Thursday, May 27, 2010

Outdoor Toys of the 80s and 90s

If you're a regular reader, it should be pretty clear your loyal 90s nostalgia chronicler has a serious case of summer fever. As we close in on Memorial Day weekend, the prospect of summertime fun is almost too much to bear. Granted, I don't have any water balloon fights or Jart tournaments scheduled, but the notion of sunshine and the great outdoors still elicits a childlike level of euphoria. For the record, my weekend is still open for Jart tournaments if you're interested in setting something up.

It's a safe bet to say we will never fully recapture that childhood school's-out-for-the-summer level of excitement; there is simply no adult equivalent to that level of anticipation. All the Moon Shoes in the world couldn't eliminate the grown-up stressors we face year round. Though, to be fair, I imagine it would help. Open reader plea: send Moon Shoes. That is all.

Though we may not be able to reignite the spark of summer vacation excitement, we can at least reminisce about some of the toys that made our summertimes so special. If you're lucky, maybe you still have some of these items lying around. Seriously, what I wouldn't do for a Skip-It right about now. Forget the gym membership--that little pink piece of plastic is way more motivating exercise.


Who could have foreseen that strapping a little plastic ball and chain to your ankle could provide hours of endless entertainment? That little progressive counter on the side tapped into the competitive child psyche, allowing us to compete against our friends and our own personal bests while playing quietly in the driveway. I imagine our parents were thrilled for the long-stretches of easily amused and generally exhausting play.


Kids today may not believe it, but many of us were around for a time when rollerskates were still the gold standard in wheeled footwear. Inline skates were modeled after ice skates, intended for training use on dry land. Soon they were all the rage, a trend from which many of us learned the value of a deeply skinned knee. Regardless, rollerblades will forever be superior to today's alternative. Don't even get me started on those wheelie sneakers. Every time I see a kid rolling by me at the mall, I yearn to buy him a pair of rollerblades. They just don't know what they're missing.

Moon Shoes

The advertisements for Nickelodeon moon shoes were everywhere, though I never actually knew anybody that owned a pair. Had I been better connected on the playground, perhaps I could have experienced the wonder of spring walking firsthand. Alas, I will never know the gravity-reduced wonder of moonwalking. Until that whole colonization thing goes down. Or maybe if I become a great Michael Jackson-style dancer. Either way.

Super Soakers

One of the most effective ways to beat the summer heat is with a water fight, and we all know the key to winning a water fight lies in the proper arsenal of weaponry. Armed with our Super Soakers, we could outblast flimsy conventional water guns. In case you're not big on Super Soaker trivia, you may be interested to know they were originally branded as Power Drenchers. Or maybe you won't be. Who knows. Either way, the toy makers obviously got their hands on a thesaurus somewhere down the line.

Power Wheels

These much-coveted but oft-denied overpriced mini vehicles undoubtedly caused many temper tantrums over the years. We just couldn't understand why our parents wouldn't shell out the big bucks for one of these babies. If only I'd gotten the mock motorbike I wanted, I could be a bona fide Kawasaki ninja by now. At the very least, I'd hold a chance at being a proficient Barbie Jeep operator.

Nerf Balls
Finally, a company that recognizes kids throw things at one another and it can really, really hurt. Through the clever use of foam, the quantity of bruises per square inch decreased dramatically. Getting hit in the face just got that much more bearable. Thanks, Nerf!

Little Tykes Cozy Coupe

Here's a fact you might not know about your favorite child-sized vehicle: In the early 90s, it was reported that the Cozy Coupe had outsold both the Ford Taurus and Honda Accord, making it one of the bestselling cars of the time. It's certainly more economical than a Taurus or Accord, plus it gets way better gas mileage. The downside? Sore feet from all the Flintstone-style acceleration. You can't win 'em all.

Lawn Darts (Jarts)

Ah, finally a toy that combines the tranquil peacefulness of lawns with the terrifying risk of death by impalement. I'm not sure how or why these toys ever eked past the watchful eye of safety experts and parent groups, but somehow they made it into production and onto toy store shelves. It wasn't long before the US and Canada issued a ban on the sale of Lawn Darts and urged consumers to "discard or destroy them immediately." Yikes.

Slip n'Slide

Speaking of dangerous yard toys, here's a classic example of how innocent concepts can go very very wrong. I'll give you a hint when setting up your own slip n' slide: try your best to avoid cement or a downhill descent into a wall/sidewalk/pile of jagged rocks/any other bone breakin', tooth chippin' slide stopper. It sounds like common sense, but you may be surprised how many people failed to consider the consequences until their child was hobbling around in a cast or sling for the remainder of the summer.

Also, note to college students: It may seem like a good idea to combine a slip n' slide with alcohol. It is not. Believe me. Resist your instincts. Your limbs will thank me.


Lauren Kelly said...

Oh man, I would spend forever outside with the skip-it!!!!! And I had rollerblaldes exactly like that. They were so big and awkward looking when you look back, haha!!

Breanne at Bella Vita said...

I miss my purple Skip-It with the sides all scuffed up from repeated use! I also had a Jeep Power Wheels that worked for about a minute before crapping out. :-(

Pia said...

OMG I totally forgot about skip-its! I loved mine to pieces!!

Alison said...

I had a Skip It. My sister and I would have contests to see who could get a higher count on it. Of course, we cheated by bouncing the thing on the pavement when the other one wasn't looking...

Sadako said...

My roller blades looked like that too except I couldn't really use them.

Moon shoes! I remember Arthur had those on "Arthur."

Kylee said...

I wanted Moon Shoes SO bad. SO bad.But alas no moon jumping for me. You have brought my childhood disappointments back.

Shannon SVH said...

Ah, I'm now having flashbacks to the subdivision-wide Super Soaker fights of my childhood.

firecracker! said...

i had a pair of moon shoes and they were quite possibly my favorite childhood toy. a trampoline for each foot - wow. i broke them out of the basement last summer and all the rubber bands were too old to work, but what memories.

and super soakers! hours of entertainment! mine had pump action - it was amazing.

Katie said...

A couple summers ago some friends and I did a makeshift super-slip-n-slide, staking a painting tarp to a grassy hill, turning on a hose and throwing on some laundry detergent. I'm sure the parks & rec department weren't too happy, but it was the most fun I'd had at a park since the 90s!

Keri said...

Oh man...moon shoes. For some reason that I could didn't understand, my parents felt that having a trampoline meant that I didn't need moon shoes. Clearly they weren't thinking about how awesome it would be to combine moon shoes, a pogo stick AND the trampoline.

At age 16, I bought a pair with one of my first paychecks. They were pretty disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I never got how to use Skip It... I use to just trip over it and cut up my ankles with it. I had problems! LOL


Ken said...

Great post, Beth. Super soaker and Slip 'n' Slide were my favs. I celebrated my high school graduation by buying a Slip 'n' Slide. I'm jealous of kids today though- look at the water toys they have!

Simply_Megan said...

Omg I had a Barbie jeep! I loved it (along with everyone else in the neighborhood). I barely even got to ride it; it was that popular.

Marisa said...

I would spend hours outside with my friends Rollerblading!!! We thought we were so cool! LOL

My sister had a skip it and she was in love with that thing.

Heather Taylor said...

I always wanted Moon Shoes!!

Crystal said...

My college made a nacho cheese slip n slide during my 3rd year. And it was just as disgusting as it sounds. This was before my college had facebook (remember when it was only for colleges?) but I know there's photo evidence on the internet somewhere.

Anonymous said...

This is the best/worst post of all time. Worst because I've never had such a burning desire to be a ten year old on summer vacation before. Anyone remember those damned bouncy, balance toys that looked Saturn?? I couldn't master them for the life of me. And by the way, if I didn't live in Michigan I'd totally be up for a Jarts tournament. :)

nikki said...

Long after Maryland had outlawed lawn darts, my brother and I were rasslin' in the back yard(yeah, I grew up in the country) and he fell and an OLD OLD OLD rusty lawn dart went right through his elbow. It was foul and he needed a tetanus shot.

Adorably Distracted... said...

skiiiiip it skiiiiip it.... lol My dad would never let me get the slip in slide because he said I'd break my wrist lol

bibberly said...

I never had any of these except the lawn darts. I wasn't allowed to actually play with them though - my dad heard they were becoming illegal so he bought them as a "collector's item" that "would be worth money someday." So they had to stay in the box.

melina bee said...

new here and loooove this post. i remember skip it so well because a neighborhood friend of mine, who was all skin and bones, was using it, and it slid all the way up her thigh while spinning so that the ball part knocked her right in the face! thanks for triggering that kinda mean but funny memory!
what about that toy that you jumped up and down on? it was like a pogostick but somehow different?

Anonymous said...

Great blog!!
I really liked the Outdoor Toys of 80s and 90s that you have shared with us.
Please keep on providing us with such kind of information.

learn to fly 2 said...

I’m glad you enjoyed it. Those are great habits! Thank you for sharing.

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