It’s no secret that I just adore the ’80s. What’s not to love…the hair, the fashion, the movies, the music. Oh my! Sixteen Candles anyone? I also have a lot of fond memories growing up in this decade and playing with many retro toys that are so fun and creative. Some were created in the ’80s and others were from even earlier decades but were still popular during that decade. So here are our top pics of creative retro toys that will still bring hours of fun, imagination, and entertainment to your household today.
Since I love encouraging creative play for my daughter (and also love the 80’s as well) I thought this might be a fun topic for some of my fellow ’80s fans. Heck, I even like to get in on the fun sometimes and we can play or do an activity together.
Maybe you remember or have some of these as well. Tell us what you think in the comments!
Lite Brite Creative Retro Toy
The classic Lite Brite toy is an oldy but goodie! If you’re not familiar with this toy it is a light board with a black screen filled with holes where you can put in different colored pegs. The board lights up from inside and illuminates the little pegs. Kids can make all kinds of really fun designs and use the toy over and over again. It’s pure magic!
The new varieties are a bit sleeker than the old ’80s models from what I remember. The ones from the ’80s had a larger, boxier lightbox (like how older TV’s used to be much bigger and boxier). The new models are thinner than the original ones.
The particular model that we have is also a travel version of the wonderful Lite Brite. It is battery operated (as opposed to the plug-in power source of the regular Lite Brite toy). This makes it really easy to carry around or bring with us on a trip. It also has a little, plastic compartment to store the pegs. This compartment can be attached or removed.
It’s a wonderful toy for a variety of ages. My daughter has had it for years and still loves it. She creates all kinds of fun designs and creations. This is definitely worth the small investment because she has used it over and over again throughout the years.
The only caution is if you have very young babies or toddlers to be aware of the small peg pieces. I wouldn’t suggest this gift for small children because of the small pegs. Or, if you get for a slightly older child but have small babies or toddlers in the home as well I would just make sure that the pegs are always put away.
Polaroid Camera 80’s Retro Toy
For Christmas, my daughter got one of the new Instax mini 9 Camera as a gift. This has been such a fun and wonderful creative outlet for her and for us as a family. The reason why I consider this a cool retro toy is because it is similar to the old Polaroid instant cameras.
I’m sure most of you know what a Polaroid Camera is. Just in case you don’t know what it is, it’s an instant camera that takes pictures and develops them immediately.
The new Instax cameras are smaller in size compared to the old Polaroids. Also, the film itself is much smaller. The old Polaroid film was larger and the image was square-shaped.
There’s something about the instant gratification of taking a picture and having is develop right in front of your very eyes! Kids and adults love this camera alike.
The only drawback is that you do have to continuously purchase film for this camera. The film can be a little pricey so it might be worthwhile to be mindful when using the camera so as not to waste film and your hard-earned money.
We use this camera on so many occasions to snap fun photos. It a fun way to capture life’s memories on holidays and special moments like Christmas, parties, holidays, playdates, events, arts and crafts projects, and even for everyday use.
On one occasion we had a family party with a lot of kids invited. I bought a couple of packs of film and let my daughter and her friends use the camera to snap pictures of their own kids’ party that was going on. They ended up with a whole bunch of fun memories captured on film of the event. We put those photos into a photo book that we enjoy looking at.
We’ve also used the Polaroid camera for art projects as well. As I’m always trying to keep my daughter busy with fun, imaginative, and creative activities, we did an art photo challenge where we took a series of photos only using one color! It was really fun and we had something artistic and interesting to show for it as a project.
My only word of caution is that if you’re letting your child use the camera by themselves make sure they are responsible enough not to break it and that they are responsible enough to use the film wisely. If they are not then I still suggest this item but just under your supervision.
Latch Hook 80’s Retro Toy
Okay, who doesn’t love a great latch hook kit? In case you are not familiar Latch Hook is a craft project where small strands of yarn are tied to a small canvas grid. Essentially, they make a little rug that can stay as a small rug or be used to make wall art or a pillow, too!
What does the Kit Include?
The kit comes with a canvas grid and a variety of pre-cut yarn pieces of various colors. Our Latch Hook kit came with the latch hook tool as well. Some kits come with the latch hook tool and some do not. If yours does not you will have to purchase one separately as it is necessary for the project. The canvas grid is colored coded and you attach the colored yarn as indicated on the grid. In the end, it makes a design or picture. The kit should also provide instructions on how to properly attach the pieces of yarn to the canvas grid.
This is another craft that I remember fondly from childhood. They are still available and are popular once again. We purchased ours from Michaels, however, you can find them at any craft store or online at Amazon.
Mind you, it does take time to finish, so it’s a craft they will have to commit to finish (or work on little by little). Just as knitting or crocheting can help some people relax and get in a zone, I feel can do the same thing for kids (or adults if you enjoy doing latch hook). When my daughter does this, she told me that it relaxes her. She often likes to do this while watching a show on TV, too. Although I don’t always want her watching TV, it seems to keep her hands busy and give her something to work on while she watches a show.
Potholder Loom Kit 80’s Retro Toy
Now, this is another fun Retro kid’s toy that is still available today. Who remembers having these home-made potholders in their house? Yup, me, too! We had many a fun, home-made pot holder around our house.
How does it work?
A potholder Loom Kit comes with a plastic, metal, or wood loom and plenty of colorful elastic bands. The bands are stretched across the loom and then in the opposite direction more bands are woven in and out of the first set of stretched bands and then are also hooked to the pegs on the edge of the loom.
Once the whole loom is filled with woven bands, then you weave the ends together. Once all the ends are woven together to secure the potholder you tie the end. Y
You can also do different patterns and colors if you want to or just do it free form and let your design unfold as you create it. It’s totally up to you!
This is another Retro creative kid’s kit that I just couldn’t help but get for my daughter. It also brought up great memories for me as well because my mom also got me these kits, too! It’s a fairly easy project to do. It just may take time to complete the project but since the elastic bands are stretched and woven into the loom it is something that you can stop and leave and restart it as you wish. This is another project that can be relaxing as it has repetitive steps.
Also, you can keep the loom forever and just buy more elastic bands to create more pot holders!
Magic 8 Ball 80’s Retro Toy
Just say yes to the Magic 8 Ball! This is another really fun ’80s Retro toy that is still available and so much fun. Growing up my friends and I used to consult the wise Magic 8 Ball for many of our very important questions! Like does so-and-so like me? We had hours of fun getting answers to our questions. It’s a really fun toy that can still be purchased today.
What is a Magic 8 Ball?
For those of you who are not familiar the Magic 8 ball is a ball that you ask “Yes” or “No” questions to and it will provide a variety of answers to you such as “Yes,” “No,” “Can’t Answer Now,” “My Sources Say Yes,” etc. Mind you this should be used only as a toy and not actually be used to make any important decisions.
I had one that was gifted to me and I gave it to my daughter. We have fun consulting the Magic Eight Ball to get advice on some very silly questions! It’s just a fun activity that sometimes gives us a good laugh depending on the question we ask and the answer given!
Rubix Cube 80’s Retro Toy
Oh the unsolvable Rubix Cube – I am still trying to solve you. This is another classic 80’s Retro toy and activity that is great to stretch the brain. I had one or possible a few of these growing up. I think everyone that I know did, too! Sadly, I never solved mine but it didn’t keep me from trying. We got one of these as a gift and my daughter loves it! She hasn’t solved hers either (Yet!) but she’s gotten a heck of a lot closer than I ever did. She still enjoys it non-the-less and that makes me happy because it’s a great exercise for her brain and also fun entertainment for her as well.
A Rubix Cube is a 3-D puzzle in the shape of a square that can be scrambled. When you get the Rubix Cube each side is filled with a different color. Then you mix up the Rubix Cube and the colors scramble and get spread out on different sides of the cube. The principle of the game is to get all of the same color on the same side as it was before it was scrambled. Now this game is hard but still seems to memorize kids all these years later. We have one and we are still trying to solve the puzzle. For that reason, we put it on the list!
Etch-a-Sketch – Retro Toy for Creativity
This is truly a classic retro toy. It was invented in the late 1950’s by electrican, André Cassagnes. It was still popular when I was growing up and is still available today!
What is an Etch A Sketch?
An Etch A Sketch is a board that can be repeatedly used to create different drawings. It classically has a red plastic frame and has a plastic board that is coated inside by aluminum powder. The stylus inside the unit is controlled by two knobs and scrapes off the powder inside drawing a grey line. You then control and adjust the knobs to create a drawing. To erase your drawing you shake the unit.
This is a fun toy that you can make all kinds of creations with over and over again. I like this toy because it gives my daughter a break from all of the electronic devices. It’s nice to have a classic toy that kids can use to draw, create, and have fun. We have a mini travel version of this toy. I bring it with us on trips to keep my daughter occupied and let her use her creativity and imagination.
Okay, so I had to save the best for last. Shrinky Dinks have a special place in my heart. They are just such a fun and creative activity. They are easy to make and can provide hours of creative entertainment for your kids.
For those of you who are not familiar, Shrinky Dinks are an ’80s craft that uses shrinkable paper. Designs can be made using color pencils (Sharpies also work, too!). Some kits have pre-made designs that you color in while others come with blank paper where you can create your own design! Once your design is colored and finished then you cut it out. You can also punch a hole in the top if you want to make an accessory or accessories. Then you bake then and within 1-2 minutes they magically shrink. You then let them cool and then can leave them as is or make and accessory or craft with them.
My daughter and I really enjoy doing shrinky dinks together. It’s a very fun activity that is easy enough that kids don’t get frustrated (sometimes that can happen with other crafts) yet brings a great creative outlet for their imagination. We spent hours one day creating all kinds of things using our shrinky dink materials.
I actually made a whole post just on that so if you are interested in doing a Shrinky Dink project go to our tutorial here! It includes a free printable and video tutorial, too!
So there you go – our top Retro toys that are still available and popular today and that can spark your kids (and yours – come on admit it!) imagination.
Tell us if you had any of these toys/items growing up and which one(s) are your favorites. We’d love to hear from you!