The toys we wouldn’t dare to share

Jill Martin

The 1980s are often hailed as an era of hair bands, innovative sitcoms and legwarmers, but one major aspect of this fundamental time period in our lives is never given the credit it truly deserves. It wasn’t Van Halen or Boy George who shaped our lives at such a young age. Instead, this job was given to the toys that voraciously consumed countless hours and years of our lives. Rather than compiling another “Best Hair Band of the ’80s” list that is so clichéd on VH1’s countdowns, it is far more necessary to discuss a topic that was far more imperative in forming the people we are today: toys.

5) Mr. Potato Head. Although I have seen commercials in the recent past for this strange creature, which is merely a potato with arms and legs, it has nowhere near the impact on today’s children, who are becoming increasingly more interested in things like Motorola two-way pagers. This was the toy that the ’80s Child took everywhere with him. Mr. Potato Head participated in everything from trips to the doctor’s office in the family Chrysler LeBaron to daily visits to the bathtub. What was great about this guy was that you could change his facial expression to fit both of your moods, and he had two different pairs of shoes. And don’t even get me started on how ecstatic the ’80s Child was when Mrs. Potato Head jumped onto the scene a couple of years later.

4) PowerWheels. This is the toy that got away, at least in my case. Never have I wanted something so badly and not gotten it. The Deprived ’80s Child often looked on enviously while his friend or neighbor cruised around the neighborhood in a shiny Barbie or Matchbox PowerWheels. It didn’t phase any of us, Deprived or not, that we could walk more quickly than the car could be “driven” at its fastest speed. It was all in the sheer thrill of doing what your older and licensed brothers and sisters did. Even though the battery would die five minutes into the “drive,” the expressions of joy and contentment still spread widely and clearly across the faces of the owners of such beasts of “prowess.” But hey, I’m not bitter or anything.

3) Lite Bright. This toy is the often forgotten toy of the ’80s, but it was vitally important in shaping the young ’80s Child’s dexterity for hand-eye coordination and color differentiation. Plus, the ’80s Child was all about colors and patterns, something that is largely overlooked by today’s child. There were a million different pictures that were available to the ’80s Child and the colors were just mesmerizing. Two downsides to Lite Bright: You had to be careful “turning on the magic of colored lights” to prevent first degree burns and, once you used a pattern, it was as good as garbage because the holes were all punched out. And then it would be lights out for Lite Bright.

2) Cabbage Patch Kids. Unlike Light Bright, these babies were the quintessential toys of the ’80s. Every girl had one and every sister had a fight over one. As far as my sister and I are concerned, our babies would “fight” over things like who got to play in the playpen and who got the bottle filled with milk. (No one wanted the one filled with orange juice.) Another given: everyone who owned one thought it was completely normal to brush his or her yarn hair until it ripped out of its plastic head. But hey, at least it taught us the proper hair brushing techniques for the future.

1) HeMan, Master of the Universe and SheRa: Princess of Power. This duo, and everything that went along with them, are the undisputed greatest toys of the ’80s. I, much like thousands of other ’80s children, had a strong addiction to these purveyors of magic. Not only did the ’80s Child have the typical action figures, but also the castles of our hero and heroine, the home of the villain Skeletor, trading cards, coloring books, movies and clothing. Not speaking from experience or anything (obviously), but you really know you have a strong obsession with the greatest ’80s toy of all time when you a) start to believe you are the hero or heroine by dressing up like one or you b) want to name your new baby sister Skeletor. Again, this is all hypothetical of course.

So, there you have it. The undisputed top five toys of the ’80s have been announced uncontested. It is clear what kind of impact these nuggets of wisdom and truth have had on us. Without such transmitters of morality, we would not be the people we are today.