If you’re looking to scratch your nostalgia itch while sharing something with your child, we’ve got you covered. Consider picking up a retro toy like…
Kids of the ’80s remember these adorable plush toys with pom-poms on the end of their tails.
Popples could be “transformed” into a ball, so if you felt like throwing your teddy bear around, this was pretty much the only product for you.
Popples were re-launched in 2015 with an updated look.
There’s also a new Netflix cartoon series, so you can enjoy the magic along with your kids (although you’ll probably end up binge watching the entire season in one afternoon).
2. Wooly Willy
According to the Wooly Willy wiki (tee-hee), the original version of this toy came about when new vacuum-forming devices allowed toy makers to start using plastic in new ways. Brothers James and Donald Herzog saw an opportunity; they encased some metal shavings in plastic, then added a magnetic pencil to move the shavings around.
It was an instant hit. A dime store purchased six dozen Wooly Willy toys, not expecting them to sell; two days later, the dime store called back to order 12,000 units for national distribution.
The price, for one thing—the first Wooly Willy toys cost $0.29. They’re still available for under $5, so you won’t break the bank with this one.
Reviewers on Amazon note that the new Wooly Willy seems small, but then again, the reviewers were much smaller the last time they met Willy. You can also find other characters like Hair-Do Harriet and Buddy Beagle, but they’re all basically the same thing.
3. Easy-Bake Oven
Was there anything more magical than sliding out the tray of your Easy-Bake to enjoy some hot, fresh brownies? Why don’t more ovens use light bulbs as their main heating source?
Okay, so the actual food wasn’t remarkable; that’s not the point. The beauty of the Easy-Bake Oven was that it let kids cook on their own, imparting an incredible feeling of independence and pride. Plus, you could just gorge on the little packets of frosting.
The new Easy-Bake Oven can get significantly hotter, which is both a blessing and a curse; it’ll require a bit more parental supervision, but the results are certainly an improvement. The refill packs are moderately priced, too.
One neat change: After a teen asked Hasbro to create a gender-neutral version of the Easy-Bake Oven in 2012, the company obliged, introducing several different colors and packaging options. After all, anyone can cook.
4. The Bozo Bop Bag
You might just know it as “that clown thing.” While this wasn’t such a great toy for kids with coulrophobia (that’s a fear of clowns, by the way), it let kids take out their aggression on a fairly harmless target. Every time you hit Bozo, he’d bop back. He’d also make a squeaking sound, which let you know that you’d hit him really hard.
Meanwhile, Mom and Dad could relax knowing that you were expending some of your sugar energy cache on a blow-up Bozo.
Nothing! It still comes with sand in the bottom, and it still makes that awesome squeaking noise when you punch it.
It’s not ideal for every kid—and you’ll probably want to have a talk with your little ones about how they can’t punch anything but the giant clown doll—but it’s still a whole lot of fun. If you just want a Bozo Bop Bag for nostalgia’s sake, you might consider the 7-inch version, which comes with a spiffy throwback case.
5. The View-Master
The View-Master used a neat trick to make images appear three dimensional, and its reels told stories. You’d look for hours at each slide, marveling at the detail (although in retrospect, it was a bit grainy, but you probably didn’t have HDTVs when you were a kid).
This toy has an interesting history. The View-Master was introduced in the 1950s, and the United States Army developed special reels for training their personnel. The device only really became popular as a toy in the 1960s.
Although the technology is still mostly the same, the reels have been upgraded a bit. They look a little clearer, although you’ll still get to pull the big plastic handle to change slides.
Best of all, you can now find dozens of reels featuring kids’ favorite characters, so if you’re willing to drop a few extra bucks, your kids will enjoy more variety than you’d ever dreamed possible.
If you’re more into technological advancement, though, you’ll have to check out the View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer.
If you have an iOS or Android phone that works with Google Cardboard, you can use the new viewer to experience new places—at a price point much lower than adult-targeted virtual reality devices from Oculus or Samsung.
To quote one ad for the original Sea-Monkeys: “Always clowning around, these frolicsome pets swim, stunt, and play games with each other. Because they are so full of tricks, you’ll never tire of watching them.”
But the most important part of the ad was at the bottom: “Caricatures shown not intended to depict Artemia salina.” Artemia salina are, of course, better known as brine shrimp.
To be clear, Sea-Monkeys don’t really play games or “stunt.” They’re very simple crustaceans, and they mainly just eat and swim. Their big advantage is that they produce dormant eggs that can be safely stored for long periods of time; introduce them to salty water, and they spring to life.
Well, brine shrimp have remained largely unchanged since the Triassic period, so not much.
You’ll still get a retro plastic “tank” and everything you need to start your sea monkey colony, and they’re actually pretty fun to watch. They’re a great starter pet, since they don’t require much upkeep, but make sure that your child understands that they’re not actual monkeys.
Originally sold in 1967, the Lite-Brite wasn’t advanced technology: it was a light bulb behind a sheet of black paper.
By placing colored pegs on a grate in front of the paper, you could make cool designs. It was your favorite art tool on stormy days.
Depending on the model you choose, quite a bit. You can find these things with different light modes, which will give your artistic creations a new flourish.
Batteries will now last longer, and you’ll only need AA or AAA batteries instead of C or D cells. You can find a version that uses LED technology, which isn’t as bright, but much more energy efficient, and the bulb should last for thousands of hours. There’s even a cube version that lets multiple children play at the same time, and there’s an iPad version as well.
Perhaps most importantly, some models come with removable storage trays. No more losing those little pegs.
8. Teddy Ruxpin
Sure, “animatronic bear” sounds terrifying (thanks to too many Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties in our youth), but Teddy Ruxpin was actually really well done.
He told stories and sang songs, and his lips synched with the cassettes thanks to some nifty programming tricks.
Teddy no longer uses cassette tapes. Before you start groaning, think back to how often cassettes broke in the ’80s; believe us, it’s better this way. Instead, Teddy uses cartridges, so you still have to load in the stories manually. If you were hoping for integration with a tablet or smartphone, you’ll be disappointed.
But otherwise, Teddy Ruxpin hits all the right marks. His voice is just as comforting as ever, he’s just as adorable, and he’s just as good at helping kids pick up basic reading skills. He’s basically exactly what you remember. The people behind Teddy are clearly well aware of his nostalgic appeal. One ad for the recent incarnation of the toy bears the tagline: “Your kids will love him as much as you did.”