12 playground crazes you’ll never forget
Who doesn’t remember their childhood crazes? Endless summer days spent swapping, collecting and chatting over temporary treasures are part of our memories – which ones do you remember?
These vicious plastic castanets were supposed to flick up and down to make a clacking noise like a troupe of flamenco dancers in full flight. More often, they flipped into someone’s face, or whacked back into your elbow, and the only sound was a strangulated “owww!”
Rubik’s cube (1980s)
This genius Hungarian who invented this mathematical puzzle could not have guessed the number of angry children it would spawn. An entire industry in solving it sprang up – including just taking the stickers off and re-applying them to appear ‘solved.’
French skipping (1960s-90s)
Knicker elastic never worked so hard. The idea was that you tied a length into a loop, then two girls stretched it between their ankles and another girl bounced in and out of the elastic, while everyone chanted some meaningless, yet slightly threatening, rhyme till she tripped. There was no internet back then.
Scented erasers (1980s)
The best things ever, these marvellous little rainbow inventions not only erased mistakes, they were also scented with synthetic perfumes claiming to be everything from swiss rolls to banana milkshakes. Ever girl had a pencil case stuffed with them, and if you had one from America, you won.
This odd little game came in a bag, and involved a bouncy ball and tiny ‘jacks’ – three-pronged bits of metal. You had to bounce the ball and collect the jacks before it fell. It wasn’t the most thrilling game, but there was room for Machiavellian cunning in sneaking your opponent’s jacks while they watched the ball.
Top Trumps (1970s)
Now, you can get all kinds. Back then, it was pretty much pictures of cars, on a deck of cards, with endless boring notes detailing their respective horse power and engine capacity. It was, however, catnip to boys – who became the men that now meet each other at parties and say, “So, what are you driving these days?”
A cylinder of fake fur with eyes, the gonk was the precursor of the ‘pet rock’ (a rock with eyes.) Advanced gonks had arms and legs. In their unisex cuteness, they were hugely popular with pre-teen girls, and many bedrooms had a matted little collection on the windowsill.
Poppet beads (1950s-1960s)
Acrylic beads that popped together to make necklaces, bracelets and anklets, Poppets were adored by teenage girls because they were cheap, came in all colours, and meant you could always have new jewellery to wear with your mini and pvc boots. They’re now prized on the vintage market.
Panini sticker albums (1970s-1990s)
Football or Smash Hits, you could take your pick – as long as you filled the album of course. Stickers came in mean-mindedly small packs, with lots of repeats, which meant you could spend an entire summer swapping with your mates and still end up with three Kevin Keegans and no Boy George. Grown men still cherish their completed albums, though…
Hideous tiny dolls with neon hair, which for some reason became immensely popular, having been created by a Danish fisherman in 1959. The originals had sheepswool hair and glass eyes, before the plastic army took over. Trolls even spawned a film and several games.
Every 90s parent grew to fear the beeping of this tiny Japanese toy that claimed to be an ‘electronic pet.’ It was only a pet in that it had constant needs, woke up exhausted children in the night, and created a huge guilt complex when hollow-eyed owners forget to ‘feed’ it by pressing the right button. Thankfully, it was soon forgotten altogether in favour of toys that were actually fun.
Yo-yos (1900s- now)
The craze that never died, yo-yos always come back. Which is the whole point of them. Occasionally crazes for a particular model will flare up, but there’s something about the hypnotic nature of unfurling and snapping back the string, the smooth whirr of the ‘yo’… that makes it impossible not to have a go when you see one, even as an adult.