Parents

Nostalgia alert! See 100 years of toys in photos

Teddy bear hugs, Lego masterpieces, Barbie fashion shows and Monopoly triumphs.

You may grow up, but you never forget your favorite childhood toys. How can play things from decades ago have such a powerful hold on our emotions?

The Strong (Museum of Play)
The first Raggedy Ann doll was created in 1915 when a cartoonist and illustrator was given an old rag doll by his daughter. He drew a face on the worn fabric, and the rest is toy history. Raggedy Ann was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2002, and her beloved companion Andy joined her in the Hall of Fame five years later.

“Just as a certain smell or taste may evoke a certain feeling, a toy is able to do that,” Adrienne Appell, toy trend specialist and a spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association, told TODAY Parents.

“It’s able to bring us back to our childhood — those good memories and those good feelings of play, being carefree, interacting with your brother or sister, or mom or dad.”

The Strong (Museum of Play)
The LEGO Group was founded in 1932 by Ole Krik Kristiansen. The word LEGO is an abbreviation of two Danish words meaning "play well," and for the past 80 years that is exactly what LEGO has inspired children to do. In 2012, the brand expanded its marketing and targeted girls, revolutionizing the construction play category.

As it celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding on Thursday, the Toy Industry Association is looking back at some of the most popular and iconic toys of the past decades. The timeline is packed with favorites that kids still love today, Appell said. The 1930s brought Lego and Monopoly, for example. Barbie arrived in the 1950s. “Star Wars” action figures began their hold on children’s hearts in the 1970s.

Related: 8 toys to encourage and empower girls in STEM this summer

What’s striking is that playtime from 100 years ago isn’t that different from today. Kids still reach for dolls, stuffed animals, train sets and blocks. Digital screen now offer new temptations, but old favorites keep their charm.

“As much as things have changed, a lot of it has stayed the same. You’re still going to be able to walk to toy stores and see a lot of these toys on the shelf: Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Raggedy Ann, Mickey Mouse,” Appell noted.

“Play patterns are essentially staying the same: kids like to nurture, build, explore. That’s true of today’s kids and that’s true of kids 100 years ago.”

The Strong (Museum of Play)
Etch-A-Sketch was the must-have holiday toy of 1960. Invented by French electrical technician Andre Cassagnes, the Etch-A-Sketch was originally named L'Ecran Magique, or "The Magic Screen." The Ohio Art Company was the first to license the product and quickly renamed the toy Etch-A-Sketch.

With technology, there’s a whole breadth of toys that didn’t exist just a few years ago. And classic games such as Monopoly are adding modern twists — like a cashless version — to appeal to today’s children, Appell noted. You can find stuffed teddy bears alongside stuffed Angry Birds.

Related: Kids around the world showcase their prized possessions in 'Toy Stories'

The Strong (Museum of Play)
At the time of their launch in 1983, Cabbage Patch Kids became the most successful new dolls in the history of the toy industry. By the end of the year, more than 3 million Cabbage Patch Kids had been adopted.

Some toys endure for decades, thanks to parents who think back fondly to their own childhoods.

“It has to do with nostalgia and memory. If I’m a mom and I’m in a store and I see something that I loved to play with as a kid, I’m going to gravitate towards that,” Appell said. “I’m going to want to play with that with my kids. So I’m introducing it to the new generation. The kids are going to love it just as much as I did.”

Check out the full slideshow of 100 years of toys.

  • Slideshow Photos

    The Strong (Museum of Play)

    100 years of toys

    Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Toy Industry Association by looking back at some of the most iconic toys of past decades.

  • 1910- Erector Set

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    1910- Erector Set

    In 1911, A.C. Gilbert invented the Erector Set -- a motorized toy made of steel parts. The Erector Set was the first toy to run a national advertising campaign, which was geared specifically towards boys. The line was discontinued in 1960, but the concept of toys that introduce engineering and structural principles still exists. In fact, kids can now even build and program their own robots, using a similar building concept as the original toy.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1910- Lincoln Logs

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    1910- Lincoln Logs

    Despite the name, Lincoln Logs were not used or invented by President Abraham Lincoln. They were, in fact, invented by John Lloyd Wright, the son of internationally famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1918. The idea struck John as he watched one of his father's designs, an earthquake-proof building in Japan, being built.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1920- Disney's Mickey Mouse

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    1920- Disney's Mickey Mouse

    Shortly after the release of "Steamboat Willie" in 1928, Walt Disney released Mickey Mouse dolls. The simple, stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls marked the start of Disney's international merchandising and licensing empire.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1920- Duncan's Yo-Yo

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    1920- Duncan's Yo-Yo

    The first yo-yo appeared in California in 1928. A Filipino man named Pedro Flores often played outside with a homemade yo-yo, which means "come-come" in a native Philippine language. His small yo-yo business caught the attention of Donald F. Duncan (father of the Good Humor ice cream bar), who later bought the business and staged yo-yo contests, generating millions of customers.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1920 - Play Doctor's Bag

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    1920 - Play Doctor's Bag

    Jack Pressman created the play doctor's bag when his children were afraid to go to the doctor.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1930- Monopoly

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    1930- Monopoly

    Monopoly is the most popular board game in history, but it wasn't always named Monopoly. The game was first called "The Landlord's Game," and introduced in 1904. According to The Strong National Museum of Play, the game was originally designed to point out the social pitfalls of unequal wealth among people. The game instead saw players greedily collect huge piles of money and property, delighting in opponents' financial troubles. The game gained popularity when Charles Darrow produced the first commercial version, named Monopoly, in 1934.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1930 - Scrabble

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    1930 - Scrabble

    In the 1930s, architect Alfred M. Butts invented a game of 100 lettered tiles used to form words on a square grid that looked like a crossword puzzle. The game, first called Lexiko and then Criss Cross Words, was the first version of what today is known as Scrabble.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1930 - Sorry!

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    1930 - Sorry!

    The 1930s saw the appearance of Sorry!, a fun and easy way to bring friends and family together.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1930 - Stacking Rings

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    1930 - Stacking Rings

    The 1930s brought stacking rings to market. To this day, stacking rings remain a popular infant toy.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1930- View-Master

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    1930- View-Master

    The first View-Master debuted at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and was invented by Harold Groves and William Gruber. The first reels offered views of scenic attractions around the U.S. Fast-forward to 2016, and the View-Master is compatible with a smartphone and designed to blend augmented reality and virtual reality.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1940 - Model Airplanes

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    1940 - Model Airplanes

    In the 1940s, affordable model airplanes began to be mass-produced.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1940 - Candy Land

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    1940 - Candy Land

    Eleanor Abbott designed the game Candy Land in 1949 while recovering from polio in California. The game has been produced for more than 50 years and is currently available in multiple versions, including an electronic hand-held game.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1940 - Chutes and Ladders

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    1940 - Chutes and Ladders

    Chutes and Ladders launched in the 1940s, and was developed based on a game that European settlers brought with them to America.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1940- Silly Putty

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    1940- Silly Putty

    Originally invented as a wartime synthetic rubber substitute, Silly Putty hit the market in the 1940s. After its introduction, a toy marketer named Peter Hodgson decided to list the putty, dubbed "Silly Putty," as a novelty in his catalog. By 1950, Silly Putty's popularity (and sales) were picking up, and it has since sold millions of units every year.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1940- Slinky

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    1940- Slinky

    The Slinky, which was invented in 1943, was not at first intended to be a toy. Richard James, a mechanical engineer, was working to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea, when he knocked into his shelf of samples, causing his invention to gracefully "walk down." Slinky saw sales soar through the next few decades, thanks to a catchy advertising jingle.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950- Matchbox Car

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    1950- Matchbox Car

    In the 1950s, Jack Odell created the original Matchbox Car. He made a small brass model car and put it into a matchbox so his daughter could bring it to school.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950 - Mattel's Barbie

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    1950 - Barbie

    The first Barbie doll debuted in 1959 at Toy Fair. Barbie was designed by Ruth Handler to be a three-dimensional fashion doll that inspired little girls to be anything they wanted to be. Over the years, Barbie has held more than just a fashion model career; in fact, she has had over 150 careers including dentist, World Cup soccer competitor and even presidential candidate. See more photos of Barbie through the ages. 

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950- Colorforms

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    1950- Colorforms

    In the 1950s, two art students discovered that vinyl sticks to semi-gloss paint. This revelation led to the popular toy Colorforms.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950- Play-Doh

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    1950- Play-Doh

    Initially used as a wallpaper cleaner, Play-Doh began being used by schools as a substitute for modeling clay in the mid 1950s.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950 - Little People Line

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    1950 - Little People

    The beloved Little People Line was born in the 1950s with the introduction of its iconic safety school bus.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950 - Wham-O Hula Hoops

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    1950 - Hula Hoop

    According to The Strong (Museum of Play), in 1957, Wham-O toy company founders Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin learned that kids in Australia twirled bamboo hoops around their waists in gym class. Within a year, Wham-O had created a hollow hoop out of Phillips Petroleum's newly developed plastic Marlex. They named their creation "Hula Hoop" after the swivel-hipped Hawaiian dance its users seemed to imitate. Wham-O sold 25 million hoops in just two months, and sales reached $45 million in the first year.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950 - Yahtzee

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    1950 - Yahtzee

    Yahtzee was first introduced in the 1950s by a Canadian couple that called it the "Yacht Game," because they played it with friends on their yacht.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950 - Mr. Potato Head

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    1950 - Mr. Potato Head

    Originally designed as silly face parts for inclusion in cereal box promotions, the idea for Mr. Potato Head came about around 1952. The first Mr. Potato Head included eyes, nose, mouth, ears and 28 facial features along with a Styrofoam head. Mr. Potato Head was the first toy to have a television commercial -- and was later joined by his counterpart Mrs. Potato Head in 1953. Together, the pair has appeared in commercials, movies and playrooms across America for generations.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1950 - Tonka Truck

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    1950 - Tonka Truck

    The Tonka Truck was invented in the 1950s by a group of teachers from Minnesota, and is named after Lake Minnetonka. To date, the Tonka line is comprised of more than 30 trucks.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1960 - Easy Bake Oven

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    1960 - Easy Bake Oven

    In the 1960s, Hasbro introduced the Easy Bake Oven. Though re-designed to appear sleeker, the Easy Bake Oven still remains a classic children's toy.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1960 - Hot Wheels

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    1960 - Hot Wheels

    In the 1960s, Elliot Handler co-founded the die-cast toy cars brand Hot Wheels.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1960 - Game of Life

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    1960 - Game of Life

    Inspired by one of Milton Bradley's old games, game inventor Reuben Klamer designed the now-classic Game of Life in the 1960s.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1960 - Twister

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    1960 - Twister

    Twister, the first game in which people used bodies as playing pieces, was conceptualized in 1964. The popular party game has since gone on to offer numerous new play patterns -- including electronic versions and sprinkler sets.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1960 - G.I. Joe

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    1960 - G.I. Joe

    In 1964, Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe -- coined an "action figure" -- with 21 moving parts. G.I. Joe was a fast success, selling millions of figures in its first year.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1960 - NERF

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    1960 - NERF

    Parker Brothers originally developed NERF, beginning with a 4-inch polyurethane foam ball, in 1969. The NERF ball was introduced as the "world's first official indoor ball." It was marketed as a ball that one can "throw it indoors; you can't damage lamps or break windows. You can't hurt babies or old people."

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1960 - Operation

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    1960 - Operation

    Operation is one of the skill-based games of the 1960s that is credited for revitalizing the board game category.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1970 - Dungeons & Dragons

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    1970 - Dungeons & Dragons

    In the 1970s, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax invented the popular Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy tabletop role-playing game. D&D's publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1970 - Star Wars Figures

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    1970 - Star Wars Figures

    It wasn't long after "Star Wars" debuted in 1977 that the line of 3.75-inch "Star Wars" figures followed, igniting generations of figure and "Star Wars" collections. Originally released from 1978-1985, and again from the mid-1990s until present day, the figures have generated millions of sales. With the release of "The Force Awakens" last year, the industry saw nearly 4,000 tie-in toys, including an app-controlled droid. It's safe to say that "Star Wars" products have come a long way over the past four decades -- but despite the rise of technology, figures continue to remain among the most popular "Star Wars" products on the market.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1970 - UNO

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    1970 - UNO

    The popular card game UNO launched in the 1970s. The game continued to be popular, and has offered players numerous new versions, licenses, and play patterns over the years.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1970 - Playmobil

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    1970 - Playmobil

    Hans Beck created Playmobil in 1974. Since then, approximately 2.7 billion Playmobil figures have been produced, and distributed in more than 100 countries worldwide.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1970 - Magnavox's Odyssey

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    1970 - Odyssey

    In the 1970s, Magnavox introduced Odyssey, the first video game machine.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1980 - Gameboy

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    1980 - Gameboy

    In the 1980s, Nintendo released a battery-powered, hand-held video game system, named Gameboy. The handheld gaming industry has blossomed ever since.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1980 - Nintendo NES

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    1980 - Nintendo NES

    Since Nintendo Entertainment Systems' (NES) launched in 1983, Nintendo has sold more than 4.4 billion video games and more than 693 million hardware units globally. Nintendo originally began as a result of the coin-operated video game Donkey Kong, released in 1981. The company then turned its focus to providing in-home video games. When Nintendo's first home video game system, named NES, launched in the U.S. in the mid-1980s, its titles -- including Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda -- became instant hits.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1980 - Pictionary

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    1980 - Pictionary

    Pictionary was invented by Robert Angel, a waiter at the time, and designed by Gary Everson. A video game based on Pictionary was released in 1990.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1980 - Transformers

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    1980 - Transformers

    In the 1980s, Hasbro secured the rights to several Japanese robot brands, and introduced the Transformers to the United States.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1990 - Furby

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    1990 - Furby

    Another toy to fly off store shelves, the Furby, was an electronic robotic toy released in 1998 by Tiger Electronics. The toy resembles a hamster or owl-like creature that has a language all its own but can learn English over time.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1990 - Beanie Babies

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    1990 - Beanie Babies

    In 1993, a Beanie Baby craze struck the world. The small, partially-stuffed bean bag animals were the perfect marriage of cute, affordable, and collectible. Each style had a name and included a catchy rhyme. What started as a collection of nine animals quickly grew into hundreds, and suddenly Beanie Babies were making their way into everything -- including McDonald's Happy Meals.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1990 - Leapfrog's LeapPad

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    1990 - LeapPad

    The new Leapfrog LeapPad reading system catapulted to the top of every retailer toy list after its launch in the 1990s. The LeadPad marked the first time that an educational toy had achieved such success.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 1990 - Tickle Me Elmo

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    1990 - Tickle Me Elmo

    Tickle Me Elmo hit stores in 1996 and caused a media, and consumer, frenzy. The popular talking toy flew off store shelves during the holiday season.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 2000- Razor

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    2000- Razor

    When the original A model Razor scooter launched in 2000, it sold 5 million units in its first six months. By 2003, the brand began introducing electric scooters, ride-ons, and more. By its 10th anniversary, over 35 million scooters had been sold.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 2000 - Ganz Webkinz

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    2000 - Webkinz

    With the rise of the digital age, it is no surprise that toys and technology were bound to eventually merge. The popular Webkinz toys, which launched in 2005, were among the first to offer children online/offline play patterns. This revolutionary play pattern has been adopted by many larger toy companies (such as Mattel, Hasbro, and many more), and continues to shape the toy industry today.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 2010 - LEGO Friends

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    2010 - LEGO Friends

    In 2012, LEGO announced a new line targeted to girls aged 5-8. LEGO Friends quickly redefined the construction play category for girls.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)
  • 2010 - Rainbow Loom

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    2010 - Rainbow Loom

    Rainbow Loom was created by inventor Choon Ng as a family project for his two daughters. Since its launch, millions of kits have been sold-- a real feat in the arts-and-crafts industry. Rainbow Loom fever swept the globe when royalty was spotted with the trendy accessories on their wrist.

    The Strong (Museum of Play)

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