Toys today are crap. Fact.

1980s christmas wishlist

Flea’s been under the weather a bit this week, and took a day off school.

Of course, like a million distracted awesome working parents before me, this meant I parked her in front of the TV for the day, while I got on with earning a crust. I took the odd break where I could of course, to deliver hot drinks and Calpol, and slices of toast.

It was during one of these breaks that I sat through one commercial break on Nickelodeon. Where we saw some of the “hottest” toys of 2014. Seriously??

One of the toys was a Frozen doll that you can tip forward on one leg so it looks like it’s skating. Sorry. Somebody here has to be having a laugh. What’s wrong with moving the arms and legs on a regular Frozen doll? Why do I require a special doll for the purposes of balancing on one leg?


Then there’s Orbeez. It’s a bowl, filled with marbles, and you put your feet in it, and pretend you’re at a spa. It vibrates. And contains 2,200 marbles.

Hmm. Let’s just think about that, shall we?



A vibrating bowl, filled with over 2,000 marbles? I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t imagine any possible downsides to that idea. Nope. Well, you know, apart from spending the next TWENTY SODDING YEARS picking up or slipping over wretched marbles.

And don’t even get me started on the Nerf Rebelle, a toy that exists purely because girls can’t be expected to have fun with a toy unless you remake it in pink and lilac and call it a “heartbreaker“.

Maybe I’ve got rose-tinted glasses but when I was nine years old, Christmas toys were actually fun things you could play with.

And since I have been an avid diary keeper since the age of seven, I can flip back to check on exactly what I wanted for Christmas in the mid 1980s… how many of these were on your wish list?

Actually, don’t tell me. Because if you actually got a Mr Frosty slushy drink maker, I might actually die from jealousy.

1. Skateboard


Come on. Who didn’t want to be Marty McFly after watching Back to the Future? I had a red gilet and blue jeans and ALL I needed to complete the fantasy was my own skateboard. Which I got (thanks, Mum) and proceeded to ride until it fell apart two years later.

2. Star Wars AT-AT


Together with my brother Ross, I was a HUGE collector of Star Wars toys. One year, we figured if we both asked for the AT-AT, one of us was bound to score big with Santa, and the other one would probably get the Milennium Falcon. Strategic wish listing – the single best thing about being from a big family. It worked, though. And I still remember how HUGE and noisy the AT-AT was. You could bend the legs at the knees to make it walk, and there was a space inside its belly to store your soldiers, and the little antennas on its head flashed red. Perfection.

3. Casio keyboard


My brother got an AT-AT. I got a keyboard. With 20 pre-defined “rhythms” from salsa to rhumba, all of which sounded equally duff. One of us could now put our toy on eBay and make a fortune. The other one of us is just a bit embarrassed at how many Howard Jones songs they bopped along to in their bedroom during their early years.

4. Madballs


Because what’s more fun than a ball that doubles as a gross head that you can throw at people? Unless it’s a pot of slime that farts when you put your finger in it, or a sticky octopus you throw at walls. But I already had both of THOSE gems.

5. Playmobil Playground


Back in the mid-80s, Playmobil had only just started to make kids in their sets, and I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. We had a lot of Playmobil but before then, it was all about grown-ups. I loved Playmobil kids. I spent many a happy hour making my them go on adventures over the sofa and through the bath. Then when I got a bit older I used to make them snog each other. True story.

6. Mr Frosty


It didn’t matter how many times an adult  told me that this was cheap crap that wouldn’t last past Boxing Day, I wanted a Mr Frosty drink maker more than I wanted air to breathe, when I was nine years old. And I never got one. Not that I still bring this up with my parents at Christmas. Every single year.

7. Speak and Spell 


Because what’s more fun that giving yourself a spelling test? You know, apart from pretty much anything you can imagine? I don’t know why I wanted this, but I did. I wanted it bad. And I so, so loved it when I got one.  It did spelling tests, and codes and games and EVERYTHING. I used to play with it in bed, after lights out. It was almost as much fun as my Little Professor calculator. What. A. Nerd. 

8. Totopoly 


Some people had Trivial Pursuit, or Guess Who? I wanted Totopoly, the fun game for the whole family that introduced children to the basics of betting on horses. Totopoly was very exciting because the board had TWO sides. On one side, you trained your horses and on the second, you raced. I remember playing this by myself against imaginary opponents. That way, I could always be my favourite horses (the black ones – Dorigen, who I felt should be very fast, and Dark Warrior, who I could just sense liked to sabotage the race for everyone else). Possibly, I spent too much time alone as a child.

9. Rubik’s Snake 


Let’s face it. The Rubik’s cube was hard. Who’s got time for that? In contrast, the Rubik’s Snake was a) easier b) cuter and c) more fun to play with because it could actually be a snake, or a rope, or a… rectangle. No honestly, it was way more fun than it sounds. Possibly.

10. Casio Calculator Watch



Ah, the 1980s were a simpler time. I coveted a digital watch just like my oldest brother’s – although nothing could be cooler than his watch, which had a RED digital display, like some kind of amazing space gadget from the future.  These things could tell time, do hard sums AND time you as you ran races. Amazeballs. Sometimes, for kicks, I like to imagine Flea’s face if she I gave her one of these for Christmas.  It’s not pretty.

So there you have it.

Definitive proof.

Modern toys are rubbish.

67 thoughts on “Toys today are crap. Fact.”

  1. Leoni-fay Bunting

    I couldn’t agree more! Also everything is so gender specific these days, boy and girls have their own toys where as back in the day (I feel and sound old!) my brothers and I were likely to put the same items on our Christmas mood board (my mum hated wish lists, but needed inspiration from somewhere so we made moodboards!) Thanks for the post its been great going @oh wow! I forgot all about those!’

    1. Yes, my brothers and I used to work out what we all wanted, make a big list and split it between us – there was no idea of what he wanted as a boy, versus what I wanted as a girl!

  2. I am a control freak when it comes to TV. My kids don’t watch adverts. Ever. So at the ages of 7 and 4 their Christmas lists are still remarkably non-commercial, My daughter wants a pair of barbie shoes and some crafting and colouring stuff. Oh, and the Strictly Come Dancing Annual. My son wants toy cars and a monster truck. I can’t stand the amount of cheap, plastic, throwaway stuff there is these days. I need a good rant about this!

    I still have my Totopoly set by the way. You know, if you ever want a change from Pictionary 😉

    1. Yeah, as you know, Flea was screen free when she was younger. But try keeping a poorly nine year old out of your hair for a whole day without resorting to Nickolodeon. CBBC just doesn’t cut it these days.

  3. I have NEVER heard of Totopoly. But it looks awesome (we had RatRace, which was all about the social climbing, and when you made it to High Society one of your status symbols was a Microwave Oven! Oh yes!).

    But I did get the most fabulous yellow metal scooter (second hand, obvs, but who cared about that?) which had solid rubber wheels that went so amazingly fast.

    Rubik’s snake – never out of my hands. I bet I could still whip up a dog in under 30 seconds.

    I never got a Mr Frosty either. Oh how I yearned for the blue snow maker.

  4. we still have our AT AT although it resides in the loft with all the other Star Wars toys as hubby doesn’t want the boys to break it!! I had a Mr Frosty (sorry) and a rubiks snake. My Casio keyboard was used to play here comes the bride at my aunts wedding in a registry office too – never got a speak and spell though!
    Did you have a Lolo ball or a pogo stick?? They were top of my list too!

  5. Ah, Mr. Frosty. Disappointing kids from working class families since 1988. I was DESPERATE for a Mr. Frosty but I never got one and I don’t think I ever met anyone who had one, either. I wonder why our parents were so cruel and neglectful in not providing us with them?

  6. I’ve never heard of Totopoly but it looks amazing It would have definitely have been on my wishlist. I loved my speak a d spell, mine came from a car boot sale a few years after they wee first out but I loved it fiercely… yes I was a nerd! I was just talking to a friend about the absurdness of the Nurf Rebelle, why do we have to have a pink version of everything these days just so girls are ‘allowed’ to play with them?

  7. My girl has asked for that Orbeez thing…..I said not a chance! My thoughts were the same….Imagine picking up all the marbles!
    I totally agree with you! Toys were better in years gone by! I never had a Mr. Frosty either! I felt so deprived…..hehehe x

  8. Speak and Spell? Speak and Spell? I had forgotten all about that. I LOVED IT!!!! And you’ve only gone and brought blinkin’ TOTOPOLY back into my head. It was like monopoly but a hundred, million times better because it had HORSES!!!! Fantastic post. Every word is right, right, right. Think I need a lie down now. Bit over excited……………….

  9. What a great post! I did have a Mr Frosty (sorry) and it was great, so I bought our daughter an equivalent last year and it was absolute rubbish. So disappointingly made. I never got the A la Carte kitchen I so desperately wanted though.

    Little Professors were very cool, but so too was my Lolo ball (I had a cheaper non branded version of course but I didn’t care but others still pointed it out the miseries), pogo stick and Pocket Simon. Today’s equivalent of Bop It is pretty good though and there’s a Simon Swipe out this year which we’ve bought for our kids. Also, I must say that the Lego ranges totally rock these days and we’ve invested in one of the fab huge Christmas sets to make together on Christmas day.

    We also kept loads of our toys so our little boy spends ages playing with hubbie’s old Star Wars toys and figures! Whilst daughter reads my old Mallory Towers and Naughtiest Girl in the School books etc.

    A combo of old and new is the way forward I’m convinced!

  10. I have to disagree. Whilst there is a lot of tat on the market, there are also loads of really great toys that promote children’s development and are really really fun. I run the Good Toy Guide and we love getting the toys in for review. We do apply strict criteria as we watch the children play with the toys and apps (we also have the Good App Guide) and we rate each product for fun, skills developed and ease of use (everyone hates toys that look good but then take a week to get set up). So do your research and find good toys this Christmas but don’t assume what’s on TV is necessarily the best that’s available and then let your children enjoy their toys and create memories in the same way you did.

    1. Thanks for commenting Amanda – it’s intended to be a tongue in cheek look at how much more exciting I think the toys of my childhood are – a claim which doesn’t entirely stand up to scrutiny 🙂

  11. I was never allowed a Mr Frosty. Which is why I let the boys have total shit! I always wanted one of those fashion designer tracing things and never got one of those either! I also put my lack of spelling ability down to not having a speak and spell, but I did get a grifter the bike of champions

  12. Aargh I remember wanting a keyboard so badly! I was so embarrassingly into Silvian Families when I was a kid, though thankfully that hasn’t changed much.
    I do think that the problem these days lies with advertising and not necessarily (or at least not only) the toys themselves, in that kids are bombarding with the crap and never shown the good stuff. I love everything wooden and beautiful, but sadly the companies who make those toys just don’t seem to have the advertising clout of the plastic tat-makers.

    1. Ha! To be fair, I’m not sure when presented with wooden and beautiful, most kids wouldn’t prefer a bright, shiny thing that oozes gunge, or goes fast.

  13. Oh my gosh! I had that exact Playmobil Playground set! I got it in the mid-late nineties though as I’m a ’91 baby, but it looked exactly like that. I still have it in the attic somewhere.

    Playmobil was my all-time favourite toy as a kid. I bought some for my god-daughter this year for Christmas, purely because I want to play with it myself when I visit her. *ahem*

    C x
    Lux Life Blog

  14. There are some mindbogglingly crap toys now but there were definitely mindbogglingly crap toys back then too.

    Having said that, I always wanted a Major Morgan, the Electronic Organ but I was happy with a lot of the stuff I had 🙂

    1. I still have my major morgan (although now when you wrote that I initially red it as “Major organ” which has an entirely diff context) but none of the sheets that fit inside – frustrating…..

  15. I desperately wanted a Mr Frosty too, I didn’t get one either! But it was one of the first Christmas presents I bought for Liam when he was born and I can conclude it is a cheap piece of crap lol! I loved Speak N Spell and the Rubiks Snake!

  16. I had tears stinging the back of my eyes when I clapped eyes on that Mr frosty…I have never forgiven my Mum for not buying me one. yes I know I would tell my kids today that they are crap but it has never stopped me lusting over one….oh & I never got Speak & spell either!!

  17. So THAT’s what Orbeez is! Well that can come off the Santa list quick smart! Now I remember my Casio keyboard being the height of cool – I can only imagine what the keyboard-of-today-owning kids would say to that but I loved it. And Totopoly was totally the best board game ever.

  18. The Boy loves Nick Jnr 2 at the moment and I hate it with a vengeance because of all the adverts, particularly the crap, plastic trash aimed at girls, or the fighty, nasty, plastic stuff boys must want to fight with. HATE IT!

    1. Flea watches TV so rarely, I don’t tend to worry – if anything as the child of two journalists she’s almost TOO jaded and cynical and rips apart even the ads I think are quite sweet!

  19. hahahaha My daughter wanted a Mr Frosty, every bloody year she’d beg and beg….I gave in when she was 19, it was crap….I grinned and said ‘told you so’

    My younger brother had an AT AT and I was so jealous I wanted to rub his ears off, my husband told me to grow up.

    Toys today… well I really like Furby because you can teach it things and it becomes like your best friend ever in the world….and I never had one of those (the best friend, I got Furby)

  20. Katie @mummydaddyme

    I bloody love this post Sally. Firstly don’t get me started on that nerd fun that’s now pink to appeal to ‘girls’ – what a load of rubbish. Secondly so many of my friends had a Mr Frosty and I was desperate for one but my clean freak mum never got me one for fear of making a mess- I feel like I missed out on a childhood staple by not having one, and your post has bought back that hurt a little. But I did have a Casio keyboard, I can still hear the annoying demo mode tune now. And that playmobil playground= all kinds of amazing.

    1. I suspect every kid wanted one, and Nikki basically was the only person to get one. We should have a blog conference where we do nothing but make Frosty drinks.

      1. Still smiling whilst re-reading this 🙂 Frosty queen I am!! And to those who later bought one in life and then declared it *crap* – your tastes and perspectives have clearly changed. It totally rocked. 🙂

  21. I asked for and got a Casio when I was 7 – best Christmas ever… slightly ruined by the fact that I found it whilst poking around in my mum’s cupboard before Christmas so knew who had really got it for me (not Santa) xx

  22. Kia @ A View From Here

    *insert high pitched girlie squeal here*
    Speak & Spell! I loved that. I also had the Speak & Maths. Together they must have been my most treasured and play with “toys”. Yet, I have absolutely no idea what happened to them.
    Sorry to say – I had a Mr Frosty, it just didn’t live up to the ideal though. I don’t think I used it more than half a dozen times before it was relegated to the back of a kitchen cupboard.

  23. All of my son’s toys do everything for him, including thinking. In my opinion, the simpler the toy, the better for him. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to fix the light on my electronic tie rack.

  24. Agreed. The watch. The Mr Frosty. As one of five children our presents were not big or expensive, but I do remember getting some great pixie boots one year, a second-hand bike another year and a much coveted Cabbage Patch Kid for the second Christmas of asking. I have vetoed almost everything from our nearly 8 year old’s Christmas list, although in fairness it mostly consists of every advert from TV *shudders*. I really can’t be doing with 90% of kids’ toys today and she’s getting family Trivial Pursuit and Cluedo this year (definitely for her, not for her parents at all….).

  25. I agree wholeheartedly – and the price of them is absolutely ridiculous too. I loathe going into a toy shop and being confronted with a pink wall of silliness and being expected to chose one.

  26. A very true and sad fact. Besides the quality of most toys is really poor. My mum kept some of my old toys so I could pass them down to my children. They are in perfect nick. You cannot say the same about most of my children’s toys…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *