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Take a walk down memory lane with Good Housekeeping's favorite toys. We combed our archives to bring you the best classic toys of all time, dating back to the 1920s. Discover how many of your favorites were invented — ever wondered where "LEGO" came from? — plus learn more about the playthings your kids can't get enough of now. From timeless toys to technological marvels, we reveal which have stood the test of time and show you the ones that appeared in the pages of Good Housekeeping way back when.
Doggie on wooden wheels
This doggie's tail wiggled when his five wooden wheels moved. Kids pulled him along with a long cord. The toy cost $1 and originally appeared in the December 1921 story, "Choose for the Good Housekeeper Serviceable and Practical Gifts Such as These."
The Teddy Bear, born in 1906 during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, is one of the most-loved toys of all time. We first featured the plaything in a December 1929 story, "Toys to Make and to Buy."
Children have been cruising the neighborhood in scooters since the 1920s, when this toy first became popular. Tiny versions made of wood and steel evolved into sleek, life-sized scooters in the 1930s that were streamlined, featured mudguards, and cost $4.95. We first featured the scooter in the December 1933 story, "Presents for the Children That Our Shopping Service Will Buy."
The world's most iconic mouse was born November 18, 1928, in the first Disney cartoon with synchronized sound, "Steamboat Willie." Even back then, Mickey had a mischievous side — as a deckhand on a riverboat, he plays a song using animals as his instruments and the captain banishes him to the galley, where he must peel potatoes. A 12" Mickey Mouse cowboy doll cost $2 in 1935. This classic character, who first appeared in a December 1935 issue of the magazine, has been featured on thousands of merchandise items and starred in more than 120 cartoons.
Back in 1940, we told parents that "well-designed toys form taste and a love of beauty," which is why a dollhouse was such a good toy. The best houses are built to scale and are representative of good American architecture. We first featured a dollhouse in a December1940 story, and back then it cost $4 and came with a matching Salem garage that cost $2.
We covered the toy telephone in a December 1954 story, "Tips on Choosing Presents That the Youngsters Really Like," and we told parents that the two- to four-year-old plays alone and likes toys with simple action. A telephone definitely fits the bill! The one we featured even asked the caller, "Number, please."
Play-Doh, first featured in the December 1958 story, "Christmas Toys," was invented in 1955 by Joseph McVickers at the age of 27. He got the idea when he saw his daughter playing with wallpaper paste.
Back in December 1951, when we first covered walkie-talkies, they were "futuramic playthings" that kids couldn't get enough of. The other hot toy trend that year was Western gear — toy guns, holsters, lassos, and anything else that helped kids play Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy.
Everyone's favorite doll, Barbie, celebrated her 50th birthday in 2009, and we first covered her in the December 1962 story, "Teenage Fashion Dolls." Back then, she cost $3, and Ken cost $3.50.
LEGO, which we covered in a December 1975 story, is the world's sixth-largest toy manufacturer: Children across the world spend 5 billion hours a year playing with its toys. Founder Ole Kirk Christiansen created the company name by taking the first two letters of the Danish words Leg Godt — meaning "play well" — and putting them together. LEGO bricks are made by heating plastic to 232° Celsius and injecting the doughlike result into molds.
Etch A Sketch
Etch A Sketch, which we covered in December 1971, uses technology developed in the 1950s by Andre Cassagnes, an electrician in France. Since its invention in 1960, more than 150 million have been sold worldwide.
Children began to love video games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. in 1985, when the Nintendo Entertainment System was introduced. More than 60 million units were sold in its first two years, and it paved the way for high-tech consoles of today like the Wii and Nintendo DS Lite. In addition, Game Boy (the first portable, handheld game system with interchangeable game paks) was born in 1989, enabling kids to entertain themselves on the go. We first featured NES in December 1985.
Cabbage Patch Kids
No matter how hard they try, original Cabbage Patch Kids, which we covered in December 1985, will never grow taller — only more lovable. Xavier Rober's handcrafted, limited-edition babies were originally dubbed "Little People" but officially became "Cabbage Patch Kids" in 1982. By 1990, more than 65 million of these tiny tots were "adopted" by kids.
In 1997, Microsoft's ActiMates Interactive Barney ($109.95) was the techy toy everyone wanted. The next year it was Furby, a less expensive ($30) 7-inch-tall "animatronic pet" that, unlike the purple dinosaur, didn't need a PC to interact with the kids. Furby reacted to sound, light, motion, touch — and other Furbies in the room. He came out of the box "speaking" Furbish, a language you could imagine a bunch of third-grade girls inventing during a sleepover. We covered Furby in a December 1998 story, "Holiday Guide for Kids."
In 1999, the season's to-die-for item was the Sega Dreamcast Console ($199). The chip inside this 128-bit system processed graphics four times faster than a Pentium II. Plus, the unit played CDs and had a built-in 56K modem, so kids could surf the Web on the TV with the optional keyboard. Forty games ($39.95 to $49.95) will be available for the holidays. We featured Sega in a December 1999 story, "Buyer's Guide."
With the Discovery Channel Store Ultimate Planetarium which we mentioned in a December 2006 story, "Star Search," your kid can see what the constellations look like from any place on Earth.
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