bladders to produce noise for laughs go back to ancient times: the Roman emperor Heliogabalus was a fan (one of his tamer eccentricities).
Yo-yo: This toy goes back a long way but in 1928 Pedro Flores began manufacturing the modern yo-yo with a more sophisticated design and range of motion. Don't use it as a weapon. No, don't.
Billy cart: Also known as a gravity racer, among other names, the first recorded race took place in Germany in 1904. Mechanised carts have taken some of the simple thrill away.
Meccano: British inventor Frank Hornby began selling his metal construction kits in 1901, registering the name Meccano in 1907. Hornby, who might be the patron saint of a certain breed of obsessive, also invented Dinky diecast vehicles (1934) and Hornby Railways (1920).
Raggedy Ann and Andy: The exact origins of these doll siblings are unclear - one story is that Johnny Gruelle simply draw a face on his daughter's rag doll and named it. But Gruelle patented the design in 1915 and wrote a children's book about Raggedy Ann in 1918 and dolls were sold as a tie-in. Brother Andy debuted in 1920.
Teddy bear: The story that this toy was named after US president Theodore Roosevelt after he refused to shoot a bear in a hunt in 1902 appears to be true. American Morris Michton started selling "Teddy's bear" and Richard Steiff's German company also produced stuffed bears the same year.
Tinkertoys: Charles Pajeau's 1914 construction toy consisted of wooden wheels with holes for sticks. Later additions included electric motors, colour and plastic parts.
From way back
Conkers also had objects on strings - snail shells and chestnut seeds were popular - and the object was for players to strike each other's conker in turn until one broke. Some hardened their conkers by such means as ageing, boiling, soaking in vinegar, but that might be considered unsporting.
Hoop: Hoop rolling and hula hoops go back thousands of years and, inspired by Australian bamboo hoops, became a big fad in the late 1950s that has never entirely gone away. Is it exercise, sport or simply frivolous?
Jacks: Toss up a ball and scoop up pieces - rocks, stones, bones - before it bounces in a test of speed and coordination.
Marbles: Marbles were originally made of stone or polished nuts but the glass variety became common in the mid-19th century. The marble lexicon includes "aggies" and "catseyes". Do you play for fair or for keeps?
Skipping rope: This goes back at least as far as 17th-century Europe and can be a solo or group activity (complete with chants). Boxers skipping helped make it cooler for boys.
Toy guns could be made with pieces of wood and nails, or you could buy cap guns (the paper caps could burn your fingers). Some of us remember the time before stoppers and other features were introduced so guns really did look like toys (this probably saved lives). In summer, there are water pistols - some modest and simple handheld devices, others huge and more like water cannons. No compensation jokes please.
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