Whether you believe Christmas is about giving or receiving, it involves presents and for kids (Christmas is all about the kids) that means toys!
Today that generally means techy gadgets of some kind – but it wasn’t always the case. We thought we’d look back at the best-selling toys of the last 30 odd years and see what was all the rage. How many did you have?
1980- The Rubik’s Cube
The frustration of a generation. When the Rubik’s Cube was introduced it became an instant hit, combining innovative design with a maddening task.
If there is an adult alive over the age of 30 that hasn’t played with a Rubik’s Cube (and perhaps either peeled the stickers off or smashed it up in a rage) we’d be very surprised. Over 350 MILLION have been sold worldwide!
Still sold today, the Rubik’s Cube is right up there in my top five Christmas toys of all time.
1983 – Cabbage Patch Kids
With 115 million worldwide sales, Cabbage Patch Kids dolls are one of the most enduring Christmas toy fads ever. Not for me personally (I preferred Garbage Pail Kids!), they’re a great gift for toddlers as they are cute and take a beating.
Perhaps more suitable for girls too, though I know of plenty of very young boys who had a Cabbage Patch Kid amongst their toy collection. I think you may have had one too?
1984 – Transformers
A classic and right up my street! Loved the cartoons and started my Transformers collection with Hound and Jazz of the Autobots. They were soon joined by Optimus Prime and the Decepticons Starscream, Soundwave and, of course, Megatron.
I’ve no idea how many I ended up with by the time I got bored with them, but it was a good few years later so I imagine it was a lot! 10 million were sold though, so I didn’t make much of a dent in that figure!
Transformers are making a comeback now thanks to the new movies and I for one think they still make great CHristmas presents.
1985 – Care Bears
Cute, cuddly and always with a happy clappy message, the Care Bears weren’t just a toy range, but a cartoon franchise too. They appealed to boys and girls as there were all different kinds – underlined by the fact that 40 million were sold!
1985 was clearly a softer, nicer year than 1984. Me, I can only remember Bedtime Bear and Cheer Bear – though I will hold my hands up and admit I DID go to the cinema and see Care Bears: The Movie when it came out, despite the fact I was into my teens…
1989 – Nintendo Gameboy
And so began the digital revolution where kids and Christmas toys were concerned. Nintendo revolutionised play time, gaming and redefined what was possible in a toy with the Gameboy.
It was such a leap forward in technology and toys that demand outstripped supply for a good few moths, not just Christmas. I know, I had to wait ages for mine But what fun playing Tetris wherever I went…
1990 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
First came the cartoon series featuring Splinter, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo and soon after came the toys, creating a huge sensation and smashing Christmas sales in 1990.
What could be cooler than genetically modified turtles who learned to be ninjas from a rat but also enjoyed kicking back with a slice of pizza?
Throw in a good old fashioned bad guy like Shredder and you can’t lose. Nor did they. Plenty of kids got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their Christmas presents this year and, of course, the genius was you couldn’t just have one – you HAD to have the set!
1991 – Sega Game Gear
Technology ruled once more as Sega took the next step forward in mobile gaming…by introducing COLOUR with the Game Gear. Down to the bottom of the toy box went the Gameboy while kids walked blindly around the house playing their new Game Gear in COLOUR.
Sonic the Hedgehog wherever you go, in COLOUR (did we mention that?) – what more could a child want at Christmas? Yes, 1991 was Sega’s year without a doubt. Me, I missed out. Too expensive for my parents to buy me “when you’ve already got a Gameboy!”.
1994 – Power Rangers
Dreadful, dreadful TV show spawns cheap, plastic toys. But once again, a group of ninja-like superheroes (with giant robots to fight with this time!) proved to be a winner.
As did the very cartoon-esque and over the top bad guys. While I didn’t like it at all, plenty of people I knew did and in 1994 the demand for Power Rangers toys hit its peak, with the range crushing the opposition in the run up to Christmas.
I think I was still playing with my Transformers…
1995 – Pogs
A stack of coloured discs which you smashed with a heavier disc. Don’t get it, never will, yet Christmas of 1995 saw this weird, weird toy become a hit with the children.
Perhaps there was more to it than I knew then or know now. In fact, there must have been. You don’t sell so many toys of this kind without some kind of hook. It just failed to land me…
1997 – Tamagotchi
Ah yes, give a child the responsibility of looking after a digital pet and they’ll rise to the occasion. Well, no, they won’t. The death count of Tamagotchis is likely in the tens of millions, but the idea…
The idea was enough for this to become a Japanese and worldwide phenomenon as kids everywhere carried their digital pets on keyrings wherever they went, disrupting classes with the need to feed them, staying up late to put them to bed and doing whatever else was necessary to keep them alive.
At least until Boxing Day.
1999 – Pokémon
1999 saw the launch of Pokémon, those battling yet cute little whatever-they-ares that live in white plastic balls and are called upon at their master’s behest to battle other cute little whatever-they-ares.
Likely too old to truly want to get into this by 1999, I could see their popularity soar with the kids as the cartoon spawned toys, card games and electronic games galore. Come Christmas and all any child wanted was Pokémon – in whatever format their parents would let them.
Again, blame the Japanese. When it comes to creating toy crazes they truly are the masters. Gotta catch ’em all!
2000 – Razor Scooter
The comeback of the humble scooter! Christmas in the new Millennium saw the resurgence of a toy that had been around for hundreds of years.
Sure, it’s been updated to look all metallic and cool, and the wheels have tires and can go really fast, but at the end of the day it’s a board on wheels with a vertical handle to steer with.
It just goes to show that you don’t have to break new ground or create a new craze to smash the Christmas toys best-seller list. You just need to reinvent the wheel from time to time!
2001 – Bratz
Girls like dolls. Especially dolls they can dress and do their hair. Barbie is so last year though. Enter Bratz. Fashion dolls for the growing girl. Several different models, several different hair styles and colours, hundreds of different outfits.
Bratz burst onto the scene in 2001 and all any little girl wanted for Christmas that year was Bratz…the doll, the clothes, the accessories and as much of them as they could get their little hands on.
My house was up until recently packed with Bratz dolls, all packed away in boxes. Because when your youngest girl finally grows out of them, as a parent you just don’t know what the hell to do with them all!
2004 – Nintendo DS
13 years after Sega introduced high quality (I use the term loosely) mobile gaming in COLOUR, Nintendo finally caught up – and surpassed them – with the Nintendo DS. Now this was high quality mobile gaming. And it had all the best titles on it, like Zelda, a personal favourite.
Hours could be whiled away playing the DS and you didn’t have to be tethered to a game system anymore for the experience. Grab your DS, hide in your room, or outside in the garden, or up a tree or wherever you thought you weren’t going to be disturbed by nagging parents or annoying friends.
The Nintendo DS was really the forerunner of mobile gaming on phones. And it smashed Christmas toy sales in 2004. Nintendo were back.
2005 – RoboRaptor
Confession time. Never heard of it. Of course, at my age I shouldn’t really expect to know what children want to play with most, especially in 2005 when I was all about being out on the town.
But generally speaking, if a craze is big enough you can’t avoid hearing about it, no matter what you’re doing. So how did the RoboRaptor COMPLETELY pass me by?! No idea. It’s enough to say that it is a robotic dinosaur with flashing lights and sound and, I assume, the ability to move.
A good enough bunch of reasons for kids – boys in particular – to want one and so, in 2005, it became the best selling Christmas toy. Did you have one? Enlighten me!
2010 – Kidizoom Videocam
Now the digital age is coming through hard and strong. Just five years ago a handheld video camera for kids was topping the Christmas charts. Why? Because it didn’t just record video, but allowed editing of the videos too, right there in the toy.
Made by kiddy gadget specialists V-Tech, the Kidizoom Videocam was really easy to use, specially designed outside and in for kids. I’d go so far as to say even adults could use it to create some fairly impressive videos.
Well, some adults. A few, maybe. Not all. If shown first by their kids. You know what I’m getting at…
2012 – Nerf Guns
Nerf guns did NOT pass me by! Every boy of about 10 and up that I know wanted a Nerf gun for Christmas in 2012. High powered guns that shoot foam arrows and bullets that simply can’t hurt you? Awesome. Machine guns, shotguns, rifles, hand guns…all manner of models available? Even better!
It’s every kids dream to be able to “play war” with semi-realistic weaponry with no fear of pain and Nerf brought it to them in spades.
Yeah, even a few adults I know coveted some of the more impressive models. And who can blame them?
2014 – Kidizoom Smartwatch
Smartwatches aren’t just for adults, oh no. V-Tech introduced the Kidizoom Smartwatch for kids last year and it proved a big hit almost straight away. With Apple and others introducing their smartwatches it makes sense.
V-Tech’s smartwatch offers a load of fun apps for kids to use, from taking photos and videos to changing their voices to quite a few things in between (and games. Duh!).
Personally, I think it’s a great way for kids to get used to what they will be doing as adults where technology is concerned and I applaud V-Tech on a really great product, let alone Christmas toy.
2015 – ???
What will be the best-selling Christmas toy this year? To be honest, I have no idea…perhaps Star Wars merchandise. It could be action figures or LEGO or something else entirely. I couldn’t guess. Maybe you can? Or what are you buying your kids this year?