Texas Living

The Most Popular Holiday Toys by Decade

By Staci Parks 12.4.17

Toys are often our first introduction to imagination and creativity. Around this time of year, certain gifts always seem to get a particular grip on the imagination and get more hype than others — landing them on so many Christmas lists that even Santa’s elves run out of them.

Before we dive into the holiday season, take a look at what kids of Christmases past had at the top of their wish lists. Every one of these toys served as a mirror of the moment, and some have reinvented themselves throughout the years, landing in the hands of new generations. This nostalgic travel through the most popular holiday toys will lead us to the hottest gifts anticipated for this holiday season. 


The teddy bear, named after President Theodore Roosevelt, has been a solid gift staple for more than a century. Wooden rocking horses also made their debut in children’s rooms around this time.


Young aspiring comedians have relied on the joy buzzer since the late ’20s. This small cylindrical toy has been giving unexpected shocks ever since. The yo-yo, another toy box necessity, also grabbed attention.


With the rise of the automotive industry as an influence, Radio Flyer wagons were high in quality and demand — even throughout the Great Depression. 


This decade brought us the Slinky from the mind of a naval battleship engineer. Toward the end of the decade, Lego’s now-iconic small, brightly colored plastic blocks were a must-have. (Not much has changed!) The ingenuity of the toy transformed the industry.

Popular Holiday Toys


Kids got a pass on playing with their food with the arrival of Mr. Potato Head, who boasted 28 different facial features. Toward the end of the decade, we were introduced to, perhaps, the most unforgettable woman of all time: Barbie. With each career (and outfit) change, Barbie’s popularity and influence have evolved.


Innovation sparked by the grooviest decade found its way into the hands of children through the Etch A Sketch and Lite-Brite. The Easy-Bake Oven also arrived on the scene, and its small lightbulb-baked cakes have been a childhood delicacy ever since. G.I. Joe action figures created a new toy genre for boys that rivaled Barbie’s popularity.

Popular Holiday Toys


The record-breaking success of Star Wars had kids wanting their own miniature versions of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. These action figures still make their way onto modern wish lists. Outside the galaxy, kids were playing with Nerf Balls and Rubik’s Cubes.


The novelty of this colorful decade was captured in its most popular trinkets. My Little Pony made its debut as My Pretty Pony, while Transformers took over the imaginations of millions. Cabbage Patch Kids were also having a moment. Who knew that yarn-haired, chubby-faced dolls could cause a riot?


Robotic toy animals in the form of Tickle Me Elmo and Furbies dominated holiday lists in the latter part of the decade. But some children (and adults) found interest in a more simplistic trend: Beanie Babies. (You’re still holding onto a couple of these in the attic, aren’t you?)


The first decade of the new millennium ushered in a desire for tech-savvy toys such as the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and Guitar Hero. But, in between games, you could also find kids showing off their latest tricks on their Razor scooters.


Holiday desires became a little more expensive with the arrival of the iPad and iPod touch. Children navigated the timeless “we want a dog” plea by asking for a Teksta Robotic Puppy. Pokémon also made a comeback, catching new fans along the way.


Forget fidget spinners. This year, kids are going to want these small Fingerlings, the Nintendo Switch, and a drone.

Popular Holiday Toys

The simplicity of gifts has evolved throughout the past century, but one thing remains: It’s the thought behind the gift that counts. Make your presents perfect on the outside, too.

Wrap your gifts with this guide for an extra personal touch. No matter what you put inside, it’s sure to leave a lasting impression.

© 2017 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance