Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Toys, Fads and Collecting Fun

Did you know Please Touch Museum collects toys? Best sellers, iconic, and loaded with lots of play value. A lot of toys offer open-ended play experiences so that you can come back over and over and they still remain fun. Toys and games your grandparents played with can be toys and games that your child plays with today: alphabet blocks, teddy bears, Monopoly and more. And then there’s some toys that come down the pike and EVERYONE simply has to have one! They are called fads and kids love ‘em!

The latest craze to hit the scene is a simple little silicone bracelet…known as Silly Bandz, Silly Bracelets, Zanybandz, Crazy Bands and even Rubba Bandz. They are colorful silicone bands molded into a variety of shapes with a variety of colors and designs. They come in themed packs, such as animals, dinosaurs, princesses, baseball, rock band and rainforest, just to name a few. They look like simple bracelets when you wear them, but pop back into their shapes when taken off.

Can you remember some of the fads from your childhood?

In the 1930s, Shirley Temple dolls from Ideal Toy & Novelty Company were all the rage. Fashioned in the likeness of the child actress, the dolls realized $45 million in sales by 1941.

1950s —The Hula Hoop made by Wham-O became THE toy to have. The company sold 25 million of them in four months.

1960s — What was the second top-selling doll behind Barbie? Troll dolls! Everyone loved them and everyone had to have them. Created by Thomas Dam of Denmark.

1970s — Advertising executive Gary Dahl spawned a fad with Pet Rock! They were rocks…marketed as if they were live pets.

1980s — Lots of toy fads…Rubik’s Cube, made by Ernö Rubik, sold 4.5 million in 1980.

Smurfs — They were first made in 1959, but became a popular collecting craze in the early to mid 1980s. The little blue figures are still made today.

Cabbage Patch Kids — Every child wanted one of Xavier Robert's baby-dolls from the Cabbage Patch of Coleco Products. They were originally introduced in 1978, but when Coleco began producing them in 1982, they exploded on the market and became one of the most popular toy fads of the 80s.

1990s — Tamagotchis or virtual pets. First sold by Bandai in 1996, these little toys took off like wildfire. The little computers “housed” virtual pets that you had to feed, pooper-scoop and play games with or else they would “die.” As of 2008, over 70 million Tamagotchis had been sold!

POGS — Bottle cap game that was popular in the 1990s. Kids collected hundreds and even thousands of these little round discs.

1993 — The introduction of the Beanie Baby by Ty. Millions were sold and people were trading, swapping and selling them left and right.

2005 — Webkinz became the toy to have. They are small plush animals with a special code that you can use on the Internet to play in the virtual “Webkinz World.”

2009 — What did all the kids want this past holiday season? Zhu Zhu Pets—the little crazy robotic hamsters with names like Chunk, Num Nums and Scoodles.

Lots more fads took off over the years. You might remember the Ant Farm of the 1950s, Tickle Me Elmo in the late 1990s, Superballs in the 1960s. Whatever the toy, whatever the fad…a must-have toy or a collecting frenzy over the latest new thing is a rite of passage for children everywhere.

What are/were your favorite toy fads?

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We're all about learning through play.

Join Pinky, one of Please Touch Museum's resident puppets, on an inside look into all the fun, educational things happening at Philly's Children's Museum. This blog is not just about what we do at the museum, but about the educational philosophy behind why we do what we do.