Toys from the 1960s-1970s That Would Never Pass Modern Safety Tests … or Are Just Too Lame for Today’s Kids

Toy Memories

With Christmas just around the corner and millions of kids eagerly waiting to open presents, I thought it was a good time to look back at a few toys of the past. Considering the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) didn’t exist before 1972, late Baby Boomers got away with playing with a lot of toys in the 1960s-early 1970s that would never pass muster today. Some of these were toys I blogged about when I was waxing nostalgic for the Sears Wish Book of my youth. Kids who have been playing computer games since they were in diapers, with all sorts of other high-tech toys at their disposal, would likely turn up their noses at a few beloved toys of yesteryear.


That Elusive Schwinn Sting-Ray

Without a doubt, the most dangerous toy of the 1960s-1970s was not a toy at all, but a bicycle. And biking continues to be a dangerous activity, but at least far more kids are wearing helmets now. Still, according to the CPSC, there were 276,425 children 18 and younger treated for bicycle-related injuries at U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2012. I cannot remember anyone wearing a bike helmet when I was a kid and somehow my friends and I all escaped with minor injuries. It’s not that we were more resilient or had harder skulls – it’s because no injury surveillance systems were in place monitoring these injuries. Deadly biking accidents weren’t publicized and if any prevention organizations existed, they certainly weren’t as active as they are today.

My friend Myra once fell off her bike and suffered some bad scrapes on both knees and an elbow. And I had an incident with younger boys in the neighborhood chasing me on their bikes and trying to knock me off mine. I was wearing flip-flops (I know, really brilliant), and when one of them grazed my bike, I naturally put my feet down and scraped the skin off all of my toes.

I always loved biking and still do, but I will not ride without a helmet. Damn, I still bemoan the fact that my parents wouldn’t buy me that cool Schwinn Sting-Ray with a glittery metallic banana seat and handlebar streamers.

Dexterity Toys

Dangerous Acrylic Balls

Clackers (also called Ker-Bangers, Klackers, Click Clacks, Klik Klaks, Klappers, Zonkers) were a simplistic toy that enjoyed some popularity in the late 1960s-early 1970s. Two colorful acrylic spheres measuring about 2 inches in diameter were suspended from two strings. Kids, including your truly, would get their jollies (mainly during school recess) by swinging them up and down so they banged against each other, making a clacking sound. Clackers were discontinued when reports came out about kids incurring injuries while playing with them. The balls were fairly heavy and could move rather fast, sometimes leading to the acrylic shattering or hitting kids in the face. While there were far more dangerous toys, the concept of these is pretty lame and I don’t think today’s techno savvy, iPhone-toting kids would give them much thought.

The Footsie

The Footsie toy, while relatively benign, certainly must have led to some falls on the playground, which back in my day was blacktop or cement. One version of this toy had a red bell-shaped object (that jingled inside) tied to a 2-foot plastic cord with a large yellow plastic ring on one end. With the Footsie ring on your ankle, you jumped over the cord and ball as it swung around. This activity could potentially cause you or nearby kids to trip and fall down. Popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I remember having several of these toys in the third or fourth grade. On a positive note, at least this toy encouraged physical activity, but I think today’s kids would say, meh!


This toy really doesn’t fit into the unsafe or lame category, but I had to include it because it was briefly one of my favorites. The Op-Yop consisted of two plastic, multicolored discs with a string running through and between them. When the string was pulled together, the discs moved apart and then clapped together with a loud noise. If you got this thing moving really fast, it made a whirring noise. Manufactured by Kramer Designs, more than 2 million units of Op-Yop sold in 1968 before it was relegated to toy heaven … or was it? I just discovered a company in Michigan revived this toy in 2010 and they are available online. I wonder if today’s kids really enjoy this as much as we did – perhaps late Baby Boomers are the primary customers.

Molding Toys

Mattel Thingmaker

The concept of the Thingmaker was first introduced in 1963, as an extension of Mattel’s “Vac-U-Maker” line. Thingmaker Creepy Crawlers by Mattel was by far my absolute favorite toy as a kid and I got my first one in 1968. I spent hours in my room playing with this and spilling plastic goop on my carpet. I loved overfilling the metal molds just slightly so I could peel off the excess. I burned myself more than a few times and have the scars to show. I also had Creeple People and Incredible Edibles, but neither of these was as cool as the original Thingmaker. I cannot believe I played with this toy totally unsupervised starting at the age of 10!

There have been several revivals of the Thingmaker – the first in 1978 was called the Thingmaker II and employed safer technology. This toy used a totally different type of goop and plastic molds, into which the heated Plastigoop was poured. The reformulated Plastigoop did not work well, the bugs and insects were shoddy, and the process was painfully slow, so it went kaput fairly quickly. In 1992, ToyMax reintroduced the Thingmaker with much stricter safety regulations. This new version of the Creepy Crawlers set once again used metal molds and a goop similar to the original. ToyMax went out of business around 2002, and yet another company, Jakks Pacific started producing a similar toy starting in 2006.

Mattel Vac-u-Form

The Vac-u-Form, also called Vac-u-Former, was a toy manufactured by Mattel in the 1960s. Using an industrial process called vacuum forming, a rectangular piece of plastic was clamped in a holder and heated over a metal plate. After the plastic softened, the holder was moved to the other side, over a mold of the object to be formed. Pressing a handle on the side of the unit created a vacuum, which caused the plastic to be sucked down over the mold and form a shape. When the plastic cooled it solidified, creating a little model of the item, such as a car, boat, or tiny log cabin. There is no way this toy would pass muster today because the surfaces were quite hot and children could easily burn themselves.

Outdoor Toys

Slip 'N Slide

In 1961, Wham-O introduced the original Slip ’N Slide®, which quickly became a popular summer favorite among kids around the world. The toy was a long sheet of thin plastic with a lengthwise heat-sealed tubular fold running down one side. The tube could be attached to any ordinary garden hose so water would project down the surface and create a slippery surface. The biggest problem with this toy is that it didn’t have any real padding, so kids and adults were basically hurling themselves onto a thin piece of plastic over pretty hard grass. I remember that we had one of these, albeit briefly, and my kid sister skinned her chin when she overshot the end of the plastic. Between 1973 and 1991, seven adults and one teenager reported injuries suffered while using Slip ‘N Slides including neck injuries, bone fractures, quadriplegia, and paraplegia.

The Slip ‘N Slide and related products attained sales of more than 9 million units from 1961 through 1992. The product is intended for children, not adults. According to the 1993 CPSC recall, “Because of their weight and height, adults and teenagers who dive onto the water slide may hit and abruptly stop in such a way that could cause permanent spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia or paraplegia. The slider’s forward momentum drives the body into the neck and compresses the spinal cord.”

Hedstrom Whirly Bird

My friend Joan absolutely loved this wondrous backyard toy and we would play on it endlessly during the summer. The Whirly-Bird was manufactured by Hedstrom and we had the four-seat version. Our Whirly Bird was predominately white and red. You sat in the seat and put your feet on a bar below. There was a handle in front that you would pull towards you and then push towards the person sitting across from you to make the Whirly-Bird spin. It was made out of painted metal and was raised from the ground like a merry-go-round. The faster you pushed and pulled the bar, the faster it would spin. I remember that we spun so fast that the entire thing lifted up off the ground. A kid could have easily fallen off and gotten whacked in the head as the thing was still spinning around. Our Whirly-Bird eventually rusted out and my parents tossed it, much to our dismay, as well as Joan’s.

Craft Kits


Introduced in the 1960s, super Mod Dip-a-Flower kits were a colorful and crafty kit. I had one of these and lost interest after using it a couple of times. According to the manufacturer, you could make magnificent glass-like, transparent floral bouquets with soft wire and pre-colored formula. The mixture would dry in minutes without heat. I remember it was very messy and the sharp wire poked out of the ends of the stems. I cannot imagine the liquid was safe – it likely contained some noxious ingredients.

I cannot believe I had a resin pouring kit when I was 10 or 11. Making resin casts is a fun and popular craft project that can be done at home. A resin cast is formed when resin and a chemical catalyst are combined to form a hard, plastic-like material. These casts can be customized by pouring resin into molds, adding colors, and embedding items to make paperweights and keychains, among other things. I know my kit was from the Sears Wish Book and I made a paperweight with a silver Mexican coin. I didn’t like the results because little air bubbles formed and even back then, I was a perfectionist when it came to arts and crafts projects. I didn’t wear a mask or gloves and the 2-part resin mixture was highly toxic. These kits are still available today, but are recommended for adults or older kids with adult supervision – and a respirator, gloves, and eye protection.

Tin Toys

Chein Roller Coaster

When I turned 6, I scored the mother of all S&H green stamps toys when my mom redeemed an enormous number of books at Wieboldt’s for an awesome Chein tin toy roller coaster. This toy never worked correctly and it wound up in the back of my closet. In retrospect, I cannot believe I was allowed to play with a tin toy with sharp edges, not to mention the paint likely contained lead. Nevertheless, I wish I had it now, but all I have is a film my dad shot of that birthday and the little roller coaster cars not staying on the track!

Marx Dollhouse

From the 1940s-1960s, lithographed metal dollhouses were the dream of many a child. Steel dollhouses were first introduced around 1948 and dominated the 1950s decade, continuing into the 1960s, before being replaced with plastic or wood. Louis Marx was among the manufacturers of these super cool steel houses. Nearly all of the examples I have seen have extremely sharp edges that would never pass CPSC standards today. Not to mention the fact some of the accessories were also made of metal and there were many tiny parts that presented a choking hazard for younger children.

Hope your holiday is filled with many a delight. Cheers for a happy, healthy, and toy-filled 2014!


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  2. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My brothers and I had most of these in the 60’s and we survived to tell about it.

  3. We had a backyard roller coaster set from Montgomery Ward. It was little more than a tubular slide set. The tubes slipped over one another and one climbed to the top of the slide, and sat on a cart with wheels that were molded to ride the tubes.

    You pushed a release and down you went, all of five or six feet at a gentle slide angle. You rolled on for another five feet before encountering two small bumps that slowed you down before you rolled off into the grass.

    I’ve looked like crazy, but have never found this toy on any website.

    The Slip & Slide and Water Wiggle were 60’s toys we remember. The simplest and the one we had the most fun with was a basic water sprinkler on a hollow tube, with a stake that you pushed into the ground. It attached to a water hose and when turned on, allowed you to run around underneath the falling water. Simpler times!

    • I have been looking for any evidence for that roller coaster toy for years and your comment is the first one that verifies that my own backyard roller coaster was sold somewhere in the US back then.

      I have no idea where my folk’s got ours but we lived in Greenwich, Connecticut at the time, and they probably bought it in 1962 maybe.

      This is what I told someone about it on Facebook recently:

      “It was about the same size as a medium sized metal slide and instead had tubular rails and a little single-rider car which rode in the tracks. It dropped about 6 feet then went over a little hill and then the track ended but the wheels were rubber with flanges inside the rubber tires to ride on the tubular rails.

      The design was just like a metal slide with the steps up and the cart latched at the top while the rider climbed aboard and then you pulled the handle and off you went. You would ride the thing and then continue on across the driveway at-speed and onto the lawn to stop.

      I was in KG and 1st grade when we lived in Greenwich and when we moved to metro Detroit during the summer of 1964 my folks sold it to someone there rather than moving it. I sure wish that I could find some photos of one or know who the company was that built it.

      So Montgomery Wards sold it eh?

      • Here is a link to a plastic version of the same thing that Walmart used to sell, but this one is only 40 inches tall, and I am quite certain that the metal/tubular rail version in the 1960s was 5-6 feet tall. This one doesn’t have the little hill(s) in the track after the first drop either.

      • That was it………Montgomery Wards. The tubing was orange if memory serves and it we had one at our new home after February of 1967. I’m surprised that it did not come with more tubing, as it probably could have rolled for ten to twenty feet. We’d end up in the grass and that was the end of the ride.

        Some of the better antique towns have issues of the old catalogs from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. I hope to visit Granbury Texas some day to look for one of those catalogs.

        I’ll check in if I find something. Thanks for writing!

      • The backyard roller coaster was originally designed and manufactured by BLAZON Corp in my small hometown of Jamestown, PA. The Original Whirly Bird, Two Seat and Four Seat Models where also Invented and made here along with many, many other back yard toys and swing sets and including the Original Snow Dish ( of Hollywood Movie fame ) and Snow Wing sleds. They also designed and built indoor toys like the War Cloud Spring Mounted Rocking Horse and the Skipsy Doodle Teeter Totter

        • Chip, thank you for your post – I had all three. The roller coaster, teeter totter thing and the whirly bird!! I think my Dad (Parents) had just as much fun watching me play on these with my friends…yet now I think WOW, how dangerous!! I told some friends about these things and they think I made them up!! Until one of them went home, jumped on the computer and found it posted…so thank you for your post and this site, reliving my childhood!!!

          • Lisa J Beckman

            Pam – Isn’t it fun to see these relics of our childhood. I also had the coaster, the whirlybird, teeter totter, jungle gym, and a huge hill in the backyard. I don’t remember anyone getting hurt, do you?

            Also, no kidding, I had the Marx doll house which I just bought on eBay for my girls, the footsie, the stingrays (with streamers). I made creepy crawlers and was addicted to the dip-a-flower set. I made a beautiful poinsettia bouquet for my mom.

        • I am so happy to see the comments and the old toys on here. I have been trying to tell my son and other people about the whirlybird. Problem was I couldn’t remember the name of it and I was just describing it as something that had four seats and you would sit on it and push and pull and it would go really fast. People looked at me like I was crazy. I loved that thing. I think I had the teeter-totter too. I never saw the roller coaster, however, that sounds like it would have been fun. Well, although I loved all these things, I would probably never put my grandkids on them. I don’t know though, the whirlybird never seemed dangerous to me, but I’m sure it was. Thank you.

      • I was so excited to read comments about the roller coaster. I got mine in about 1960. It was part of a swing set and was on one end just like the sliding boards were. The car had a little tractor seat, your legs were bent with knees up and little handles on either side. I had one and thought it was the greatest. Of course, placement was crucial. You wanted your ride to continue as long as possible down the driveway, which as someone mentioned, was a good deal. No one I know has ever seen or heard of such a thing and I have searched for a picture, to no avail. My new search will be for an old catalog.

        • My best friend had one, and also a four-seater Whirly Bird. I recall the tubular tracks being a dull orange color, with a total drop of about five feet, and one good “hill” after the initial shallow drop, before the flat run-out. No one else that I’ve talked to has ever heard of such a thing and some people insist I must have dreamed it.

        • Diana Anderson.

          We had one when I was a kid – a swing set with a roller coaster on the side.

        • I too had this roller coaster and it was great! We lived in Pennsylvania at the time and my father was an aeronautics engineer. I sometimes think he was trying to test me for the NASA program, LOL!!! He also bought me this teeter totter that was for 2 to 4 kids – you rocked it back and forth it and it would start moving all over the grass, several times we flipped the thing!! No one was hurt, but you could see where it could really do some damage. It too was made out of tubular metal…the only other thing you needed was a tether ball so you could smack someone in the face and knock their teeth out!! Those were the days, LOL!!

    • Wow – think I had the same roller coaster when I was a kid in the 1960s; even have a family movie of me riding it. It was a lot of fun, but no way it would pass modern safety standards today.

  4. Robert Jenkins

    I had or played with most of these toys. I actually had that bicycle and it was great. If you think that bicycle was good in the early 70’s we would cut the front forks off a junk bicycle and a placed the front forks on the good bike and attach the to the added forks making a chopper. It was a blast to ride and look really cool as long as the forks didn’t fall off.

    These all are great toys that taught kids how to play safely. I wish I could still get some of these today.

  5. Does anyone remember a 2 person merry go round that ran off of a garden hose ?

  6. Another great Mattel toy my brother and I had was the Strange Change Machine. It was basically a heating element covered with a plastic dome with a rotating cover. There were plastic cubes that when heated up in the chamber, opened up into monsters or dinosaurs. When you tired of them, you would heat them up again, and cram them into a little vise that compressed them back into a cube. You had to pick them up with some tongs they provided, or you would burn your fingers (as we did many times despite the tongs).This toy would never be allowed today.

    • I had this! I completely forgot about it but I’d spend hours heating those little plastic pieces and watching them unfold. They would NEVER go back to the original shape once they were uncompressed. There’s a good site here that describes it and has some awesome pictures:
      I would burn my 6-year-old fingers on that thing all the time. It would never be sold today.

  7. Creepy Crawlers was absolutely the best! Definitely my favorite childhood toy. I’m thankful I’m not a parent since I absolutely can’t stomach the insanely overprotective style of parenting nowadays. Heck – style? It’s practically the law with parents getting hassled by cops for allowing kids to do everyday normal things like play unattended or walk unaccompanied in the city.

  8. That’s pretty much what we had. Our coaster toy just went down, like a slide chute, and then had two raised “bumps” on the ground. After that, you rolled into the grass.

    I always wondered if there was an extension of ladder track available, to make the ride last a little longer. One of these days I’ll find the Montgomery Ward catalog that had this advertised.

    Thank you so much!

    Robert Jaye

  9. Egon haslebacher

    In the 50s/60s in Germany we had plastic figures of ships, trains, cars, etc., about 40 mm in height and wide and and about 5 km thick. The came in small packets of puffed rice. They were whitish in colour on a flat bottom, any idea were they came from?

    Please let me know,


  10. Well if kids today had an imagination these totally awesome toys would not be lame!

  11. Best toys in the world. Lol – that is why we are very resilient today! (us old folks) 🙂

  12. Does anyone remember a toy that you sat in and rocked forward and backward until it went head over heels? It was made of a round, tubular metal frame (like a wheel with a seat built inside), white I think, with red lettering. You could really get it going, over and over very fast. We had one in my kindergarten class until someone fell out and got hurt. There was no seat belt or restraints of any kind. You just held on and stayed in place by centrifugal force!! Great fun. Ridiculously dangerous!!

  13. Dip-a-Flower first came out in the mid 1960s, probably around 1966 or 1967.

  14. Back in the late ’60s or early 70’s, I had a helicopter toy that ran along a twine that was strung around the room. I haven’t been able to find any information about this toy since.

  15. I still have the original 4-seater Whirly Bird riding toy and am wondering if anyone can direct me to an owners manual? It needs some fine tuning, but is a great workout! LOL

  16. I remember a lot of those toys. The slip ‘n slide which would leave you with scabs from hitting the slide when there were rocks underneath them. I remember the tissue was white, but it didn’t matter – you just kept going. The click clacks that left you with bruises on your knuckles and wrists and arms, not to mention your head once in a while … LOL. The metal doll house which I had. Those punch me’s were fun too. Also, the candy cigarettes you could buy at the liquor store that you could puff, and powder smoke would come out. I would not give up one thing from those days. There was that water wiggle too – we had that one. And even though we would get bruised and scabbed, we never said anything to our parents cause we wanted our toys … so we would just take the pounding and keep playing with them. Maybe back then we made kids that took a beating and kept coming back. Now they put children on this ridiculous level where people are afraid of punishing them or kids’ rights. I recall there was a lot less violence and no gang activity way back then, and I grew up in Orange County, CA. I loved it back then… 🙂


    How about the wood burning set! Damn that was dangerous, but the burning wood smell lives on in my memory!

    • I had the wood burning set too. Do you remember the name of it. I’ve been trying to find it online for years and I can’t find it. Thanks!

  18. Teri Hargrave

    I had something like Dip-a-Flower, think it was called Flower Drops, used it once, hated the smell of the liquid used to form the flower “skin”. Don’t like to think what was in it!

    • Love the memories. Did you ever come across something called the Doozy Wheel? It was a swing seat but one child climbed a ladder and sat on a top seat while the kid on the bottom stabilized the whole thing. The top child would lean over to start the motion and the whole thing would rotate like a Ferris Wheel, shooting the kid on the bottom to the top and around and around. One huge problem was stopping the thing. A bunch of us almost killed ourselves that summer until the whole apparatus collapsed!

  19. Wow…Clackers! We almost broke our forearms in 4th grade with those things. They were SO loud once you got them going. Eventually our school banned them, no surprise.

    SO, where are Jarts?? ;-D

  20. Wow—sure miss the good old days. I had most of these toys. Made it to adulthood, so guess overall, they weren’t as bad as today’s snowflakes make them out to be. Kids have been made into wusses because everyone is so ridiculously overprotected. So glad I grew up when I did. Great toys, great memories.

  21. These toys were great and made us learn responsibility. We seemed to have more common sense than kids today. We did not need someone always hovering over us. We learned from these toys and thus could actually function as adults as we grew older.

  22. Does anyone remember a toy in the early 60’s that was essentially a gigantic painted or enameled metal bowl? I loved that toy – 2 or 3 kids could sit in it, rock or be spun around, or hide under it. Ours was blue and that toy was used so much. Sometimes we would get under it and pretend to be turtles. I have not been able to find anyone else who remembers it, nor have I been able to find a picture.

    • I have a blue hard thick plastic seat that is roundish, made by Marx. I cannot find anything on it. I think it is used to sit on a base of some kind – we used to rock and spin on it. I don’t know what to call it, but it does have Marx embossed on it.

  23. Does anyone remember the hot mold kit that made the rubbery monster finger puppets? And one that made harder plastic feet that were pencil holders? There was a hole in the middle of two feet for your pencil. I can’t find either of these in the Thing Maker series…what was it? Thank you!

  24. Absolutely, my parents bought that for me, cannot tell you how many times we flipped it!! You could fit four people on it!! Also a four-seater round thing if you went so fast you flew off it. And then we had a tubular roller coaster at least 5 feet high. I think now my parents were trying to do me in, ?lol!! Actually I had great parents, my dad loved the stuff!! Wish I had that stuff now!!

  25. Anybody know the name of a very popular toy around 1959 which consisted of a plastic stick about waist height (for a kid) which had a small section that rotated near the bottom of it. A “rope” was attached to the rotating bit and at the other end was a plastic ball. You got the ball to spin around you and you skipped over the rope as it came around. I found some late 1960s-70s toys with a similar concept online, but they work by attaching a ring around your ankle, and did not use a handheld stick. I remember a national magazine like LIFE or LOOK came to our school in Wisconsin to photograph the kids on the playground all using them. A note was sent to parents to remind their kids to bring their sticks to school on the day of the photo shoot.

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