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Toys of the 1960s

Toys of the 1960s

The 1960s:  to some it may be seen as a decade full of unrest, protests, political movements, the growing counterculture, and a sexual revolution.  And while that is all true, there were still many children growing up during this time and many only wanted one thing:  the newest toy. 

The 60s are a considered a golden era for toys.  Many parents had more money to spend on their children, many families had more children than later generations and there were so many more toys to choose from than ever before. 

Here are 10 of the top toys that shaped a decade of children growing up in the 1960s:

1. Dolls- Some of the most popular dolls during this time were Chatty Cathy, Suzy Homemaker, and Barbie.   Chatty Cathy was the second highest selling doll of the decade.  When you pulled her ring, she would say one of 11 phrases at random, such as “I love you” or “Let’s play school”.  The Suzy Homemaker Doll offered a line of tiny appliances that could be purchased separately such as a washing machine, ice cream maker and hairdryer.  Suzy and her appliance line were one of the main competitors for the Easy Bake Oven.  Standing at 11.5 inches tall, Barbie was the only doll in the US at this time that was an adult.  She gave little girls the opportunity to dream about what their future would look like and act it out.  She also had many purchase separately accessories such as clothes, shoes, cars, and a dream house. 

2. Slinky- Inspired by a metal coil that fell to the ground and kept moving across the floor, the Slinky was created by Richard James.  It began selling at  Gimbel's department store in Philadelphia in 1945 and quickly became a child favorite.  With the ability to travel down flights of steps and appear to levitate for a short time after being dropped, the slinky provided hours of entertainment to not only children of the 60s, but today’s children as well.

3. Etch-A-Sketch- The Etch A Sketch is a mechanical drawing toy invented by French electrical technician Andre Cassagnes.  Not given much attention at its debut in 1959 at the International Toy Fair in Germany, The Ohio Art Company decided to take a chance and invested in the product changing its name to “Etch a Sketch”.  Using television advertising, the toy became one of the hottest gifts for Christmas 1960.  Etch A Sketch has gone on to be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998, and has sold over a million units world wide. 

4. Hot Wheels- Hot Wheels were created by Elliot Handler, husband of Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie.  His vision was to create a car that was cooler and performed better than anything on the market at that time.  Hot Wheels were designed to be more fantasy, with loud paint jobs and superchargers, as compared to Matchbox cars which were more like a smaller version of a real car. 

5. Lite Brite- Released in 1967, the Lite Brite was a light box that illuminated small colored plastic pegs that fit into holes in a panel, which created a picture either by template or freeform.  Children could spend hours creating an endless number of light up masterpieces. 

6. G.I. Joe- G. I. Joe is considered the first action figure and was developed in 1963 by Stan Weston.  He was made to represent 4 branches of the US Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.  Marketing in the 1960s suggested that boys did not want to play with “dolls”, thus the term “action figure” was coined. 

7.  Play-Doh- Play-Doh was originally created in the 1930s as a cleaning product that would remove soot from wallpaper.  But as coal-heated homes began transitioning to natural gas, the product started losing sales and the company, Kutol products was facing bankruptcy.  In the 1950s they began marketing it to elementary schools as a modeling clay and renamed it “Play-Doh”.  After successful demonstrations in stores like Macy’s and Marshall Field’s and a series of TV commercials during popular children’s programming, sales began to climb and reached nearly $3 million by 1958.  


8. Mr. Potato Head-  Mr. Potato Head was created and developed by George Lerner and began being manufactured by Hasbro in 1958.  Originally, it only included accessories such as arms, legs and shoes that could be attached to a real potato, but after receiving complaints about rotting vegetables and stricter safety regulations, they began including a plastic potato in the kit in 1964.  These days you can buy a Mrs. Potato Head and many accessories including cars and a boat trailer. 


9.  Easy Bake Oven- Introduced in 1963 by Kenner Products, the Easy Bake Oven was a small toy resembling a real oven that used an incandescent light bulb as a heating source to bake small cakes.  Easy Bake Oven comes with packets of cake mix (also sold separately) and small round pans.  Once the cakes are mixed and added to the pans, the pans are pushed into a slot in the oven and then pushed out of another slot when finished baking.  Hasbro still manufactures the toy today and has sold over 16 million Easy Bake Ovens since the 60s.


10.  Tonka Trucks- Named after Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota, Tonka was a division of a company that originally sold metal gardening tools.  In 1955, the toy construction equipment took priority over the garden tools and the company renamed itself Tonka.  The iconic yellow dump truck that put Tonka on the map came out in 1964 and has sold 15 million units since that time. 


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