The 50 Best/Worst Childhood Fads

They were the best of fads, they were the worst of fads—all at the same time. The faddish objects of our childhood were sometimes loved and sometimes hated but they were hard to ignore. Here are a list of the 50 best/worst from the 1960s to today:

1. Beanie Babies
What made it the best: You and your friends loved collecting them.
What made it the worst: Old ladies loved collecting them too.

2. Bratz Dolls
What made it the best: 559 different dolls to choose from.
What made it the worst: They all looked like strippers.

3. Cabbage Patch Kids
What made it the best: You got a birth certificate certifying when you “adopted” them.
What made it the worst: They were just an overpriced stuffed doll.

4. Charm necklaces
What made it the best: You could create them to match your personality.
What made it the worst: For every birthday someone would give you a cheap charm instead of a real gift.

5. Cheap cologne
What made it the best: The girl you had a crush on loved the way you smelled.
What made it the worst: Every other six grade boy smelled like Old Spice/Polo/Drakkar Noir too.

6. Chia Pets
What made it the best: They were easy to grow.
What made it the worst: No matter what shape they were supposed to be, they always ended up looking like a green afro.

7. Cinnamon Toothpicks
What made it the best: Liquid cinnamon on a stick to make your tongue burn—in a good way.
What made it the worst: Because you couldn’t stop at just one, your tongue blistered—in a bad way.

8. Clackers
What made it the best: You could scare your little brother by clacking them right beside his head.
What made it the worst: You were a little brother.

9. Energy Drinks
What made it the best: After a can of Red Bull you could stay up all night texting.
What made it the worst: After the sugar crash, you felt like you needed to go to rehab.

10. Friendship Bracelets
What made it the best: Getting them from your friends.
What made it the worst: Not getting them from people who you thought were your friends—but obviously not since they gave them to every one but you, even to that ugly girl that they talked about behind her back and that other girl . . .

11. Friendship pins
What made it the best: They were cheap and easy to make, all you needed was colored beads and safety pins.
What made it the worst: Whenever you opened the pins the beads would spill everywhere.

12. Frisbees
What made it the best: Could make anyone feel like a minor athlete.
What made it the worst: Unless you had a frisbee-catching dog, they quickly became boring.

13. Furbies
What made it the best: Your first robot!
What made it the worst: Big-eyed robots are kinda creepy.

14. Garbage Pail Kids
What made it the best: They were disgusting.
What made it the worst: They were disgusting.

15. Gel Pens
What made it the best: Notes to friends looked better in neon orange.
What made it the worst: They always smeared.

16. Hacky Sack
What made it the best: They were easy to carry around; you could start a game anywhere.
What made it the worst: Phish-listening hippies made them uncool

17. Hello Kitty
What made it the best: They’re so cute.
What made it the worst: Good grief, they’re everywhere!

18. Hula Hoops
What made it the best: Having “hooping” contest with friends.
What made it the worst: Trying to find a place to store them.

19. Kewpie Dolls
What made it the best: They’re cute.
What made it the worst: They’re creepy.

20. Koosh Balls
What made it the best: You could throw them around without fear of breaking anything.
What made it the worst: They were only fun for five minutes.

21. Lava Lamps
What made it the best: The calming effect of watching the lava go up and down.
What made it the worst: They turned you into a hippie.

22. Lipsmackers
What made it the best: What could be better than makeup that taste like root beer?
What made it the worst: Realizing that it was just flavored chapstick.

23. Mad Libs
What made it the best: The fun of thinking up strange/funny/naughty words to fill in the blanks.
What made it the worst: After the third one they started to seem all the same.

24. Magic 8-Ball
What made it the best: More fun than flipping a coin.
What made it the worst: Ask again later.

25. Choose Your Own Adventure Novels
What made it the best: You got to be the hero of the story.
What made it the worst: The stories usually weren’t worth the page-flipping effort.

26. Matchbox Cars/Hot Wheels
What made it the best: They were almost as cool as having a real Ferrari/Corevette/Camaro/etc.
What made it the worst: Dad stepping on them in the middle of the night on his way to the bathroom.

27. Mood Rings
What made it the best: People could tell what mood you were in by looking at your finger.
What made it the worst: Unless “hot and sweaty” counts as a mood, they couldn’t detect anything.

28. Nerf Balls
What made it the best: Finally, a ball that you could bean your siblings with and not get in trouble!
What made it the worst: If they came in contact with nature (water, dogs, etc.) they’d become a mess.

29. Ouija Boards
What made it the best: They were dangerous and mysterious.
What made it the worst: They were a starter kit to occultism.

30. Paper Footballs
What made it the best: They were easy to make.
What made it the worst: No matter how many you made, the teacher always took them away.

31. Pet Rocks
What made it the best: It’s a rock. . . and a pet! Get it?
What made it the worst: What? I paid how much for a rock?

32. Pez
What made it the best: They were cheap and easy to collect.
What made it the worst: The candy was terrible.

33. Pogs
What made it the best: You could both collect them and win them.
What made it the worst: Your friends would always get them taken away by the teacher.

34. Pokemon
What made it the best: You could collect them all.
What made it the worst: No matter how much money you spent, you could never collect them all.

35. Pop Rocks
What made it the best: The fizz and the pop.
What made it the worst: Didn’t they kill that Mikey kid from the LIFE cereal commercial?

36. Rubik’s Cube
What made it the best: They made you think you were smart enough to solve them.
What made it the worst: They made you realize you weren’t smart enough to solve them.

37. Scratch ’n’ Sniff Stickers
What made it the best: The cherry and banana stickers that smelled like cherry and banana (sort of).
What made it the worst: The licorice one that smelled like the inside of a baby’s diaper.

38. Sea Monkeys
What made it the best: The ad in the back of the comic books made it look like they were people from the lost city of Atlantis.
What made it the worst: Brine shrimp? Seriously?

39. Silly Bandz
What made it the best: They are cheap and easy to collect.
What made it the worst: Realizing that your generation is getting stuck with one of the lamest fads ever.

40. Silly Putty
What made it the best: You could press them on the Sunday comics and make a colored copy of the picture.
What made it the worst: There wasn’t much else you could do with them.

41. Skateboarding
What made it the best: The rush of riding for the first time.
What made it the worst: The first rush to the ER after you fell off and broke your arm.

42. Slime
What made it the best: Sliming your friends, brothers, and sisters.
What made it the worst: Trying to get snot green plastic out of the carpet.

43. Slinky
What made it the best: Those cool television ads that showed it “walking” down the stairs.
What made it the worst: They taught you the meaning of false advertising.

44. Super Balls
What made it the best: Nothing could bounce higher.
What made it the worst: They’d always bounce to a place you couldn’t find them.

45. Swatch Watches
What made it the best: They made you feel sophisticated.
What made it the worst: Your parents wouldn’t buy you an overpriced piece of Swiss plastic.

46. Tamagotchi
What made it the best: Like having a pet that you could carry around in your pocket.
What made it the worst: Like having all the responsibility of having a pet without the loyalty, love, etc.

47. Troll Dolls
What made it the best: They’re adorable.
What made it the worst: When you’re not looking, they eat your soul.

48. Yo-Yos
What made it the best: The sense of accomplishment you got from learning to “walk the dog.”
What made it the worst: The stupid string always got tangled and knotted up.

49. Waxed lips candy
What made it the best: You could convince that cute girl/boy to give you “kiss” on your wax lips.
What made it the worst: The heartbreaking let-down of wax lip kisses.

50. Whiffle balls
What made it the best: The bat.
What made it the worst: You could never figure out how to actually play Whiffle ball.

Which favorite fads did I forget?

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    Awesome list! Really brings back some memories. I was a Drakkar Noir guy myself.

    Now, of course, it’s Axe Body Spray. For others, I mean. Not for me. I swear.

    • Joe Carter

      In my sophomore I sat next to a cheerleader during Latin class. She was talking to a friend about how [some popular dude] “had a sexy smell” and that he wore Drakkar Noir. She turned to me and asked what cologne I wore. When I told her Polo she smiled politely but disdainfully because everyone knew that was a cologne for junior high.

      That weekend I spend my entire paycheck from Piggly Wiggly to buy a bottle of Drakkar. If the cheerleader noticed the difference in my scent, she never said anything.

  • http://www.rockanddrool.com Melissa

    #47 cracks me up. For sure they eat your soul. They are like chuckie only cuter. And slinkies…so annoying! The only thing they were really good for was…hmmm…nothing.

  • http://lisanotes.blogspot.com/ Lisa notes

    Does anybody play jacks anymore? That was my fave in 6th grade, after my wrists were bruised from my clackers and my hula hoop was broken from carrying it on the school bus.

    Great list! Laughed my way through it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/johncfarrier John Farrier

    Awesome list, Joe.

  • http://www.womenfaithculture.org Sarah Flashing

    Did you ever meet my kids? On the Pokemon…..i’m pretty sure they did collect them all :)

  • Pam

    Slapbands. Because no bad could come from a fabric-covered piece of plastic that you whack on your and your friends’ wrists.

  • Amanda B.

    Koosh balls *never* got boring. The “worst” part was that they had a habit of eating any stray hair they could find, either ripping it from your head or picking it up from the floor, but always ending up as a colorful ball of rubber and shmutz.

  • Pingback: Flotsam and jetsam (10/15) | Everyday Theology

  • Delbert Gann

    Number 47 is for pagans anyway right? :)

  • Tim

    what about fanny packs. everyone in the 6th grade had a fanny pack.

  • khendar

    Pop balls. Exciting for a while, until you got the brilliant idea of launching one from your head.

  • http://csdphumor.com geekysteven

    Pretty good list. But c’mon, ouija boards as a “starter kit to occultism”? More like a easy way to introduce kids to the value of skepticism.

  • http://www.twitter.com/boomshadow P.F. Bruns

    I would rewrite “What made it the worst” for #35, the “Pop Rocks” selection to “They inspired a stupid urban legend about Mikey the Life Cereal kid dying from soda and Pop Rocks.”


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