Rubik's 5x5x5 cube
Charrie/istockphoto

50 Toy Fads That Drove the Grown-ups Crazy

View Slideshow
Rubik's 5x5x5 cube
Charrie/istockphoto

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

2021: Pop-Its
Vladimir Bibik/istockphoto

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. The weirdly addictive devices, which are akin to permanent Bubble Wrap, have been almost as compelling to kids as much pricier games and electronic devices. And that's great — if parents can tolerate the nonstop popping noises, of course.


Related: Sprinklers and More Toys to Turn Your Yard Into a Water Park

2019: Baby Shark Song Puppet
Amazon

2019: Baby Shark Song Puppet

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

2017: Fidget Spinners
Jennie Book/shutterstock

2017: Fidget Spinners

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


Related: Incredibly Fun Toys and Games for Adults

2014: Shopkins
Amazon

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.


For more fun stories like this,
please sign up for our free newsletters.

2010: Squinkies
Amazon

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
OlegDoroshin/shutterstock

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: Fun Online Games the Whole Family Can Play

2009: Zhu Zhu Pets
Amazon

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.

2006: Silly Bandz
Amazon

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.

2005: Webkinz
Amazon

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.

2004: Livestrong Bracelets
Amazon

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 bicyclist inspiration Lance Armstrong had spent much of his storied career lying and cheating sent demand plummeting.

2003: Jelly Bracelets
Amazon

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)

2002: Beyblades
Amazon

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.

2002: Furreal Friends
Amazon

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.

2001: Bratz
Amazon

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.

1998: Furbies
Amazon

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.

1996: Devil Sticks
Amazon

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.

1996: Pokemon Cards
Angelina Pilarinos/shutterstock

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.

1996: Tamagotchi
Amazon

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.

1994: Pogs
Amazon

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
Pe3k/shutterstock

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.

1993: Super Soaker
Keith Homan/shutterstock
1990: Slap Bracelets
Amazon

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.


Related: Most Dangerous Toys of All Time

1988: Skip It
Amazon

1988: Skip It

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

1987: Boinks
Amazon

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.

1987: Pogo Ball
Amazon

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.

1987: Koosh Ball
Amazon

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.

1987: Friendship Bracelets
Nancy Bauer/shutterstock

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.

1987: Grow Monsters
Amazon

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.

1985: Garbage Pail Kids
Amazon

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: Collectibles You Probably Tossed That Are Now Worth a Fortune

1983: Wacky Wall Walkers
Amazon

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 make and marketed for vending machines and cereal box giveaways, they just had to be thrown hard enough to stick; gravity would do the rest.

1983: Polly Pocket
Amazon

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
dnd_project/shutterstock

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.

1977: Chia Pets
Amazon

1977: Chia Pets

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

1976: Slime
jarabee123/shutterstock

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.

1975: Pet Rock
Amazon

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.

1975: Mood Rings
Amazon

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.

1973: Baby Alive Doll
Amazon

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: Barbie Dolls That Could Become Collector's Items

1973: Ouija Board
pablofdezr/shutterstock

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.

1973: Shrinky Dinks
Amazon

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.

1969: Nerf Balls
Amazon

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.

1966: Barrel of Monkeys
Keith Bell/shutterstock

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.

1965: SuperBall
Amazon

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.

1963: Lava Lamp
Dietrich Leppert/shutterstock

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.

1959: Troll Dolls
Amazon

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 reemerged as a craze of the 1990s.

1958: Hula-Hoop
StanislauV/shutterstock

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: Yard Games to Get Your Kids Out of the House

1955: Pez Dispenser
Amazon

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.

1950: Silly Putty
Keith Homan/shutterstock

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.

1950: Magic 8-Ball
Amazon

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
cekiztas/shutterstock

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.

1932: Joy Buzzer
Amazon

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 snake nut cans, sneezing powder, and "razzberry cushions."

1928: Yo-Yo
vincent noel/shutterstock

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.


Related: Retro Gifts for Kids With Too Much Screen Time