like love lists.
And I love vintage children’s toys.
So here is a list of toys that utterly mesmerized me when I was a child – and that I have bought for my own children. Kitschy or spooky as they may seem, these are the toys that I remember – the ones that made childhood enchanting:
1. Mexican Jumping Beans
Okay, I know these are moth larvae in the beans but they still fascinate me. In fact, as I’m writing this I can hear ours jumping around in their little glass box.
2. “Magic Hand” Piggy Bank
The green hand that lives in the box and emerges to snatch a coin from someone’s fingers never ceases to captivate me. I love the way it goes thump-thump-thump, too.
3. Ouija Board
This was, and still is, my all-time favorite toy to play with. We would spend hours asking the spirits questions at slumber party seances – and recently, Ella used it to contact my father (who she strangely believes lives inside the Ouija board). She kept repeating, “Are you grandfather Derek? Are you grandfather Derek?” and after I made her get off the board to go to bed, she looked up at me and – out of the blue – began singing the theme song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. My father’s favorite movie. I nearly fainted. If you had to choose one song that would conjure up the image of my father, it would always be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We had not watched the movie or spoken of it in well over a year. I concluded, as Ella had, that the ghost of my father may in fact inhabit our Ouija board!
4.Guatemalan Worry Dolls
Sometimes when my father would come home from a business trip he’d have a small toy in his pocket to give us – once it was a tiny yellow box of itty-bitty Guatemalan Worry Dolls. I was fascinated by them – you were supposed to whisper your worries to these dolls, and the dolls would magically take the worry away.
5. Matrushkas – Russian Stacking Dolls
My grandmother was from Russia and introduced me to borscht, piroshki, and an endless fascination with nested matrushka dolls. As a child I could play with these beautiful things forever.
Even though I’m all grown up now, looking into a kalaidoscope instantly transports me into a state of childish wonder, every time I look through one. I should probably look into them more often!
7. Magic 8-Ball
A fortune-telling toy. I used it all the time to ask advice. Go ahead, ask the Magic 8-Ball a question here (you know you want to!)
8. Mood Rings
My mood always correlated to whatever color “hyper” was. I always lost the color key within a day of getting a mood ring, and it never occurred to me to wonder why every color key was always different.
9. Ball Hopper
This used to be my preferred mode of transport – I hopped all over the wild blue yonder, and this was a toy I used until I was way too old for it. (-:
10. Operation Skill Game
Who doesn’t love trying to get the funny bone out and all the excitement of getting “buzzed”? This is a great game.
12. EZ Bake Oven
I was in love with my EZ Bake oven – the green one. You can’t get them like this nowadays – these ovens could make real cakes and had real miniature pans. I think I loved mine.
13. Sea Monkeys
14. Wooly Willy Magnetic Face
15. Ballerina Jewelry Box
That twirling ballerina – another childhood memory I won’t forget. I didn’t care much for jewelry but I think I stared at my little ballerina for hours, and hours.