All the Weird Toys From Your Childhood

Tim Urban - WaitButWhy.com
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I don't know you. I don't know where you're from or what you look like or how old you are. You might be a judge or a cook or a priest or a clown. I don't know. But what I'm pretty sure about is that at one point or another, you've been involved with most of the toys below. It's just one of those things that we all have in common.

Let's go through them.


Toy: The Sticky Hand

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 7
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 week
Downside: Gets dirty and loses stickiness; unclear exactly what you're supposed to do with it; the torture of not being able to eat it
Overall rating: 7/10

Comments: Odd that someone ever just decided to invent these, but I'm pleased that it happened. I may also like these more than most people do.


Toy: The Slinky

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 4
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 month; recurring obsession
Downside: Inevitable tangling
Overall rating: 6/10

Comments: A new slinky ends up in my life once every two or three years. They're great in theory, but always a little disappointing in practice.

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Toy: The Thing With All the Pins

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 9

Amount of time before I became bored with it: 4 minutes
Downside: Putting it against your face is a somewhat violating life experience
Overall rating: 5/10

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Comments: Creative invention, but has limits. After I've done all the normal things I end up in a fairly dark place doing weird unfun things like pushing all the pins up together with my palm or pushing just a few edge pins up with my finger.


Toy: The Snap Bracelet

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 11
Amount of time before I became bored with it: A week and a half
Downside: They hurt a lot
Overall rating: 4/10

Comments: You remember this whole thing, right? They're a fidget toy more than anything, but in a spastic, stressful way. Not much room for nuance with a snap bracelet.

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Toy: The Bead Thing in the Dentist's Office

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 4
Amount of time before I became bored with it: When it was time to see the dentist
Downside: It kind of sucks
Overall rating: 4/10

Comments: These things leave you with a sense of longing and the dread of pointlessness. It's designed to mesmerize kids in a way where the kid is aware that it's not worthy of mesmerization but is helpless to stop and do other things. Like sudoku for children.

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Toy: Devil Sticks

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 15
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 2 months
Downside: It's not a cool thing to be good at
Overall rating: 6/10

Comments: My friend got these when I was 15 and I became obsessed with them for a period of time. Devil Sticks as an activity is one of the few things that really understands a pubescent 15-year-old boy, and vice versa.

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Toy: The Ball and Cup

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 12
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 20 minutes
Downside: It leaves you feeling inadequate and irate
Overall rating: 3/10

Comments: The kind of toy your dad used to play with in 1957.


Toy: The Hanging Ball Thing

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 6

Amount of time before I became bored with it: 3 months; recurring obsession
Downside: Not much
Overall rating: 8.5/10

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Comments: A delightful contraption. The only bad thing is that cheap ones suck and most people have cheap ones.


Toy: This Thing

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 1
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 second
Downside: It's not fun
Overall rating: 2/10

Comments: For some reason, playing with this thing is a requirement of being 1, even though it's groundbreakingly underwhelming.

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Toy: Magnets in General

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 3
Amount of time before I became bored with it: Never
Downside: It can be frustrating when you can't get repelling magnets to touch; after awhile the smooth coating wears off and the underlying rough metal seeps into your skin
Overall rating: 9/10

Comments: The fidgeter's best friend.


Toy: The Floating Globe

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 45 seconds ago

Amount of time before I became bored with it: N/A

Downside: None I could imagine
Overall rating: 10/10?

Comments: I've never owned one of these, but came across this picture while searching for a picture of magnets. I've never laid eyes on something I've wanted as badly as I want this.

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Toy: The Doll

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 5

Amount of time before I became bored with it: When my dad took it away
Downside: There's not really any way to play with them, you just kind of spend time with them
Overall rating: 3/10

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Comments: The only way I've found to engage a doll is to swivel it up and down and watch the eye ball stay where it is. Also, searching for this photo led me to a Google Images search for "old doll" and I had to turn all the lights on and watch a sitcom for 20 minutes before my sense of self returned. What the hell.


Toy: The Super Soaker

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 11
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 year
Downside: Someone always has a radder and more expensive one than you
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Comments: Teenagers need to enjoy these while they can, because there's no endearing way to use one of them as an adult.

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Toy: The Yo-Yo

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 7
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 week; recurring obsession
Downside: The string gets twisted and then you have to stand there and let it spin itself untwisted while your limited time on this earth diminishes
Overall rating: 5.5/10

Comments: Yo-yos have their place, but bouncing them down and up quickly becomes meaningless, and yo-yo tricks just don't look very fun to do, so the hobby becomes unsustainable.

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Toy: The Balancing Man

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 8
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 3 months
Downside: The possibilities are limited
Overall rating: 7/10

Comments: My grandfather gave me one of these when I was 8, and my fascination bubbled over. Still not really sure how he just stands there and balances.

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Toy: The Paper Clip

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 4
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 10 minutes; recurring obsession
Downside: The effort required to make one completely and perfectly straight isn't worth the payoff
Overall rating: 4/10

Comments: I'll resort to the paper clip as a fidget toy when options are scarce, but it's not a great situation.

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Toy: Legos

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Age when I became obsessed with it: Never
Amount of time before I became bored with it: Immediately
Downside: They're not fun at all
Overall rating: 1/10

Comments: I've never understood the lego fetish. What the hell is fun about putting dumb legos together?

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Toy: The Etch A Sketch

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 10

Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 minute; recurring obsession
Downside: Everything you draw on it is horrible
Overall rating: 2/10

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Comments: An overrated toy. Who has ever had fun on an Etch A Sketch? Somehow though, it always ropes me back in.


Toy: The Far Flying Football

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 10
Amount of time before I became bored with it: Until I lost it
Downside: They give you false perceptions about your athletic ability
Overall rating: 8/10

Comments: Never in any other situation will I be able to throw a football 70 yards. Similar appeal to the delicious Aerobie.

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Toy: The Little Absurd Dog

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 13
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 3 months; recurring obsession
Downside: I'm allergic to them; they expire
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Comments: Given my track record of quickly getting over toys, I'd be well-advised to avoid buying one of these. Tempting though.

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Toy: Metal Puzzles

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 7
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 1 terrible hour
Downside: They're upsetting and they lower your self-esteem
Overall rating: 3/10

Comments: We needn't discuss this further.


Toy: The Rubik's Cube

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 21
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 2 weeks
Downside: The guilt you feel when people call you a genius because you solved it even though you used instructions and just did what they told you to do
Overall rating: 8/10

Comments: Um


Toy: The Woodpecker on a Pole

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 13
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 2 days
Downside: The woodpecker has very few facets to his personality
Overall rating: 5/10

Comments: Though delightful initially, playing with this is a passive and ultimately empty experience.

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Toy: Stretch Armstrong

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 12

Amount of time before I became bored with it: 3 years
Downside: It breaks eventually, and the stuff comes out
Overall rating: 8/10

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Comments: That's right. 3 years. I had a phase.


Toy: Silly Putty

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Age when I became obsessed with it: 6
Amount of time before I became bored with it: 2 weeks; recurring obsession
Downside: It eventually becomes disgusting
Overall rating: 9/10

Comments: The rating is so high because I'm currently in the heat of one of my sporadic silly putty flings. A fidgeting masterpiece only paralleled by magnets.

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