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From Screen to Store: The Toy Crazes Through the Decades

What Makes Kids Become Obsessed with Certain Toy Crazes and Shows?

Have you experienced that overwhelming sense of nostalgia when you see a long-forgotten toy from your childhood? Many of our best childhood memories can be tightly tied to our favourite toys, and to a time in our lives when things were simpler.

Toys that are based on movies and TV shows are often the most sought after, with many of them creating worldwide crazes. But what makes kids become obsessed with certain toys and shows?

Toys that are based on characters from the screen are already familiar to children, and the thrill of recognition is part of the learning experience. Familiar characters can be comforting for children, and whilst they know what to expect from the character, licensed toys still hold an element of surprise and newness for them. But there is also another advantage for toy manufacturers in producing toys and products that are already familiar to our children.

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘familiarity breeds affection?’ Psychologists have found that we experience greater cognitive ease when we encounter something that we recognise and feel familiar with. If we’ve seen it before it feels safe and requires less energy to process. And let’s be honest, most of us would agree that when something is easy to think about we tend to view that positively. Easy is good!

Licensed toys also give children the opportunity to bring their favourite shows to life through play. Unlike the viewing experience, toys allow children to take charge of the storyline, re-enact familiar scene scenarios or imagine their own plot developments. Through play, children are able to recreate the personas of their favourite on-screen characters, and become them in their imaginations. No wonder they’ve always proved so popular, even way back to the 1960s.

Mum Media Group (mmg) director Emma Marks, and mother of five, also notes the active role parents take in engaging in the latest toy crazes.

It is clear from our social media interactions and online discussions with parents both at Mums Lounge and Go Ask Mum that parents are often just as excited about getting their hands on certain toys as their children are. 

True classic toys are timeless.  I still keep a selection of my old toys and my daughter delights when I bring them out and we can go through them together.  So many old characters are new again and reinvented.  I love that and a lot of other parents we talk to do too. I used to watch Strawberry Shortcake or TMNT and now they are on our screens again and I can relive my childhood.  Nostalgia through toys is like a hearing a good song – it always makes you feel happy and reminds you of certain times and memories from your past.  

My position as the director of mmg enables me to follow what is hot in toy trends in Australia, and stay abreast of what toys parents and their children are getting excited about.

Some of the most popular toys tend to be the ones that involve simple but engaging elements such as fun, educational products, and toys that require children to collect different products to make a set. These products often have the added attraction of allowing children to swap with friends.

From Screen to Store: The Toy Crazes Through the Decades

Ready to take a trip down nostalgia lane with us? We’ve compiled a list of some of the toy crazes over the decades that were based on TV or cinema plus Emma’s prediction for the next toy phenomenon to take over 2016!


The Flintstones
Flintstones 1





Six Million Dollar Man (The Bionic Man)
Six Million Dollar man Bionic man 1


Star Wars

Star wars 1 


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles



Strawberry Shortcake

1 Strawberry Shortcake 1





The Simpsons




1 teletubbies_toys_2001_-_Google_Search

The Wiggles


Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig 1

Dora the Explorer

Dora the Explorer 1 


My Little Pony

My Little Pony 1
Now and then – My Little Pony was also a popular toy in the 80s. 


Spongebob Squarepants

Spongebob Squarepants


Toy Story

Toy Story 1



Frozen 2 


So What Will the Next BIG Toy Phenomenon Be?

Want to know what toy is most likely to be making it onto your child’s wish-list this year?

Emma thinks she knows exactly what the next biggest craze will be.

Yo-kai Watch is set to take Australia by storm! It is already a phenomenon in Japan (the Yo-kai Watch movie beat the Star Wars opening at the Japanese box office) and when launched in the US, it achieved a massive sell out and is in the US top toy sales lists. In fact,, there’s been more than $2 billion in retail sales of Yo-kai merchandise in 2 years!

Yo-kai Watch, the animated comedy-series, aired in Australia in December 2015, and is already attracting a wide fan base especially boys aged 4-12years. Why? In traditional Japanese folklore, Yo-kai are invisible spirits that often cause daily annoyances such as stubbing your toe, losing your homework or running late for the bus. In Yo-kai Watch the spirits resemble anything from mythical creatures to inanimate objects. The Yo-kai are loveable, maddening, comical, and most of all great fun. In Japan, the Yo-kai Jibanyan, a lazy cat who loves his friends, has already achieved superstar cult status.

Nate and his friends achieve positive outcomes by working with various Yo-kai to solve problems and overcome challenges, which are often caused by other troublemaking Yo-kai!

The world of Yo-kai Watch in Australia is not limited to the TV screen though, with recent launches of a fun range of toy products from Hasbro where the toys are based around the main character Nate’s ‘Yo-kai watch and collectible medallions.

Theres also Yo-kai Watch video game for Nintendo, the  fun and free app, Yo-kai Watch Land, plus Roadshow’s DVD of the animated series.

This year will also see the roll out of more Yo-kai Watch products and line of merchandise …yes folks Yo-Kai will be another BIG Toy Phenomenon to join the toy crazes through the decades. Who knows? Maybe it’ll even succeed it’s predecessors! Time will tell!

Emma’s Hot tip: Keep an eye out for the Nintendo 3DS game. It’s going to be HUGE!


Did you see any familiar old toys or favourite TV shows there?

Will you encourage your kids to enjoy the childhood experience of a toy craze in their decade?




Jolene enjoys writing, sharing and connecting with other like-minded women online – it also gives her the perfect excuse to ignore Mount-Washmore until it threatens to bury her family in an avalanche of Skylander T-shirts and Frozen Pyjama pants. (No one ever knows where the matching top is!) Likes: Reading, cooking, sketching, dancing (preferably with a Sav Blanc in one hand), social media, and sitting down on a toilet seat that one of her children hasn’t dripped, splashed or sprayed on. Dislikes: Writing pretentious crap about herself in online bio’s and refereeing arguments amongst her offspring.

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