Facebook Twitter

The 35 best Christmas toys of all time

SHARE The 35 best Christmas toys of all time
The Teddy Bear.

The Teddy Bear.

Deseret News Archives

From a Red Ryder BB gun to Beanie Babies to a Nintendo Wii, history has shown that the most popular toy was the only toy to give your kids on Christmas.

With timelessness, fun and imagination, these toys have proven that there isn’t a Christmas unless there’s a hot toy on sale. Let’s take a walk down Christmas toy memory lane decade-by-decade all the way back from the 1910s to now.


Teddy Bear

One of the classics that’s still a popular toy with kids today, the Teddy Bear has certainly stood the test of time. From the Paddington Bear to today’s Build-a-Bear Workshop, this is one Christmas toy fad that isn’t going away ever.

Fun Fact: This toy was inspired by an incident in which President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a black bear named Morris Michtom, hence it was named the “Teddy” bear.


The Yo-Yo

Like the Teddy Bear, the Yo-Yo is still a popular toy today. Founded in 1928 by Philippine-born Pedro Flores, the Yo-Yo was first sold to children in Los Angeles. Within a year, Flores’ company was producing 300,000 Yo-Yos.

Fun Fact: The craze of the Yo-Yo, called the “Wonder Toy,” sparked the now well-known Yo-Yo trick contests all over America.

Tinker Toys

Based on the popular Erector Sets of the 1910s, Tinker Toys were made specifically for young children whose hands were too small for Erector Sets.

Fun Fact: These toys were the precursor to today’s K’Nex, the modern Tinker Toys.

Raggedy Ann

The popular red-headed doll is the perfect ode to nostalgia and is still found in people’s homes today. Created by newspaper cartoonist Johnny Gruelle, this classic doll also has her own series of books.

Fun Fact: The original Raggedy Ann doll was made for Gruelle’s daughter.


Shirley Temple doll

Based on Hollywood’s most popular child movie star of the 1930s, Shirley Temple was the first celebrity to have her own doll … at only 6 years old. Within seven years of its introduction, Ideal, the company that made these dolls, garnered a reported $45 million in sales.

Fun Fact: This doll cost $2 to $6 in 1934 but costs over $1,500 today on eBay.

Red Ryder BB gun

Made famous by the character Ralphie in the classic 1983 film “A Christmas Story,” shooting a Red Ryder BB gun was every boy’s dream. The toy was named after a fictional character named Red Ryder and was fashioned after the popular Winchester rifles. Just don’t forget to warn your kid not to “shoot their eye out!”

Fun Fact: It’s still one of the most popular BB guns on sale in America.


Who knew that 80 feet of wire coiled into a 2-inch spiral would become so popular? Created by mechanical engineer Richard James, the cheap and fun toy got its big break during Christmas 1945 and even still today, “Everyone knows it’s Slinky!”

Fun Fact: The Slinky was an accident and was created as a toy after James knocked over one of his sensitive springs made for ships and he watched it “walk” down from its spot instead of falling.


One of the most popular toys in history, LEGOs started in Denmark in 1949 and the small bricks allowed children to build their imaginations into reality. LEGO, which means “play well” in Danish, still endures today, with popular models including sets connected with the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises. “Legoland” theme parks exist all over the world, with parks in California, Florida, and in the toy’s home country of Denmark, among other places.

Fun Fact: As of 2011, LEGO had produced enough bricks so that there were 52 bricks for each person on the entire planet.


Hula Hoop

An iconic symbol of the 1950s, the Hula Hoop was created in 1958 by Wham-O toy company founders Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin. The toy made of 40 inches of colorful tubing became a craze with teenagers and 25 million were sold within four months of its introduction.

Fun Fact: The Hula Hoop is still a popular toy, but is also used for fitness classes. You can even hire a personal Hula Hoop trainer.

Mr. Potato Head

Before being featured as one of the main characters in the popular “Toy Story” movie franchise, Mr. Potato Head was invented by George Learner and was marketed by the future founders of Hasbro Inc. The toy was originally created by Learner to get kids to start liking vegetables.

Fun Fact: It was the first toy to have its own TV commercial in 1952 with the catchphrases, “Can I have that?! I want that!”


Every little girl’s favorite toy, the Barbie doll was introduced to the world in 1959 by Ruth Handler. Based and named after her daughter, Handler created a world that every girl yearned to be a part of. If the doll wasn’t enough, the introduction of the Barbie Dream House was at the top of every little girl’s Christmas wish list in the 1960s.

Fun Fact: The first Barbie dolls were first available in 1959 as blonde or brunette and they wore black-and-white striped swimsuits.


Etch A Sketch

The magic drawing toy was first introduced in 1959 at the International Toy Fair in Germany, but it flopped. The toy’s inventor, Frenchman Arthur Granjean, then sold it to The Ohio Art Co. in America in the 1960s and it became a hit.

Fun Fact: Creating a drawing on the magic toy includes the usage of aluminum powder, tiny plastic beads, and a stylus behind the gray screen that are controlled by the white plastic knobs on the front.

G.I. Joe

At the dawn of the Cold War, a new action figure was born in the form of G.I. Joe (Government Issued Joe). Tough and manly, G.I. Joe was to boys what Barbie was to girls. The first action figures that were available were Action Soldier, Pilot, Marine and Sailor.

Fun Fact: Along with action figures, G.I. Joe can also be seen in comics, a television series, a video game and his own feature-length film.

Easy-Bake Oven

For all of the kids who wanted to bake just like their parents, the Easy-Bake Oven was the perfect toy. A miniature oven and simple recipes made it easy for kids to bake cakes, cookies, and brownies all on their own.

Fun Fact: Today’s Easy-Bake Ovens come with a heating element, cake mix and miniature pans.

Rock-em Sock’em Robots

Introduced in 1964, two robots battle it out in a boxing ring that are controlled by two people with joysticks until one of the robots’ heads pop up. What more could kids ask for?

Fun Fact: The red robot is called the “Red Rocker” and the blue robot is called the “Blue Bomber.”


Speak and Spell

For the parents who wanted their kids to have perfect spelling and grammar when they got older, this toy was the ideal gift. Featuring a speech synthesizer, a keyboard, LCD screen and an expansion port for cartridges to play games, this educational toy was a peek into the future.

Fun Fact: An ancestor of today’s LeapPad toys, the Speak and Spell was the first handheld electronic toy and was created by Texas Instruments, the company most well-known for its calculators.


Pong was one of the first arcade video games. Using 2D graphics, Pong became the most popular game of the 1975 holiday season with sales of $40 million for the year. That’s pretty good for a video game where you watch two lines on a TV screen juggle a ball.

Fun Fact: There are over 119 works of fan fiction about Pong and there’s an open source game called Pong that allows a player to move a bat with the player’s eye, making it easier for people with severe physical disabilities to play the game.


Rubik’s Cube

There’s sheer joy that you feel when you successfully unscramble those colored squares. This challenging toy was introduced to the U.S. in 1980 and immediately became one of the most popular toys of the decade.

Fun Fact: International competitions are held annually for solving Rubik’s Cubes.

My Little Pony

Like Barbie, My Little Pony became the favorite toy of every little girl when it was released in 1982. Available in a rainbow of colors and with cute and special emblems on them, My Little Pony was a hit and led to a film and a TV series.

Fun Fact: Adults who are a part of today’s My Little Pony fandom are called “Bronies.”

Cabbage Patch Kids

Absolutely adorable and with the cutest name ever, Cabbage Patch Kids became the hottest toy of 1983 and 3 million were sold by New Year’s Day in 1984. The craziness behind getting a Cabbage Patch Kid inspired the 1996 holiday movie “Jingle All the Way,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the dolls have also made the cover of Newsweek.

Fun Fact: There’s a museum devoted to these dolls called the Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia.

Polly Pocket

Like teeny Barbies in a teeny Barbie world, Polly Pocket was cute, creative and fun. The very small figures that came with a “Pollyville” were easy to lose, but still worth the enjoyment.

Fun Fact: Polly Pocket cases were meant to mimic a mom’s makeup bag and were therefore tiny and easy to carry.


Before the blockbuster movies of the 2000s, Transformers were basically the coolest toys ever in the 1980s. Based on similar toys made in Japan, boys had the choice to be Autobots or Decepticons in a battle of huge and powerful machine robots. Who wouldn’t want to be Optimus Prime, but really though?

Fun Fact: Transformers were also known as the “little boy’s Cabbage Patch.”


Another ancestor of today’s video game consoles, Nintendo took the world by storm when it was released in 1988. With popular games like Super Mario Bros. 2 and the classic Pac-Man, Nintendo revenue during the year of its release totaled $1.7 billion.

Fun Fact: Nintendo’s biggest rival was the Sega video game system, which is best known for its character Sonic the Hedgehog.


Game Boy

Nintendo wasn’t only holding down the console game, but the handheld console game as well. Being easy to carry and with addicting games like Tetris and The Amazing Spider-Man, Game Boy has become the top-selling game of all time. Although there are many types of Game Boy consoles out today, the gray-and-white block was the original classic.

Fun Fact: Game Boy is the longest running dynasty in the video game business and there are products dedicated to the console, including Halloween costumes, wallets and handmade dresses.

Beanie Babies

With a variety of small bean-stuffed animals with cute red heart tags and equally cute names, Beanie Babies became an obsession in the 1990s and rare collector items after their popularity declined.

Fun Fact: Beanie Babies have their own magazine called Mary Beth’s Beanie World Magazine and the toys were relaunched after popular demand in 2000.

Tickle Me Elmo

Like the craziness behind Cabbage Patch Kids in the 1990s, going to a toy store and getting a Tickle Me Elmo in December 1996 was a full-on battle royal with mobs of people willing to pay anything to get their hands on one. Based on the popular “Sesame Street” character, the toy laughed adorably when it was squeezed. No wonder it was so sought after?

Fun Fact: The original Tickle Me Elmo toys are available online for $20.


They looked weird yet utterly adorable at the same time and Christmas 1998 was the peak time for Furby mania. A furry creature with huge owl-like eyes that came in an array of colors and spoke “Furbish,” more than 40 million of them were sold in its first three years.

Fun Fact: The “Furbish” language is composed of 200 Furbish and English words, including “I love you.”


It’s a horrible moment when your Tamagotchi dies in the middle of the night, the worst. This handheld digital pet in a colorful egg with a keychain is derived from Japan and was literally your child in that you fed it, entertained it and helped it go to the bathroom.

Fun Fact: The toy was banned in Greenville Elementary School in Edgemont, New York, after third-graders would periodically stop during standardized testing to feed their Tamagotchis.


Razor scooters

What could be better than being a kid and having the ability to go (almost) everywhere? Being both under $100 and compact, the Razor scooter became the hottest Christmas toy of 2000, and 1 million were sold that year.

Fun Fact: Owen Wilson’s supermodel character in the movie “Zoolander,” Hansel, uses a Razor scooter.


Dubbed the “anti-Barbies,” Bratz dolls were deemed too sexy for little girls to play with when they were released in 2001, but unlike the original Barbie dolls, these were multi-ethnic. The four main characters, Cloe, Jade, Yasmin and Sasha, became a hit and sold 125 million in the toy’s first five years.

Fun Fact: Mattel’s “MyScene” dolls were apparently modeled after these dolls, which are made by MGA Entertainment.

Zhu Zhu pets

Both affordable (at less than $10) and adorable, Zhu Zhu pets were the hottest Christmas toy of 2009. With cute names like Mr. Squiggles and PipSqueak and the ability to coo and snuggle, it’s no wonder that the robotic hamsters totaled $70 million in sales in their debut year.

Fun Fact: There’s a “Zhu-niverse” that includes Zhu Zhu puppies, babies and ninja-fighters.

Xbox 360

When the Xbox 360 came out in 2005, its toughest competition was Sony’s Playstation 3. Microsoft and Bill Gates didn’t disappoint eager gamers. The console featured Xbox Live that allowed users to play against other people online and watch TV shows, and it also had other services like Netflix.

Fun Fact: The Xbox 360 came out in 36 countries in its debut year, more than any other console in video game history.

Nintendo Wii

Nintendo remained present in the 2000s with the innovative and revolutionary Wii. With 3D motion detection and a motion-sensitive controller, it was the hottest Christmas toy in its debut year in 2006.

Fun Fact: More Nintendo Wii consoles sold in the first half of 2007 than Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 combined. Game. Set. Match. Nintendo.

Playstation 3

With competition like the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii, the Sony Playstation 3 stepped up to the plate with online gaming service, multimedia storage and the ability to play music and movies and browse through photos.

Fun Fact: The world’s 33rd largest supercomputer is made up of 1,760 connected Playstation 3 consoles.

iPod Touch

Besides the iPhone itself, the iPod Touch helped steer kids and teenagers away from toys and video games and towards the powerful Apple empire. A music player that eclipsed previous iPod models, the Touch became a hit at $299.

Fun Fact: A woman in Kentucky sued Apple for $225,000 in 2009 after her son’s iPod Touch exploded in his pants and lit his underwear on fire.