In a post-pandemic world, there seems to be a huge appetite for nostalgia - more than ever before. While you might now be buying toys for the kids in your life, most millennials have probably had the thought that today's toys aren't a patch on the ones from our childhood. There are so many toys of the 90s that we millennials have such fond memories of, and you might be wondering whether these childhood memories have shaped who you are.
If you want to take a walk down memory lane, check out this list of toys that were all the rage back in the day - before the internet exploded and when toys weren't just toys, but fully ingrained in pop culture. How many do you remember?
1. Beanie Babies
An iconic collectable that reached peak pop culture status in the mid-nineties, Beanie Babies were hugely popular. While some of the stuffed animals were widely available, there were limited edition designs, like the whale, the platypus, the dog and the frog that were much rarer. These were massively sought after by serious collectors and could even fetch thousands of pounds at auction.
They might not be as popular now as they once were, but you can still buy Beanie Babies from the likes of Amazon and The Entertainer for about £10. Perfect if you want to share the memories with your own children.
2. Rubik's Cube
Invented and 1974 by the Hungarian sculptor and architecture professor Ernő Rubik, the Rubik's Cube reached peak popularity in the 1980s. More than a toy, it was also a colourful brainteaser that could be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Many books have been written about how to crack the code, and it even inspired a whole wave of 'Speedcubers' battling it out to see who could solve the cube the fastest. According to the Guinness World Records website, the current record for the fastest solving of a 3x3x3 rotating puzzle cube was set by the USA's Max Park in an astonishing time of 3.12 seconds!
If you want to give it a go, you can pick up your own Rubik's Cube on Amazon for about £12.
3. Cabbage Patch Kids
By 1983, Cabbage Patch Kids became an absolute must-have with a popularity that continued throughout the decade. These dolls were so popular that they broke toy industry records in terms of shipping and sales for multiple consecutive years, and the fan frenzy was so intense that store aisles reportedly became battlegrounds for parents in the lead-up to Christmas.
As a Millennial myself, I have a vivid memory of being so excited to go to my best friend's house to play with her two Cabbage Patch Kids, named Spencer and Shirley, and their impact was so strong that my bestie and I still mention Spencer and Shirley to this day!
If you wanted to buy a Cabbage Patch Kid today, you can pick up a newer variation on the classic doll for anywhere between about £15 on Amazon, up to more than £50. Alternatively you could look on resale sites like eBay where someone could be selling an 80s or 90s classic, but be warned, they can come with a hefty price tag.
If Cabbage Patch Kids weren't your thing, then maybe robots in disguise were. Transformers burst onto the scene in 1984, rebranded from a Japanese toy line, and their popularity is the reason we have had multiple Transformers-themed movies hit cinemas in the last few years.
Introduce your kids to the world on Transformers with this Optimus Prime toy from Amazon.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
More than action figures to play with, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles even spawned an animated TV series with a super catchy theme song, as well as multiple live-action movies. But while you can probably still name all of the turtles and the supporting characters, can you remember which turtle wore which colour mask?
Want to recreate the magic with your own kids? You'll need your own posable turtle action figures, like this Leonardo figure from Very - kids will love collecting the whole set!
6. Game Boys
Gaming might have come on leaps and bounds since Millennials were children, but it arguably all started with the iconic Game Boy. More than just toys, these were gateways to new worlds, with games like Super Mario Bros. taking the world by storm. And with the latest Super Mario movie storming the box-office in 2023, there's a new wave of Mario themed toys to help you enjoy the blast from the past with Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach.
7. Animatronic toys
No Millennial's childhood is complete without tales of an animatronic toy like Teddy Ruxpin or Tickle Me Elmo. These took cuddly toys to a whole new level - even talking and singing to their little owners. The fact that kids could also see Elmo on Sesame Street added a whole other layer of excitement to the toy.
"Millennials experienced a unique era in toy history where playthings weren't just for entertainment but also became a significant part of pop culture," remarks Thomas Riley, toy expert and owner of Kidscar.co.uk. "Each toy from this period, whether a Beanie Baby or a Rubik's Cube, reflected innovation and a deeper connection with the young generation's imagination and aspirations. They weren't just buying toys; they were embracing symbols of their time."
While you might now be more used to buying toys for your own kids or kids in your life, if you ever need inspiration, we've rounded up the best buys for all ages - from the the best toys for six month olds, up to the best toys for 10 year olds. To carry on down memory lane, we've also rounded up the amazing 90s game shows we all loved!