What was your favorite toy to play with when you were a kid? Was it a game? An action figure? Some form of questionably safe goo? It’s hard to know what will catch on with kids, but these toys really hit the mark…even if some of them succeeded thanks to clever marketing. You might be surprised by what children played with in the 70s, but many of these are still around today. Some ideas are made to last a lifetime or longer.
Here are 25 Most Iconic Toys of the ’70s!
While playing with snot-like goo isn’t everyone’s forte, it’s entertained children for decades. In the 60s there was a version of said gooey substance that caused itchy and inflamed skin issues. Much to the relief of parents and kids everywhere, Mattel released Slime in 1976, a much safer goo to play with, mainly made up of food extenders. Now if I can only get it out of my carpet…
Ants in the Pants
Have we mentioned that sometimes the weirdest things catch on? So – if you’re going to fling something across the table, it might as well be colorful plastic ants into…a pair of plastic pants?
Sure. Why not?
You can still find this game on shelves today.
I was not born in the 70s, but I still have fond memories of the Spirograph. Combining circular motion, sneaky geometry, and colored pens, users could create seemingly endless patterns and shapes with a set of interchangeable plastic pieces. The Spirograph was actually first patented by a French mathematician in 1881, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s that it was distributed in the US.
Crafty kids in the 70s were able to make their own charms with a thin sheet of polystyrene plastic. Charms were made by decorating the thin sheet of plastic and then baked in the oven. The sheets shrank down to 1/3 of their size in the process.
Starsky and Hutch Cars
Another toy kicked off from a popular TV series, children could play around with Starsky and Hutch’s brilliant red Ford Gran Torino. It’s another brilliant car toy brought to us by Hot Wheels.
If you’ve never played this classic game of strategy, I strongly recommend you run out and grab it – after you finish this list.
Players place their battleships on the grid, and the opponent tries to “sink your battleship” by calling out the grid coordinates to locate and sink your ship.
While the board game hit massive popularity in the 70s, it was released in 1967 by Milton Bradley. Paper and pen versions of the game had been around since 1900, proving that this game will be around in one way or the other for decades to come.
If you are afraid of dolls, this toy is maybe not for you. While there are many dolls out today that have hyper-realistic features, the 1973 Baby Alive allowed children to feed, change, and care for their “baby”. While that sounds horrific to some, over a million dolls a year were being sold by the time the 80s hit. You can still find Baby Alive on the shelves today.
Hungry Hungry Hippos
Hungry Hungry Hippos came out in the US in the late 70s, and it continues to be a staple in any game closet. Four famished hippos stretch out their necks to grab “food”, and whichever one has the most at the end, wins.
Okay, so it is possible that some of you have not heard of many of these toys; however, it’s hard to make it past 1st grade without playing Connect 4 a few times. You can thank Howard Wexler and Ned Strongin for that. Connect 4 was released by Milton Bradly/Hasbro in 1974.
Six Million Dollar Man Action Figure
The Six Million Dollar Man was a popular show in the 70s. It featured an astronaut who was injured during a crash landing. He was doctored back to health with the help of cyborg-esque machine parts to replace broken body parts.
With that concept, it’s not hard to see why the action figure for this show was a fan favorite.
This classic game is still around today, and it combines spelling know-how with word searching. How many words can you find in the grid before the timer goes off? You only get points for words that no one else found.
Star Wars Action Figure
Any time there’s a hit movie release, action figures are soon to follow. Star Wars action figures were no different. These toys made $100 million in sales in the first year of their release alone (1978).
Speak and Spell
The English language doesn’t always make spelling easy! Enter the Speak and Spell, the electronic “game” by Texas Instruments that helped kids everywhere practice hard-to-spell words. The tablet would say a word, and you entered the phrase using the keyboard.
There’s nothing like a good pattern-memory game, as witnessed by the popularity of Simon. Four colored buttons would light up in a pattern with sound, and it was your job to copy it. The first few sections are pretty easy, but it really stretches your memory as it progresses.
Was it “red-blue-red-blue-green-green-yellow” or “red-blue-red-blue-yellow-green-yellow”?
These superhero (and villain) action figures were a huge hit mainly because you could interchange their parts, creating new versions of each figurine. Once they became a big hit, Marvel even released a Micronauts comic book.
If you like video games, even a little bit, you can thank Pong. This electronic game allowed players to volley a ball back and forth with the computer or another player. It’s like tennis without all the grunting.
Aluminum powder and beads “power” this classic toy that still graces waiting rooms and playrooms everywhere.
Here’s a fun fact: Etch-a-Sketch was invented by a French electrician named Andre Cassagnes. He sold the rights to the toy to the Ohio Art Co for $25,000 in 1960. (That’s roughly $253,000 today.)
Despite its creation in 1960, this toy didn’t hit peak popularity until commercials started airing for it in the late 60s.
“Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down!”
These oval-shaped figurines would take all the pushing and shoving and just pop right back up. They even had houses and other such accessories.
This toy has been curbing the amount of times parents have to yell, “Not in the house!!” since 1970. While this 4-inch polyurethane ball could still knock something off a shelf, if its hurled at a window or a TV, it will all be okay.
Ever wonder if you could bake a cake with a 100-watt lightbulb?
But still…someone once asked themselves this question and capitalized on it, clever genius. The Easy-Bake Oven allowed children to bake their own mini-deserts with a prepackaged cake mix you only added water to. It’s not hard to see why it was wildly popular, especially once Betty Crocker’s branding was added.
Rubik’s Cube has been puzzling the brains of millions since 1974. It started as a tool to explain 3D geometry, but then it was brought to a toy show. They rest, they say, is history.
Who knew corn syrup was good for more than soft drinks and cereals?
This 10-inch toy was made with pliable latex filled with said corn syrup, which allowed Armstrong to stretch up to 4 feet long and then return to his original size, no worse for wear.
While it’s no longer a popular toy, it made over $50 million dollars, and collectors will pay big money for them.
Thanks to “vintage” toys making a comeback, you can check out this classic favorite at most local department stores.
Lite-Brite is an excellent way for kids to express themselves through art – but without much of the mess that usually comes with crafting.
The backlit grid is covered with black paper with an outlined picture to “trace” with colorful pegs – or you can create your design.
You never know what’s going to sell. While “adopting” rocks from the playground to paint and bring home is a common preschool pastime today, in 1975, you could bring this “toy” home in a carrying case complete with a nest and instructions on how to feed and care for it.
Pet Rock sold at $4, which in today’s money is roughly $22! Sound crazy? Apparently not to the 1.5 billion kiddos who convinced their parents it was a good idea!
The love and fascination of cars have been around since Carl Benz took his Model 1 on its first public outing in 1886. Fast forward to 1968 with the invention of Hot Wheels and kids everywhere could drive and race tiny models of famous cars around their living rooms.
Hot Wheels cars were one of the most popular toys of the 70s, and as they are still a necessary playroom item, it’s not difficult to see why.
Enjoyed this article? Check out 25 Awesome Board Games That You Should Actually Play!
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Which of these do you have fond memories of? How many are still around in your house even if you weren’t around in the 70s?