Ah, the 90s. A decade for abusing the denim fabric and terrible oversized hats. A decade filled with cartoons of talking animals, ones whose actual species still cause confusion and debate today. A decade inundated with boy bands, girl bands, and few actual adults at the helm of producing mass entertainment. A decade when teens could be superstars, and rebellious kids who were still able to make good grades were the coolest (bonus points if you had braces; double bonus if they had fun colors of bands in them). A decade when parents bought their children downright dangerous toys because “eh, you can’t protect them from everything.”
It was an interesting time to be alive, and certainly a better time to be a kid. Everything we seemed to love doing was at least a little bit dangerous. Our favorite birthday celebration spot was Chuck E. Cheese’s, a kid-infested germ pit where at least a third of our partygoers would be out from school, sick the next day. Our favorite songs were pretty overtly about sex or drugs, whether we knew it or not (“Hit Me Baby One More Time?” “Semi-Charmed Life?” Come on, were we stupid?). And our favorite toys were made either of toxic chemicals or straight up petroleum, or were made without safety considerations in mind. Seriously, play time was a dangerous time. How did any of us survive the 90s? Even our toys were trying to kill us! Here are 15 of our common household 90s toys that could have killed us.
15. Slip ‘N Slides
These living terrors are what nightmares are made of. You can still buy them today, though any logical person would have seen enough slippery and sliding horrors to last them a lifetime. Slip ‘N Slides were essentially plastic sheets. You’d spray your garden hose down them and slide down the plastic sheet into a little basin of cool/tepid water at the end — basically like having a little water slide in your own backyard. It was cute when you were a baby and your dad would take you on it a little too fast and it scared you. It wasn’t so cute when you were nine and would dive onto the sheet like you were diving out of the blast radius of a bomb, only to land hard on your stomach, bruise a rib, and not be able to breathe for ten minutes. And if you played on these things as adults (especially adults of drinking age)… we’re genuinely impressed you survived it. God speed.
14. Easy-Bake Oven
Okay, let’s be real — Easy-Bake Ovens were far from easy. The product model was simple: kids essentially made individual-sized desserts and put them in this little plastic box with a heat lamp at the top, and twenty minutes later, they had a dessert… kind of. How it actually worked was that children still at nose-picking age were allowed to prepare their own dessert batter with the precision of a Parkinson’s ridden monkey. Then they put it in a plastic box with a hot light bulb that would toast the crap out of your fingers if you touched it, but would hardly heat up the food you put in there after half an hour. Then kids would pull their dessert out, and, like the impatient juveniles that they were, would eat their still liquidy dessert, raw eggs and all. How is it possible that a new horrifying disease wasn’t born of the Easy-Bake Oven generation?
13. Plastic Bubbles
Why these things were entertaining is hard to explain. Everyone has played with bubbles, right? You know how you would dip your bubble wand into a water-based solution, then blow air or throw the wand to form bubbles that would rise into the air and pop. Well, this was essentially the same thing… except it wasn’t a water-based solution. Nope. It was actually straight up plastic. It was cool because you could catch the bubbles and maybe sometimes toss them to people before they burst, but it wasn’t really cool because creating these plastic bubbles was straight up releasing toxic chemicals into the air — the air that we were directly breathing. Then there was the horrific possibility that you inhaled a bubble one time — yeah, that’ll come back to haunt you. We were actually poisoning ourselves, and it was all in the name of blowing bubbles. Bubbles that we could have been blowing with normal bubble solution. Why did we need plastic bubbles?
12. Snack Time Cabbage Patch Kid
How could a Cabbage Patch Kid have ever been dangerous? Oh, we’ll tell you, friends. Just wait.
So Cabbage Patch Kids were really more of a toy for the children of the 1980s. This means that, by the time the 90s came around, the toy company was scratching their brains trying to figure out how to stay relevant and cool to this new generation of toy consumers. Well, in order to stay hip with the kids, they created this atrocity: the Snack Time Cabbage Patch Kid, which would chew on the plastic toy snacks you put in their mouths… or anything else you put in their mouths. Don’t let your mind run away with you (don’t be gross), these Cabbage Patch Kids most enjoyed nibbling on the hair of unsuspecting children (they really did that, by the way) since they had no on-off switch. Needless to say, these toys were demented and were eventually recalled.
11. Splash Off Water Rocket
Everyone who has ever lived in a climate warm enough for backyard water fun knows about these things. In between water gun fights with your buddies and taking a turn running through the sprinkler (which you would occasionally bang the tops of your feet on, causing the “no, I’m totally fine” limp), you’d sip your Hi-C and prepare this rocket for lift off. We hope you had parent supervision, too, because more likely than not, this sucker blew up in your face. Literally. The idea was that you would fill up the rocket with water, and when the pressure built to a certain point, they’d launch and wow, what fun! Except they were totally unpredictable. Sometimes they would launch long before you’d intended them to, perhaps when you were just setting up the hose. And when they launched, they had a tendency to fly wherever they damn well pleased — like into your face or back window.
10. Creepy Crawlers
You know how Easy-Bake Ovens had a tendency to burn the curious child that wondered if the hot light would actually be hot? Yeah, Creepy Crawlers were even worse. Even if you managed to not burn yourself on that plastic oven that couldn’t hope to heat a muffin, you probably found a way to burn the crap out of yourself on the Creepy Crawlers Oven (“the Creepy Crawlers SUPER Oven!”). Kids would for or choose a mold to make their creepy crawler out of, pour in a stretchy plastic solution that wouldn’t taste quite as good as an Easy-Bake Oven recipe (probably because it wasn’t edible, but hey, everything is worth trying once right?), then let it heat up under a scorching-hot light bulb for a few minutes. Then out popped your Creepy Crawler. Hope you didn’t try to play with it immediately though, because those tiny grains of plastic would have melted straight onto your skin.
9. Stretch Armstrong
This freakin’ guy was good for nothing else except beating the crap out of your little sister — or allowing your little sister to beat the crap out of you. No matter who got beat up, your parents probably didn’t care, and all you had to blame it on was freakin’ Stretch Armstrong. This weird little toy was filled with this weird silicone gel that, when you pulled on him, would stretch (thus the name). It was first released in the 70s and most of us got it from our parents’ boxes of old things. Who knows what kids did with it in the 70s; us 90s kids did only one thing with it: play TUG OF WAR. And you know what happens when you play tug of war with a tiny, stretchable doll? It snaps back and smacks the winner in the face. Not exactly the celebration we were hoping for.
8. Yo-Yo Balls
If you can’t yo-yo with a normal yo-yo, maybe you should just give up and admit that yo-yo-ing isn’t for you. Well, that’s not what toy makers of the 90s said. If something was hard in the 90s, someone was bound to make it easy enough for a blind and deaf monkey to do. Thus the creation of the yo-yo ball. The idea was that its ergonomic design and winding system were made so that anyone could yo-yo — it required zero skill. So we thought we were all hot sh*t, able to yo-yo anywhere we wanted and make it look like a breeze (because it was indeed that simple). Then we tried to get fancy and do tricks. Then we tried to do throw tricks and that yo-yo ball would fly back and knock us in the eye so hard, we’d be back in school the next day with a black eye.
Don’t remember Gak? Yes you do. We guarantee you do. Even if you weren’t alive during the 90s, you’re sure to know what Gak is. It was practically a defining toy of the decade! It was like the slime that was dropped on celebrities in Nickelodeon shows, or the goop cartoon characters would have on their hands whenever something gross happened. It was a slimey, gooey ball of Gak. And it was a toy. What did kids to with it? Nothing, really. Just played with it, allowed all their germs and boogers to get stuck to it to play with at a later date. Why was it dangerous? Well, it wasn’t inherently… It was the consequences of playing with it that were. If you played with Gak and left it ANYWHERE you weren’t supposed to, Lord have mercy on yourself when your parent discovered it or stepped on it or found it between the couch cushions. You’d have been lucky if all they did was confiscate your Hit-Clip collection.
6. Pogo Balls
These toys were kind of reinvented as a workout tool for the adept athlete of today. That said, it should be clear to anyone that slimy and snotty kids should not have been playing around with them back in the 90s. Pogo Balls were essentially designed as a bouncy ball with a Frisbee shoved down around it. You’d put your feet on the Frisbee and then bounce on the ball, like a Pogo Stick that was ball-based instead of stick-based. Okay, yay… except it was totally dangerous. Imagine all these kids bouncing around and into each other because Pogo Balls, more so than Pogo Sticks, were impossible to control. What sucked the worst was when you got too big for your Pogo Ball, and it burst while you were bouncing on it. You’d hit the ground so hard and so unexpectedly that you were sure every bone in your feet and ankles had shattered and disintegrated.
5. Moon Shoes
Speaking of bouncy things that should’ve never existed, Moon Shoes were so completely dangerous and cheap that any parent should’ve taken one look at them before saying, “Nope. There is no way my child is playing with that.” But shame on our parents, because they bought them for us and those twisted ankles and broken noses hurt.
Moon Shoes were meant to simulate for kids the general feeling of anti-gravitational walking we’d have experienced on the moon (because, obviously, we’ll be moving up there any day now). If you never got hurt wearing Moon Shoes, you must have been a nerd using them for scientific research. They were really mini trampolines that we strapped onto our feet. Then we’d accidentally bounce into each other so hard that our noses would crick to the side, or our teeth would crack. And if we tried to avoid each other, we’d twist our ankles so far we’d be on crutches for a week. These damned shoes were worse than Heelys.
4. Socker Boppers
Let us explain this “toy” to you first, and then we can start going into the litany of wrongs in its invention and creation. Socker Boppers were essentially big, puffed up boxing gloves. You’d blow them up yourself, slip your hands in, and have a go at each other — and it was totally safe, right?! Because it was just air you were hitting each other with, right?! WRONG. These things hurt like all hell when they hit you, especially when you were sweaty. “More fun than a pillow fight?” IN WHAT WORLD, GOOD SIR? Besides, these toys were just encouraging kids to beat the crap out of each other. How is that productive in a child’s toy?! These toys were how crazy aggressive little boys of the 90s beat the crap out of their friends until it made one of them cry. Yay for bullying! It’s all in the name of fun, Timmy! Don’t you like FUN?!
3. Giant Trampolines (Without Walls)
Remember the days when literally all the cool kids had a trampoline in their backyards? And the coolest of the cool kids had trampolines you could bounce off of into their above-ground pool, and that was super sweet? Yes, trampolines are still sold today, but the difference between trampolines then and those today are that trampolines today typically have walls and guards above and around the springs. You know why? Because of the death traps we used to play on the in 90s. Back then, we had giant trampolines with the springs exposed on the edges. Ever see anyone slip and fall near the edge? Oh, we have. It’s a nasty and gnarly experience, sure to break some bones, tear some muscles, and even perhaps mangle the life out of you. Hope it was worth it, for the sweet back flip/front flip combo.
2. Skip It
Damn the Skip It. It said it was going to be fun. It said it would help us get in shape. It said so many wonderful, flowery things… and all it brought us was pain, sadness, sweat, and tears. Skip It was a toy that you attached to one of your ankles then swung around so the tether cord would move in circles, and you would try to skip over it. And there was even a Skip-It counter that kept track of how many skips you’d done. It was a game of cardio and coordination, and it was so much fun… until it suddenly wasn’t. When you got tired and finally missed skipping it, the large Skip It counter would wrap around your ankle and smack it so hard, it felt like someone had taken a hammer to your ankle. You became genuinely fearful of losing to the Skip It, for its revenge was sweet and terrifying. What a terrific kids’ extracurricular that made fitness more terrifying than it’s ever been!
1. Sky Dancers
Sky Dancers were so cute and lovely when they came out. They were little fairy-type dolls that you’d stand on their base, and when you pulled the cord on the base, a tiny mechanism would spin out the skirt of the fairy like the rotors on a helicopter, and she would gracefully fly overhead, landing daintily wherever they pleased. That was fine when they landed by your side in the grass or cutely on your Britney Spears bed spread. But it wasn’t so cute when they flew right into the fiery chasms of your living room fireplace, or into the neighbor’s yard as he’s running the lawn mower. The worst was when they flew directly into your face, or, as any young girl back then knew, into your hair. It was hardly worth de-tangling the demons — just cut the hair off and rock a pixie cut for your second grade school photos.