You Were An 80s Kid If…

If I asked what the most popular toys of the 80’s were, many of you would jump to things like Cabbage Patch Kids

It is no secret that I love the 80s. I was born in 1973, so I fully remember the 80s. It was my childhood and it had so many great things. I can remember learning to roller skate to Journey, Madonna, the Cars. Sneaking to the video arcade when mom went shopping to pump quarters in the Pac-man, and the incredible toys that came from that era, albeit many not safe for the kids that loved them. 

There also doesn’t seem to be a shortage of lists that remember various items from the 80’s. People seem to remember the most popular things about that decade and often forget some of the cooler items that we had. I want to share my list of things that you knew You Were An 80’s Kid If…

Toys of the 80’s

If I asked what the most popular toys of the 80’s were, many of you would jump to things like Cabbage Patch Kids, Transformers, or the Rubik’s Cube, the truth is that there was a sea of toys from the 80s that many people forget about. So let’s look at my top 5.

5. Gobots

If I asked you to name a toy from the 80s, immediately, most would say Transformers without surprise. Did you know they had a lesser famed cousin called GoBots? In 1983, Tonka released their own version of transforming robots to kids everywhere. They were based on a Japanese character called Machine Robo and toys from the Japanese producer, Popy. In Japan, they were mech piloted by humans but Tonka jumped on the sentient robot crazed and changed their origins. The biggest difference was the more simple and full plastic design, in comparison to the complexity of Transformers. Their reign lasted from 1983 to 1987 when Hasbro bought the company to remove the competition.

4. Silverhawks

With the popularity of cartoons and toy lines like He-man and Thundercats, its no surprise that many more came on the scene. A personal favorite of mine was SilverHawks made by Kenner. SilverHawks took place in space, which when I was a kid I was in love with. The actual design of the toys was simple but elegant. There were minimal points of articulation, lime many 80s toys (I’m looking at you early Star Wars figures), but where they took the lead was detail. Each of the heroes had a metallic finish that just sparked to the eyes of a kid. And true to the Hawk name, they had wings… made of fabric that clipped onto their wrists. A squeeze of a button on their back and their arms spread wide like a wing for flight. I didn’t always get to watch the cartoon, but the toys more than made up for it.

3. M.U.S.C.L.E.

How many of you remember these small collectible erasers? For me they were amazing because they were small enough to fit in my pocket and if I got caught playing with them in class, I could say it was my eraser and have a better chance of keeping it all day. These figures, like many toys from the 80s, were inspired by a Bandai franchise. The American version used a slighter firmer plastic, so the eraser properties were not quite as good. I remember sitting in class and trading these little figures. It never failed that I would end up getting some of them taken away by my teacher. Good thing I had so many of them.

2. Rough Riders 4×4

The 80s was no stranger to awesome toy lines, even the less memorable ones. I present to you Rough Riders 4×4. These small toys were powered by a single AA battery, unheard of at that time as most things required D batteries or 9volt and usually in multiples. This little car came with four foam rubber wheels, cone shaped wheel covers, light up headlights, and body styles that reflected popular cars. A cool trick I learned with them was that you could flip the battery around and they would drive backwards. 

The commercial shows that they are nigh unstoppable. Crashing through walls of popsicle sticks, climbing rocks, and doing wheelies.My sister can attest to their go anywhere ability as I often loved to get my car caught in her hair. This was where I learned the reverse trick. When it tangled her hair around the axel, I flipped the battery and it released her from its mechanical prison. Is it a wonder she often doesn’t trust me sneaking up behind her still?

Their sister line were the Stompers, The only real difference between the two were wheels. Stompers didn’t come with the cone hubcap.

1. Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future

If you don’t remember this toy line, you are in the ranks of many who do not. This toy line was created to work in conjunction with the live action show meant for kids and adults alike. The premise of both the toy line and show was a post apocalyptic world where machines have taken over and humans have gone into hiding out of fear. What fear? Of being digitized into the computer mind of the show’s villain Overmind. 

The toys were produced by Mattel and were pretty cool, what made them amazing was that they could interact with the show and videos they created. Even more cool, they could interact with other toys from that series. That being said, in order for them to interact you needed to buy the Captain Power Energizer pad. This allowed signals from the tv and the toy to interact together. I never had the Power Energizer and the only toy from that line I had was an evil soldier called SOARON. 

School Items of the 80s

Truth be told, I took many of these toys with me to school and either traded them with friends or had them taken by my teachers. But there wasn’t a shortage of cool school items to have as an 80s kid, either. Let’s see if you remember any of my top 5 School items.

5. Slide Pencil Cases’

One of my fondest memories of elementary school was the school supply cart our school secretary ran before classes started. You could pick up pencils, erasers, paper, and the such. My dream purchase from her was the slide pencil case. The version I bought from her was a pencil length case that had a ruler with multiplication tables on it and a pencil sharpener. It would hold about three pencils, so you were always ready for school work. 

Later I found my next favorite slide case. This case gave you the ability to hold up to four pencils or three pens. What I loved about it was its roller slide top. When you opened it, it would slide back and to the bottom of the case, whereas the one I previously had could be fully removed and used as a ruler.

Did any of you have these cases? Let me know in the comments below.

4. Cartridge or Stacking Point Pencils

Everyone of us probably had mechanical pencils when we were kids. Every cool kid had one and everyone else wanted them. Personally, I disliked them because I always lost the sticks of lead that came with them. Thankfully, there was a company that fixed that issue for me by creating the cartridge pencil. As you used up the lead in the cartridge, you popped it out and inserted it into the back of the pencil to push the new one forward.

Moment of truth here, they were a waste because there wasn’t much pencil lead in the cartridges and you wasted more space with those cartridges than was useful. So why did I love them? These were a great ‘weapon’ as a kid. You could take those little cartridges out and insert them backwards and use them as a blow gun. Once the lead was gone, instant spitball shooter. I kept it in my bag with my spring loaded spit ball shooter I got in a cool trade with a classmate. 

3. Triangle Pencil Grips

This was another early morning elementary school supply cart purchase. Our teachers recommended them to us and often gave them as rewards for jobs well done. They were designed to help kids correct bad pencil-holding habits to improve handwriting. (Remember when that was taught and important in school – You got graded on your handwriting back then)

Personally, I liked them because they were cool looking. I could balance my pencil in weird places on my desk, they were good trade items, and they smelled good. What was it about the 80s that made such good smelling school supplies?

2. Book Covers

It seems that the school secretary was the person with the goods in the 80s. I remember buying book covers from her, when I had some spare change. What made these things so great was that they gave you blank spaces to personalize your books. It wasn’t often that we got to customize things in the 80s, so we took every chance we could. Sure we drew on our notebooks, but how often do you get to draw on a textbook? For just a few cents, you could have your very own version of your history or math book. Even cooler was when they often had pre-printed graphics on them. Okay, I admit that I did have one with the fuzzy little kitten because, why not?

1. Scholastic Book Fair Flyer

To me, this was absolutely the most amazing event in my childhood school years. It was the day(s) that we would get a break from class, head down to the library that had been converted into a bookstore for the week. I loved reading as a kid, so I would beg for money for this event and it was rare that my mother would say no. Why would she, it was reinforcing reading in her children, something she already pushed us towards. 

What made it so great was that you typically would get at least a free poster out of it, if nothing else. Then there were books of all kinds. It was a way for our favorite cartoons to teach us lessons by hiding under our favorite characters. I remember getting my first choose your own adventure book and a Smurfs book from them. Why can’t we have these book fairs as adults, they were much cooler than your average bookstore. Many of these flyers had books you could order and pick up when you got there as well as racks of books to peruse. How cool was it as a child to pick out books you want to be delivered to school, just for you. Maybe that is why I have a love of getting packages in the mail to this day. It just makes you feel special.

Clothing and Accessories of the 80s

No 80s list would be complete without talking about the clothing styles of the 1980s. An era of excess that highlighted fashion with neon and pastel colors. What a mixture of styles, but we lived for it. Let’s see if you remember this 5 80s clothing and accessories.

5. Jams

Not to be confused with music, this fashion trend swept the 80s. Now before someone reads this and comes for me, yes I know that Jams were first made in the 60s but it was the 80s that escalated their popularity thanks to movies. These Shorts came down past your knees and was reflective of 80s fashion. Hawaiian-inspired prints in neon colors washed over these a tad too long garments. 

Jams were inspired by beach culture but with music groups like Bell Biv DeVoe, Salt n’ Pepa, and various others, they became a must have.Sadly, the pairs I owned were made by my aunt and I was too embarrassed to wear them.

4. Slap and Jelly Bracelets

If you were an 80s kid, it is a guarantee that you had one or both of these. They were staples of fashion way back when. Slap bracelets of today are nothing like they were in the 80s. Remembering back, they were like sharp edged metal only lightly covered in a nylon fabric that seemed to come apart far to easily only to end up slicing your soft child skin. I mean honestly, who created these things? And why did we love them so much? Maybe it was the audible “SLAP” they made when you put them on. It was a way to hit someone without hurting them, I guess

Jelly Bracelets were the pop icon fashion statement. If you listened to Cindi Lauper, then you had to have them. I wore so many that, at times, you could not see my forearms. Whether they were neon or black, they were on kids everywhere. In fact, I still have some of them today. How I miss the innocence of the 80s.

3. KangaROOS

Growing up in the 80s, most kids cherished Reebok or Nike as their shoe of choice. Coming from a more poor family, it wasn’t easy to convince our mother to drop that kind of money on shoes that we were likely to outgrow before the year was us. Many times we ended up in no-name department store shoes that many called Bo-bos so people wouldn’t know they were cheap.

Enter KangaROOS, yeah the brand was started in 1979  but it was the 80s is where they took off. By the mid 80s, these shoes were number 5 in the sports scene. What differentiated them from the competitors was the small pocket the founder added as a bonus. This pocket was big enough for a key and some change. Each shoe had a pocket, so you could always keep enough change for the pay phone on you. I absolutely loved these shoes above all others. Sure, my classmates were sporting shoes with pumps but could they carry around small items in the shoes to be easily retrieved at a moment’s notice? I often hid small toys in mine, admittedly my shoes had the pocket in the tongue of the shoe instead of the side like most KangaROOS.

2. Friendship Bracelets

Ah, the days when you showed how much you cared about your friends by these small little bracelets made from embroidery floss. There was a time when you could get them in cereal boxes but the best ones were made by people you knew. My first one was a simple braided one, that was until my cousin made me a real friendship bracelet. I quickly switched out my Jelly Bracelets for these awesome knotted bands of friendship love.

I even went on to learn how to make them. That was an experience. I remember that a box of cereal I had gotten had an instruction pattern for them. I spent the few bucks needed to buy the appropriate floss colors I wanted and sat down to try it. It took me a week of starting and taking it apart, only to start again. Finally, I had my own crafted friendship bracelet. I never felt good enough to give them away, as mine always had a few small flaws. But, I was proud enough to wear my creations.

1. Big Hair

What 80s list would be complete without mentioning big hair or as we call it in the south “Closer to God hair.” I am pretty sure that all the money made by hairspray companies like Aquanet happened in the 80s, before the EPA banned most aerosol products. 

Every girl would tease and spray their hair to get it as high as they could. More volume was the target and that meant lots of hairspray.To this day, there is not a memory of the 80s that is not punctuated by the memory of what Aquanet smelled like. Even guys were on this fad, we had people like George Michael, Johnny Depp, and every 80s hair band to use as hair god guides. Add to that crimping irons and perms and the 80s was a hot mess of hair styles.

The generation of excess

The 80s are known for so many cool things. Music hasn’t been the same since the decade ended, fashions have come back around, and many of the toys we knew are making comebacks. With all of that, nothing is as good as it was then. There was a risk of how things were made, as many regulations had not been put in place yet. That just made it all the more fun. Each of these things and more is why I still love the 80s to this day.

What about you, were you a child of the 80s? Did you have any of what I listed above? What do you remember and miss about the 80s? If you missed the decade, is there anything you have heard about that you wished you could have experienced or maybe you have some of the toys from the 80s that were handed down to you. Share you thoughts in the comments below, I love talking and remembering the 80s.

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