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51 Toy Fads That Drove Grown-Ups Crazy

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Be Strategic About What You Buy

Toys in the Attic

Adults don't understand them. Schools ban them. Parents buy them or risk having the only kid on the block without one. Trendy toys come out of nowhere, command the attention of America's youth for a moment, and earn their inventors millions. Then they disappear ... only to return years later as nostalgic kitsch purchases, of course. From the pop-its of today to the Furbies, slap bracelets, mood rings, and Silly Putty of decades past, here are the toys kids have loved — and grown-ups have loved to hate. 

Related: Vintage Toys That Will Make You Wish You Were a Kid Again

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2021: Pop-Its

Originally imagined as a "carpet of nipples" by one half of a pair of Israeli game designers, it wasn't until the Last One Lost game was picked up by Target (and a flurry of viral YouTube videos) that the pop-it game sold between 500 million and a billion units — most of them knock-offs. Now parents are finding the weirdly addictive devices, which are akin to permanent Bubble Wrap, almost as compelling to kids as much pricier games and electronic devices. And that's great — if they can tolerate the nonstop popping noises, of course. 

Baby Shark Song Puppet

2019: Baby Shark Song Puppet

This little cutie may top every toddler's wish list, but the ear-worm-inducing (doo doo doo doo doo doo) singing puppet also ranks high on parents' irritability charts. The tune is mind-numbing as is, but now your child can change the tempo depending on how fast they move the puppet's mouth. Mommy and Daddy versions triple the size of the choir.

Fidget Spinners
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2017: Fidget Spinners

Although they date back to at least 1993, these devices began enthralling kids and annoying parents and teachers en masse only recently, brilliantly marketed under the guise of soothing fidgety children.

Related: Incredibly Fun Toys and Games for Adults

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2014: Shopkins

One of many fads proving that tiny toys sell, Shopkins went through 100 million units in the year after their debut. The little characters can be individualized for the child obsessing over them — and once sold on eBay for thousands of dollars despite costing $4 in stores.

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2010: Squinkies

One of several fad toys packaged in tiny plastic eggs, Squinkies rode a wave fueled by mommy bloggers across the country. The squishy little dolls were so popular that at the height of the craze, stores nationwide rationed sales to try to avoid selling out.


2009: Angry Birds

By 2011, children and adults alike were wasting 200 million minutes every day flinging angry birds at befuddled pigs. The "Angry Birds" game, developed two years earlier, revolutionized app-based mobile games and, like all good toy fads, became a movie.

Related: 19 Fun Online Games the Whole Family Can Play

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2009: Zhu Zhu Pets

People once paid thousands to get their hands on one of these fake pets, essentially cheap robotic hamsters. They endure today at lower prices and in different animal forms, but the frantic race to get one is over.

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2006: Silly Bandz

The most recent in a long line of bracelet fads, Silly Bandz are rubbery wristwear formed into different shapes. Producers were once strapped to meet the insane demand of a million packs per week.

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2005: Webkinz

Ganz blended the real and the virtual with Webkinz — among the first toys that reached their potential only when the child owner visited a website to bring his or her plush toy to online life.

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2004: Livestrong Bracelets

Another bracelet-related must-have, these charity bracelets leaped from good intentions to fashion statement. Adults jumped on too, but it was not uncommon to see teens wearing five or more at a time. Revelations that Armstrong had spent much of his storied career lying and cheating sent demand plummeting.

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2003: Jelly Bracelets

Madonna originally popularized these colored, rubbery bracelets two decades earlier, but the 2003 craze added rumors they were part of a shocking middle-schooler sex game. The myth was debunked; the craze was just tweens wearing jelly bracelets.

Related: Gifts for Teenage Girls (That They'll Actually Like)

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2002: Beyblades

One of the most dramatic — and profitable — twists on spinning tops, Beyblades pitted friends against each other in battles of customized toys. When the spinning stopped and the fad ended, 150 million of the little hunks of plastic had reportedly spun off the shelves.

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2002: Furreal Friends

Hasbro launched the latest in a long line of pet toy crazes in 2002. It grew over a decade to 260 animal breeds and 61 million units sold in 74 countries.

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2001: Bratz

Giant heads. Tiny bods. Excessive makeup. A bit of controversy over appropriateness. Apparently, that's all it takes to sell 125 million Bratz dolls, a fad that generated more than $2 billion in worldwide sales within five years.

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1998: Furbies

Credited with being the first robot toy that responded to stimulus and training, fuzzy Furbies spoke your language — literally. And the international language of marketing: 27 million were sold within the year after launch.

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1996: Devil Sticks

The act of "juggling" one long baton between two shorter control batons has been around from biblical times through 1970s Grateful Dead concerts, but in 1996 a resourceful T-shirt screener began selling and marketing them out of his shop, turning them into a staple of beach boardwalks and contemporary concert parking lots.

Related: 25 Most Dangerous Toys of All Time

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1996: Pokemon Cards

Trading cards once made people think of baseball players, not anime capsule monsters, but with the release of 102 collectible cards based on Nintendo characters, Pokemon fever swept the planet. An equally annoying augmented reality phone game, "Pokemon Go," came 20 years later.

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1996: Tamagotchi

Japanese toymaker Bandai birthed the world's first virtual pet and a virtual pet craze. At the peak, 15 Tamagotchi were bought every minute in the United States and Canada alone — 40 million worldwide for the year.

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1994: Pogs

Originally designed to seal the inside of passion-orange-guava drinks bottled in Hawaii, the little cardboard circles known as Pogs were soon a common sight in the pockets of kids and the top drawer of principals' desks. At the height of the craze, $10 million in Pogs were sold every week just in California.


1993: Magic Cards

"Magic: The Gathering" debuted at the Origins Game Fair in Dallas, with success so instant that the game's designers sold out what they'd thought would be a year's worth of cards.

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1990: Slap Bracelets

Slap bracelets are responsible for millions of jarring popping sounds and more than a few injured wrists, thanks to an avalanche of cheap foreign knockoffs. The first big fad of the 1990s, slap bracelets stand as a testament to the fad power of toys you can wear.

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1988: Skip It

Bruised shins, America. America, bruised shins. The ball-and-chain-like Skip It (an odd forebear of the Fitbit with its counting ability) has gone on despite being kind of boring and sometimes painful.

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1987: Boinks

A full 30 years before fidget spinners annoyed their way into the mainstream, there were Boinks. Marketed under the vague half-promise they might sort of help a kid concentrate, focus, and stop fidgeting, Boinks are actually just netted finger sleeves.

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1987: Pogo Ball

More advanced than a Hoppity-Hop but less advanced than a pogo stick, the Pogo Ball became a craze almost immediately. Then it was gone. Initially lauded for encouraging exercise, the Pogo Ball was quickly recognized as a nuisance and an emergency room visit waiting to happen.

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1987: Koosh Ball

Named for the sound it made landing and formed from 2,000 rubber filaments, the Koosh Ball is a squishy sphere that's easy to throw and catch and doesn't hurt when it hits. It sold in 14,000 stores in 20 countries within a year of debuting.

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1987: Friendship Bracelets

They date back to ancient Latin America, were reinvented by hippies in the 1960s, and were kept alive in the late 1980s as sweaty, waterlogged, rotting wrist appendages traded by BFFs in middle schools across America.

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1987: Grow Monsters

Put a small, hard dinosaur into water, wait a few days, and get a big, gross, slimy, misshapen dinosaur — and a cup full of four-day-old standing water. Grow Monsters were awesome, until doctors warned that if swallowed, they also quadrupled in size in a kid's esophagus.

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1985: Garbage Pail Kids

Gross, disturbing, graphic, and all-around awesome, Garbage Pail Kids were banned from schools, loathed by parents, and loved by kids. The gory, gruesome stickers and cards burned bright, turned into an ill-fated movie, then went away until a 2003 revival.

Related: 22 Collectibles You Probably Tossed That Are Now Worth a Fortune

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1983: Wacky Wall Walkers

If you were alive in 1983, chances are good you saw a miniature rubber octopus crawling down a wall. Cheap to produce and marketed for vending machines and cereal box giveaways, they just had to be thrown hard enough to stick; gravity would do the rest.

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1983: Polly Pocket

Though it's grown over the years, the original Polly Pocket was, as the name implies, small enough to fit in a pocket. Like so many fads, the toy eventually went Hollywood. It become an animated movie series.


1980: Rubik's Cube

This toy fad was the first retail phenomenon of the 1980s, a color-coded, three-dimensional cube that became a frustratingly addictive must-have for kids and adults alike.

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1977: Chia Pets

The brainchild of Joe Pedott might be the most enduring fad of pets that weren't pets. From animals like bulls and rams to human heads and just about anything with hair or fur, these sprouting sculptures were marketing magic.


1976: Slime

Arguably Mattel's grossest toy ever, Slime would stay gooey for as long as kids kept returning it to its trash can-style container. Then they could remove it, squeeze it between their fingers and invariably throw it into siblings' hair.

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1975: Pet Rock

Advertising genius Gary Dahl's work remains part of pop culture 40 years later. One of history's most successful marketing gimmicks, the Pet Rock launched the no-maintenance "pet" genre by selling 1.5 million small rocks in boxes for about $4 each.

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1975: Mood Rings

Mood rings were supposed to be as individual as the teens who emptied the shelves of them during the "Me Decade." First appearing in New York City, they took the country by storm before disappearing within two years, the lifespan of their temperature-sensitive liquid crystal.

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1973: Baby Alive Doll

Swarms of kids demanded Hasbro's so-alive-it's-kind-of-creepy Baby Alive Doll, which opened its mouth to receive food, chewed, swallowed, and eventually requested a diaper change.

Related: 11 Barbie Dolls That Could Become Collector's Items


1973: Ouija Board

Ouija boards have been on the fringes of pop culture since the 1880s, but in 1973 one appeared in "The Exorcist" and millions of kids suddenly turned to witchcraft in their spare time, much to the chagrin of parents, teachers, and clergy everywhere.

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1973: Shrinky Dinks

Shrinky Dinks required kids to operate a hot oven (and left open the potential of burns from scalding hot plastic). Although they debuted in 1973, a real Shrinky Dinks craze wouldn't arrive for another decade.

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1969: Nerf Balls

Billed as the "first ball for inside the house," Nerfs evolved for footballs, table hockey, pool, and table tennis uses. Now the brand is known for a variety of backyard combat gear.

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1966: Barrel of Monkeys

Huge swaths of America's youth agreed Lakeside Toys had a game "more fun than a barrel of monkeys" and were soon wasting countless hours trying to hook red monkey tails onto blue plastic barrels.

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1965: Superball

No ball has ever bounced better than the SuperBall, which could bounce for a full minute when dropped and sail over a three-story building if smashed hard enough into the sidewalk. It sold as well as it hopped, with 20 million bouncing off of shelves in the 1960s alone.

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1963: Lava Lamp

Bubbly, trippy, and mesmerizing, the lava lamp came to symbolize all things psychedelic and countercultural and became a staple of dorm rooms for generations.

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1959: Troll Dolls

Troll dolls are the Grover Cleveland of fad toys — they served two non-consecutive terms at the top. Invented in 1959, they became a must-have in the 1960s, went dormant for a generation, and re-emerged as a craze of the 1990s.


1958: Hula-Hoop

Arguably the most iconic fad in U.S. history, the Hula-Hoop sold 25 million in the first four months of production. The famous plastic circles are still around, associated with simpler times.

Related: 30 Yard Games to Get Your Kids Out of the House

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1955: Pez Dispenser

Pez had been around since the 1920s, and dispensers were unveiled in the early 1950s. But in 1955, they got heads. The earliest collectible dispensers can now fetch $10,000 at auction.

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1950: Silly Putty

Intended as a rubber alternative during World War II, this purposeless "solid liquid" in an egg container became one of the biggest toy fads ever, drawing orders for 250,000 units within three days after it was profiled in The New Yorker.

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1950: Magic 8-Ball

At least as accurate as an actual fortune teller, this oversize billiards ball is filled with dark liquid and a floating die that answers questions — after a fashion. Sales at the time? Reply hazy. But about 1 million of these still sell every year.


1945: Slinky

There was a time when 80 feet of coiled wire was an acceptable present to give a child. That time was 1945 and the toy was the Slinky — which sold 400 in the minutes after its debut department store demonstration, the first of more than 250 million sold.

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1932: Joy Buzzer

In the early '30s, kids across America dressed like small grownups, worked grown-up jobs, and didn't tire of jolting unsuspecting people with shock handshakes. The joy buzzer swept America in the golden age of pranks, made by the same company behind exploding cigars, snake nut cans, sneezing powder, and "razzberry cushions."

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1928: Yo-Yo

Probably the first toy to be confiscated by teachers until the end of the day on Friday nationwide, yo-yos were selling 300,000 a day within a year of their release.