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A Look Back at 1970s Toys

As a boomer, I grew up in the 1960s and '70s. Sometimes I like to share some nostalgia from that time.

Remembering '70s Toys and Games

If you were a kid in the 1970s then you might have some fun remembering some of the games and toys you had. Of course, some of them are still around today, even if in a more modern format.

In this article, you can reminisce a bit and even watch some commercials for 1970s toys that take you back to that era. Be sure to add your favorites to our lists as we look back at board games, dolls and action figures, as well as all of the other ways we entertained ourselves as kids.

Basic 1970s Toys

The dolls I recall having in the early '70s were probably first introduced in the 1960s. A Baby First Step was one of these and was about 16 to 18 inches high and could walk although she sounded like a major home appliance when operating. I also had some Liddle Kiddles and Heidi and Jan dolls. Liddle Kiddles were quite small and Heidi and Jan topped out at about 3 inches. You could push a button on their stomach and their hands would pop up to say Hi.

The true '70s dolls I recall were Barbies, with a more modern look and greater flexibility than the old style dolls. I also had Crissy and Velvet who were probably around 18" high and had beautiful hair that you could style and adjust the length from shoulder length to floor. I also recall Dancerina dolls which could pirouette. I also had Dawn, a fashion doll that was quite a bit smaller than her mentor Barbie. Weebles were strange little round-bottomed characters who according to commercials would "wobble" but not fall down.

Some of the traditional board games were around in the 1970s; games like Monopoly, Life, Operation, and for the younger kids, Mousetrap. Uno became a popular card game for young ones and we played Pinochle. Other popular 1970s toys included outdoor games like the Slip N' Slide, basic stuff like Nerf balls, and even some of the first real electronic toys like Simon were introduced in the last few years of the decade. Twister was still around as was Dungeon and Dragons, a role-playing fantasy game that's probably the precursor to modern video gaming, became very popular with guys.

Some 1970s toys were nothing more than fads. Pet Rocks, mood rings, and Weepuls were examples. A Pet rock was merely a rock packaged nicely with a manual telling you how to care for it. It was around for only a short time, but wildly popular. Mood Rings, as most people know, changed colors in response to body temperature and supposedly alerted others to your mood while Weepuls were small craft like creations, made with a tiny, fluffy ball, large cut out feet pasted to the bottom, and beady eyes glued to the head.

We also had pinball machines, not the full-sized ones like in arcades, but they were more mechanical than those of today. They had a distinctive and solid feel as the marble was launched and bounced around. The ring of the bells was nearly as loud and clear as what you might hear on the midway at a fair.

See '70s Dolls and Games in Action

The Creative Side of 1970s Toys

The toys of the 1970s gave us plenty of opportunities to express our artistic side and to make our own creations. Some of the popular toys originated years earlier but were much loved anyway. LEGOs were huge and of course, still have a place in kids hearts today.

For those who loved to draw, we also had Etch-a-Sketch and later Magna Doodle. Spirograph added Super Spirograph and we could spend hours making colorful designs like the pros. Lite-Brite sets came along and added a bit of an electronic flair to things. Of course, Easy Bake ovens had originated well before the '70s but were still popular with the youngest of us.

We had knitting machines, weaving looms, and macrame sets that let us create hats, purses, belts and more. Probably one of the most beloved 1970s toys, however, started out as a Vac-U-Form and later a Vac-U-Maker (in the 1960s) and finally a Thingmaker. Although extremely dangerous by today's standards due to an exposed heating plate and sharp utensils, it was a powerhouse for crafting all kinds of interesting novelty items. You could create hard plastic objects from molds and rubbery creations from a die you filled with a mysterious "goop" solution. We could pass an entire afternoon creating an entire army of insects or a bouquet of "fun flowers". Creeple Peeple, Creepy Crawlers, and Fun Flowers were just a few of the options.

Electronic keyboards weren't something you had in every home back in the early 1970s but we did have chord organs which came with sheet music that didn't require you to know how to read music at all. You could play chords with the push of a button and play by numbers.

Remember the Fun!

1970s Toys that Met Our Need for Speed

Before the days of video games, kids played with HO tracks. They're still around today, but they were more popular in the 1970s. Guys who really loved the sport would frequent slot car tracks to get their racing fix. HO tracks weren't the only possibility though. Hot Wheels were popular and Kenner's SSP Racers were also coveted. SSP Racers were simple devices with a ripcord that you pulled hard to allow it to race around at tremendous speed across the largest flat surface you could find.

Helmets weren't common in the 1970s, our lives were apparently at risk but we didn't know it. For the youngest kids, some 1970s toys offered them a great way of getting around. Big Wheels emerged as the "cooler" option versus a tricycle and the InchWorm allowed little ones to hop instead of pedaling for their locomotion. Kids who were a bit older loved Sting Ray bikes with their banana seats and monkey handlebars. So much more modern than the traditional cruiser bikes!

Skateboards emerged in the 1970s. It wasn't a big sport yet but kids started taking an interest. For those who really had a need for speed, mini-bikes were a popular gift and of course, go-karting was around as a sport for those who were more serious.

Take a Look at some 1970's Favorites

Video Games are Born

Most 1970s toys were less sophisticated electronically than many of the toys today. We had stereos. It often started with simple turntables with attached speakers. I also had a clock radio, and later a more elaborate quadraphonic stereo with a tape player and am/FM stereo. In the first half of the decade, teenagers often had eight-track tape players. Cassette tapes emerged and many of us also had cassette tape players that we could record on as well. Music came on vinyl records and tapes. CD's weren't around until the 1980s.

Video games didn't arrive on the scene until late in the 1970s. The first that I recall was an Atari game called Pong. Atari was huge from that point through sometime in the early to mid-1980s. Pong was a pretty basic game that resembled playing Ping-Pong or perhaps tennis on your home television. Atari, of course, started creating other video games at the end of the decade and Space Invaders was one that went on to great popularity after it's release in 1978.

Cameras were, of course, all film based rather than digital. I recall them as being more bulky and heavy and they generally weren't toys for kids, although I'm sure some company like Fisher Price had toy cameras that didn't actually do anything. What I do recall is that the Polaroid 1-step cameras came along at the end of the '70s, and many kids got their first camera in this form. They came with film and paper encased in a cartridge. Once that was slid in place and your flashbulbs were attached, you snapped a picture and it emerged from the front of the camera. You only had to wait 30 seconds or so for the image to gradually reveal itself.

See How Video Games Started and Check Out Our Cameras

© 2009 Ruth Coffee

What Was Your Favorite 1970's Toy?

anonymous on August 03, 2013:

I remember the game Othello came out in the 1970s around 71 or 72 but there was another game, a gambling game, that came out at the same time does anyone know what I am talking about?

anonymous on July 22, 2013:

Does anyone remember a player with 20 or 24 Disney songs? One pressed a button to choose the song. We had one in the 70's that I ordered from the Sears catalog.

anonymous on June 01, 2013:

Does anyone remember a baby stuffed toy that was sn oval pillow with a screenprint face. It may have had simple flat arms and legs. Reminded you of a humpty dumpty. It was infants to 18mos Max.

anonymous on May 04, 2013:

Can anyone tell me the name of a doll from the 1970s that would sit in front of a sink and wash dishes? She also brushed her own teeth and combed her hair. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

anonymous on April 25, 2013:

@anonymous: I finally found it on the internet. It was called "Water Wiggle" Youtube even has the original commercial for it.

anonymous on April 25, 2013:

Does anyone remember the name of the sprinkler from the late 60's early 70's that was a piece of plastic with a face painted on it that went wild n crazy when the water was turned on? It would whack you if you got close to it. I think it even got taken off the market because it hurt some people.

anonymous on April 22, 2013:

@anonymous: Zim zam

anonymous on April 11, 2013:

What was the outdoor toy where you shot a ball back and forth on an elastic rope to each other. Each end had 2 handles..

anonymous on April 05, 2013:

@anonymous: SS Racers

anonymous on April 05, 2013:

Can anyone help me remember the name of a Crazy or Wacky Camera that I had in the 70's ?? Seems like it was on a stand and had weird stuff on it like a soup can or an eyeball ?? Thanks

anonymous on April 01, 2013:

@anonymous: Escalado

anonymous on March 28, 2013:

Does anyone remember the horse racing game that you tied onto the table and quickly spun a lever that caused the track to vibrate, and 4-6 horses then moved along the track?

anonymous on February 27, 2013:

I cannot find anything on the net about a small dragster toy 6" to 8" from the 70's that had a pull string with a plastic ring on the end. When you pulled and let go of the string it sped across the floor and sparks shot out of it. They seem to have fell off the face of the earth and not too many people remember or know anything about them. If only I knew the name or company that made them I might be able to find one.

anonymous on January 13, 2013:

@anonymous: SSP. Used to leave peel out marks across mom's freshly waxed kitchen floor.

anonymous on January 11, 2013:

@anonymous: I still have Kiddle Kologne! I stopped playing with it early on and put her in my cedar chest in her plastic case. She still has her violet scent. :)

anonymous on December 28, 2012:

tk1269@yahoo.com. I'm looking for either a late 70's or very early 80's game from either Sears or Wards Christmas catalog. The game figured 2 sets of matching ships, one side was gray in color the other dark blue. The set had an oil tanker, a Pt. boat that fired little plastic torpeedos. ( Even in the bathtub) There was a battleship with a spring loaded cannon on the front, ( Didn't float too well) and each side had a spring loaded submarine, which also fired a torpedo from its nose. To fire the torpeedo, you would have to push down on the parascope. I believe it was a ( Floor Game ) but it is not Battle Ship Run.. Any ideas ? I've been searching the web for years and not found the name of this game or toy set.. Can you help me ? Already looked at varius Sears and Wards catalogs online,, not much luck,, ONly other Xmas cataloges at the time were from JC Penny... Thanks...

anonymous on December 03, 2012:

@anonymous: I had at least one of those. I don't remember what it looked like, but I remember pulling that strip through the geared flywheel and letting it go, usually to crash into something. They must ave been very rugged toys, I can't imaging something that well-constructed being made today :(

anonymous on December 02, 2012:

Does anyone remember the STP racing cars? The way they worked was you fed a plastic pull strip weth teeth down a flywheel and then you pulled the strip straight up as hard as you could. You put the toy car down on the floor and the thing would take off. I had two dragsters that were super cool.

anonymous on November 15, 2012:

@anonymous: I remember the toy - have photograph of myself holding it - box was blue, discs were yellow....but I haven't a clue what it was called.

anonymous on November 10, 2012:

Hi Ihad a game as a child called Carnival Zoo by MB. It got lost as thing do as years the years go by. dose anyone know where i can get my hands on one please very desperate to find one.

anonymous on November 09, 2012:

@bruceeisner lm: The current minecraft game is driving me crazy because the people remind me of a toy I had or my brother had in the 1970s or early 1980s. Can anyone help me???

anonymous on October 23, 2012:

@fancyfan: What duz that mean

anonymous on October 03, 2012:

@anonymous: yup, saw it on pinterest...they were so neat.

anonymous on October 03, 2012:

@anonymous: Loved them!!!

anonymous on August 11, 2012:

Does anyone recall a toy that played these mini/tiny records and the recordings themselves were about famous sports figures. In my case, I remember players like John Brodie, and Ray Nitchski, Dick Butkus

anonymous on July 20, 2012:

I still have all my Barbies and Ken, Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, Farrah Fawcett, Cher (with hair down to her knees and long eyelashes), Six Million Dollar Man, all their clothes and other accessories. Still have my Crissy doll, Spirograph, original Pong, the first Atari (still worked the last time I got it out 3 years ago). My mom has Michael Jackson from Thriller and Elvis...the Vegas Years that have never been opened.

anonymous on July 19, 2012:

Does anyone remember,Kiddles,lil miniature dolls in a plastic perfume bottle,and the lid came off,and the bottle split open,to get the doll out...Lilly of the Valley,Rose Bud, Sweet Pea,etc!

anonymous on June 13, 2012:

could someone please help me trying to remember a toy record player i used to have it was about 3ft high also had a 8track player on the side an like disco lights on it

MaryThereseBenn on June 01, 2012:

I loved Merlin, it came out about the same time as Simon

anonymous on June 01, 2012:

shut your moth

inspirationz on April 27, 2012:

I love seeing what different eras were like! the 70s is a bit before I was born :)

anonymous on April 08, 2012:

My uncle is the original designer of Simon. He's also the lead toy designer for the first Vultron. He was awesome.

anonymous on March 27, 2012:

i loved my frauline nie! each and every one of us had one, i can remember waiting in line at spree toy store, i could not wait! i wish i kept it, ive only seen one on eaby for over a grand, if i had the $ ide buy it. best toy of 1974!!

anonymous on February 09, 2012:

@anonymous: I remember Toggles... I remember stepping on Toggles in the middle of the night, in my bare feet.... Gawd those things were sharp around the edges and painful to step on. As children we decided to make Toggle shoes, was a very bad idea..

bruceeisner lm on February 07, 2012:

I remember some of those early video games

anonymous on November 17, 2011:

I used to have the crissy doll back then and i was so surprised to have found it

brings back a lot of memories it is so cool to have found it

fancyfan on November 03, 2011:

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fancyfan on November 03, 2011:

With the development of the modern society and the quick speed of people's life, Australia has becoming more and more important for women. You will not find a lady in the public Louis Vuitton 2012 Collectionwithout a handbag beside them, handbags are just like water and air in our life. So it s more and more important for women to buy a suitable and charming Louis Vuitton Handbag, which also should be in line with her own style. Louis Vuitton Bags can meet these demands, with the combination of grace, fashion, sweet, lovely and soft, everyone can show out his or her own style. The diagonal big shoulder Louis Vuitton Bags Austrlaia will transition the perfect combination of color and animal hair, Louis Vuitton Wallets will be a breath of spring to the people around, which cause a feeling of coarse mad fringed.

anonymous on August 17, 2011:

Wow what great memories. I had a camera in the late 70's which I thought I remember having some type of cartoon character on the top of the camera; might have had blue/red/white/yellow on camera. Don't know if a flash cube was on top or not. Would love to find this camera again. I know the pictures were like 4x4 size. I must have sold it but would love to find another one again as photography is still hobby 30 years later. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.

anonymous on May 29, 2011:

Had to come back to Bless this lens.

outsource123 on January 30, 2011:

Great lens. it's a recap of all my old memories.

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on January 13, 2011:

Wow lots of souvenirs! I had an etch-a-sketch, a lightbright, a bionic woman doll too! But the thing I wanted the most and never got was those amazing GI Joes dolls (I so wanted the one with the scuba diving kit).

dobberx on January 01, 2011:

Anyone remember a sports simulation board game called "Oscar Robertson's Big O basketball" Or something like that. You shook dice and each NBA player had a rating - like B - 4 for Oscar Robertson, for example.

anonymous on December 17, 2010:

Vac-U-Form.... That is amazing, I haven't thought about that in 40 years. I loved mine! I probably should have held stock in that company for as much as my parents must have spent on my little plastic forms!!! Thank you for the wonderful memories.

anonymous on December 08, 2010:

I used to have a blue stuffed gorilla when I was little (late 1960s - early 1970s). He had a string to pull and said cute little sayings. The only one I remember was "I'm just a chip off the old block". I think he also had a banana in one hand and possibly a boy in the other. Not sure about the boy.

poliwabo4 on October 25, 2010:

Way cool, loved seeing the old KISS comercials from the 70s, I used to watch tv just to wait for the KISS commercials to come on.... way cool.....

glenbrook on September 21, 2010:

I'm not sure if they'd qualify as toys, but my friends and I had a lot of fun flying Cox and Testors control line model airplanes. After they were crashed beyond repair we'd get a Sterling kit and put the engine on that.

audrey07 on March 06, 2010:

Well, I certainly remember the Atari TV games. I also recall playing the simple Pac-Man game then, but I'm not too sure if that was the late '70s or early '80s. You just can't compare those video games then with the Playstation or Xbox now. My kid would probably laugh if he sees those early Pac-Man games that I used to play!

anonymous on February 03, 2010:

The item I remember was called "Toggles" Can't find anyone else who remembers them tho. They were interlocking pieces that were about an inch square, came in blue yellow & orange. Anyone besides me remember these?

anonymous on November 11, 2009:

I am trying to remember the name of a game my boyfriend played as a kid in the early 70's You played standing up and looking through a small eyeglass down at a merry go round below of targets. Then you dropped the paratrooper or bomb down from the eyeglass you were looking thru onto the target below as it came around straight under your eyeglass..

anonymous on October 02, 2009:

I remember playing a game where I stcked the piesces of a candle upright and placed a small "Jack" character on a spring loaded lever and pushed down to send him flying over the candlestick..........if anyone knows the company that made it or where i can find one, i would appreciate it

clouda9 lm on July 15, 2009:

Great trip down memory lane. One huge thing I remember is that we played with our toys outdoors...none of this sitting in the house for hours on end playing video games and television was a Sunday night event!

Vacation-In-My-Head on July 08, 2009:

I was born in 76, but do remember a lot of these toys. My absolute favorite was the lite bright. This is a great trip down memory lane. Great job!

Teddi14 LM on June 06, 2009:

Great lens. It brought back lots of memories for me. BTW, I found this from your Hub about 70's bikes. I am going to lensroll it with my lens about timeless toys kids love. Awesome job on this lens. 5*'s for sure!

jaye3000 on May 04, 2009:

I was born in '78, but played with a lot of these- Simon was great, and I loved Lite Brite and my spirograph. Fun lens :)

anonymous on April 18, 2009:

Atari Pong! You can still purchase those? Wow. That was a big deal when it first came out. Me and some friends went to another friend's house to play it. She was "rich," because she had Atari. Lol. Nice memories. Also...welcome to the group, "Everything Vintage!"

MacPharlain on April 17, 2009:

The old Weeble-Wobbles were much cooler than the ones they make now.

Jack on April 16, 2009:

I remember all of these toys. The 1970s were the best time.

irenemaria from Sweden on April 16, 2009:

Thank you for reminding me of that time!

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