Christmas Gifting / 10 November, 2023 / Ellie Thompson
Have yourself a merry 80’s Christmas!
I thought it’d be fun to take a trip down memory lane with My Baba’s very own retro Christmas list. This top 50 includes the items most likely to feature on the Christmas lists of the children from the 1980’s. Anybody remember these?… Anybody feeling old?
1) This was my brother’s personal favourite.
The 13″ giant walking Saturn Robot by Kamco. This noisy little fella could shoot missiles from just above his flashing red eyes, while his body projected an awesome light display (well, awesome for the 1980’s). This was top of my bro’s Christmas list in the mid-80’s.
I remember experiencing mega present envy when this bad boy robot was unwrapped and strutting his stuff around the living room floor.
2) Who could forget this classic Fisher-Price Tape Recorder?! Everybody who was anybody had one of these.
Perfectly portable to annoy every other member of the family on Christmas day… and Boxing Day, and all the other days of the decade that followed there after… Shakin’ Stevens was my tape of choice. I had great taste beyond my years.
3) Teddy Ruxpin! Pretty sure my cousin had one of these. The sad little bear that suffered from extensive spinal trauma after years of cassette tapes being crammed into his coccygeal vertebrae!
Ah, but we all loved Teddy Ruxpin, the animatronic toy with the moving mouth and eyes that “read” the stories that accompanied the tapes. He was in fact, the best-selling toy of 1985 and 1986, and a cartoon based on the characters soon followed.
4) Meet Mr Frosty. The seemingly oh-so-cool slush puppy making machine that my parents never allowed me to have.
Year after year it would feature on my Christmas list, and year after year I’d rip open my presents to feel sorely disappointed that this wondrous ice drink-making snowman would never make an appearance under my tree. I only recently found out that the magnificent Mr Frosty could barely cut cheese, let alone ice, and comes in impressively at number one in the ‘top 10 disappointing toys of the 1980’s’… (Still, I think I would have liked to have found that one out for myself.)
5) The “Magic” Etch A Sketch screen! Don’t ask me how this works… You just draw, and erase! And try really hard not to dent the screen with the pen. It seemed like complete magic at the time, but now we have iPads.
6) Who remembers this group of multi-coloured bears? Each with a specialised insignia on their belly to represent their duty and personality, the Care Bears were originally created to feature on greetings cards, but soon hit the big time.
There were ten original Care Bears, they had their own TV series (which I used to get up super early on a Saturday morning to watch), and they went on to make three feature films. The bears have made numerous come-backs, and I’m pleased to say they’re currently out of hibernation, and stocked on shelves in toy shops all over the country. Welcome back!
7) Another collection of characters headed up by leader (and a personal favourite) Rainbow Brite, was created initially for Hallmark Cards.
If it wasn’t for Rainbow Brite the world would be in darkness, doncha know? Rainbow Brite, formerly known as Wisp, found herself in a colourless land with a mission to find the Sphere of Light. Along the way, she befriended some weird and wonderful characters to complete their quest to defeat the King of Shadows. Ah, such a complex story.
I was also the proud owner of the lunchbox and matching flask.
8) The Boglins seemed to appear out of nowhere onto toyshop shelves as if put there eerily by themselves…
They were rubbery hand puppets with glow-in-the-dark tails and moveable eyes. These creepy creatures were sold in brilliant little cages that instantly appealed – to the likes of me, at least, as I had one of these as a personal pet for at least six months. There were lots of different types of Boglin, but you can imagine my immense delight when I managed to source a photo of the exact one I had as a child. Here he is below, in all his glory.
The company’s promotional slogan for the Boglins was ‘If you take us home, we’ll kiss your Aunt Martha, we’ll eat your peas, and we hope you know lots of girls.” Hmm…
9) Texas Instrument’s Speak & Spell. A truly legendary 80’s a toy, with an impressive but slightly freaky speech synthesiser. The Speak & Spell was in fact first introduced in 1978, making it one of the first-ever electronic devices with a visual display.
What the Speak & Spell taught me in life (besides how to spell many a complicated word, of course), was that great things really do come in little packages. In the Christmas of 1987 my 2-year-old sister had unwrapped a HUGE present, which turned out to be the ELC Cosy Coupe Car, (which, incidentally is still a hugely popular toy today), while my brother had set to work ripping Christmas wrapping paper off M.A.S.K.’s Boulder Hill (for those of you that have forgotten, Boulder Hill was an ordinary-looking gas station that transformed into the secret headquarters of the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand aka M.A.S.K = a big deal).
Both were sizeable presents, and I contemplated quite seriously at the time that surely the size of the present must equate to exactly how much my parents loved each of us (I know, so moving). Fast forward a few months, and there was me, still engrossed in my Speak & Spell, loooooong after my brother and sister had discarded their toys. I can now also spell pretty much any word going (don’t ruin my moment by checking for typos).
10) The ELC Cosy Coupe Car! As previously mentioned, this iconic toy must be celebrating its 42nd anniversary this year, which helps remind me of my own mortality.
A brilliant toy that has stood the test of time.
11) M.A.S.K.’s Boulder Hill was a huge hit with boys in the mid ’80’s. Based on the US animated television series of crime-fighting and terrorism, this innocent-looking gas station transformed into the secret headquarters of M.A.S.K.
My brother adored it for all of two weeks, at least.
12) Jem and the Holograms! Who remembers this truly outrageous cartoon girl band, with the even more outrageous rival band The Mis-Fits? This was my all-time favourite children’s TV show. I had the dolls, the story tapes and I lived for the cartoons on Saturday morning.
I could never decide which one I’d like to be most…
13) The Iconic Sony Walkman revolutionised the way we listen to music. Kylie and Jason volume 11, do not judge me.
Over 400 million Walkman portable music players have been sold, 200 million of which were cassette players. Unbelievably, the classic cassette tape Walkman was only retired by Sony ten years ago in 2010.
This yellow Sport Walkman was by far the coolest Walkman on the block and was bound to feature on any older kid’s Christmas list.
Oh, the fond memories of accidentally bending the thin metal headphone band out of shape to the point where it would no longer sit comfortably on the head, not to mention losing the foam ear covers…
4) The Glo Worm was a stuffed green worm that glowed adorably in the dark whenever it was squeezed.
The perfect nighttime companion from 1982 onwards, the success of the huggable worm launched a line of storybooks, night lights, videos and more merchandise than you could poke a stick at!
A line of hard plastic toys were released in 1986 featuring Glo Worm and a range of other bug-like characters that glowed in the dark. Everybody say, ‘ahhh!’
15) Micro Machines
Galoob’s miniature cars or Micro Machines came in at just 1.5 inches long in an assortment of colours and models. Remember the old TV ad, with that American guy that spoke a million miles a minute? Hectic!
16) My Child Dolls were beautiful. The girl and boy dolls were designed by Mattel in 1985 to compete with The Cabbage Patch Kids. In my mind, those Cabbages don’t have a patch on these guys!
The My Child Doll was made from a soft velour fleece, and each had a cute button nose, but the similarities stopped there. There were so many different varieties, you’d never know which one to choose. They each come with a little booklet and certificate but were sadly only made from 1986 – 1988. Why oh WHY haven’t these made a come back?
17) Cabbage Patch Kids. Everybody remembers these dolls.
Ugly, yet hugely sought after, these dolls were one of the hottest toys of the 80’s. Their story began in 1978 when Xavier Roberts a young artist from the small town of Cleveland, Georgia brought to life his hand-stitched soft sculpture artworks known then as Little People. Remember the parody line of stickers, the Garbage Pail Kids? My bro wallpapered his wardrobe with them, much to my parents’ disgust!
The Cabbage Patch Kids craze is still going strong today.
18) I am holding this toy solely responsible for the reason that to this day, I am useless in the kitchen. Bluebell’s A La Carte Kitchen, with the sink on one side, and a cooker on the other was the Rolls Royce of toys that year. Boo! I never had one! I missed the chance to start honing my domestic skills at an early age, and thanks to the absence of this toy, I’ve never really got to grips with a frying pan.
I’ll never forget that advert, you know the one – it must have terrified parents up and down the country: ‘Wake up Daddy, breakfast’s ready!’ said the girl in the ridiculously frilly silk dress at her father’s bedside with a plate of Swiss Roll and Baked Beans – that old reliable food combo.
The A La Carte Kitchen, where you’ll enjoy your five a day!
19) What little girl doesn’t dream of having their own horse? My Little Pony – developed by Hasbro, first came on the scene way back when in 1983.
There were six original ponies each with its own name and corresponding symbol on their hips. The popular range soon expanded to pony carrying cases and stables, castles and palaces where the ponies would live. Obviously! A new series released in 2010 propelled the ponies back into the spotlight, and they’re still going strong to this day.
20) Didn’t we all have a pair of these? Fisher-Price Rollers Skates. The ugliest adjustable skates you’ll ever see in your life, but oh my, how much fun did you have in them?
21) The Wuzzles! Remember the cartoon? Just about… Their names? Not so much.
22) For all those budding fashion designers out there… Introducing, The Fashion Wheel! I had one of these… Sadly my career in textiles didn’t progress any further.
23) The Fisher Price Garage for the petrol heads in the family.
24) The Space Hopper! The toy that always looked a lot more fun that it actually was.
25) There was an old lady who lived in the Match Box Play Boot. Such enticing colours.
26) Sindy! The Sindy furniture… The Sindy Dolls… The Sindy Dolls’ House! Ahh… Choosing between Barbie and Sindy was a decision out of our hands. Sindy was British, and more wholesome until she got her 80’s makeover, fake tan, longer legs, bigger boobs and a smaller waist, but even that was no match for Barbie.
27) Polly Pocket… The toy you desperately wanted, received, and never played with.
28) The Fisher Price Record Player was perfect for playing all those classic vinyls you had back in the 80’s.
29) Surely another Fisher Price item… The Medical Kit! So your dolls and teddies never flatlined.
30) The Activity Centre! The height of in-cot entertainment back in the 80’s.
31) The darling old Cash Register.
32) The Chatter Phone -my parents still have our original Chatter Phone which the grandkids love playing with. A classic toy that’s stood the test of time. It’s still available today!
33) Pocket Radio! What kids did before the days of playing their iPhones on public transport.
34) The very essential Fisher Price TV. A must.
35) The Puffalump! A weird shaped deflated soft toy filled with a not enough air, topped off with some wool. I remember this looking better back in the day.
36) The Pound Puppy was the next best thing for those kids (like me) that weren’t allowed a dog.
37) Gummi Bears! “Dancing here and there and everywhere…. We are the Gummi Bears…” The theme tune of the TV show was by far the best bit about this whole charade.
38) Toys I vaguely remember… Popples… Anybody? Anyone?
39) Board games have definitely dumbed down since Mr Pop. Pie Face is so basic.
40) By the Power of Grayskull… Recognise this castle?
41) The Big Yellow Tea Pot… Just because we all love tea.
42) This was my ultimate favourite, most loved and cherished gift. The Petite Post Office. Boom! I loved this toy – it gave me a life long love of stationery.
43) Thundercats are on the loose, Thundercats are loose! The Thundercats Lair. Enter… if you dare!
44) The Turtles Technodrome… Boys’ toy!
45) She-Ra! Oh yeah! This was where girl power for me began. Oh, and then there was He-Man.
46) Galoob’s Sweet Secrets…. Ahh… Starting to realise I was quite a spoilt kid owning most of these toys! (Besides the A La Carte Kitchen and Mr Frosty, obvs)
47) Keypers… Ah yes. Another one for the girlie girls.
48) Monchichi – to me this is more 70’s, but I think they made a comeback in the 80’s… Does anyone have one of these?
49) Super creepy.
50) All delivered from the catalogue. Merry 80’s Christmas!