Summers in the 80s were spent outside. Kids’ TV programming was still limited to early mornings or Saturdays and only the luckiest of us had video games.
Most kids did not have to be told to go outside and get some fresh air, it is what we did.
Whether in your own backyard, on the street, or at the park, there was always plenty to do, and when there wasn’t, we made our own fun.
Just as we all had our favorite action figures and dolls, we also had our favorite toys that were designed for outdoor play. While some were invented earlier and some are still popular to this day, there is no doubt they all saw their peak in the 80s.
Here is a look at some of the best summer toys of the 1980s.
Big Wheels Bikes
In 1969, Louis Marx and Company introduced a brand of tricycles known as the Big Wheel. The low-riding bicycles were entirely plastic and had a sizeable front wheel.
In the late 70s and early 80s, the Big Wheel tricycle became a popular toy in the United States and Canada. It was a safe, low-cost option that was easy to ride even for a smaller kid.
Many buyers felt that the Big Wheel bike was a better alternative than the conventional bicycle or tricycle.
With the increased popularity and massive demand for the toy, many brands quickly started designing their own versions. In the business world, it is common to develop a copy version of a popular product, especially back then.
The makers of the Big Wheel trademarked it, but in a general sense, people frequently used it as a generic name. Any design of a toy bike resembling that of Marx was as much a Big Wheel as the original.
In the early 1980s, the owner of the Marx toys sold the Company due to bankruptcy and liquidated. The Company sold the brand molds and the name of Big Wheel to Empire Plastics.
If you were an 80s kid, you will remember the fun of playing with a Skip-it. Even though it was a toy that tricked you into exercising, it was a schoolyard and neighborhood favorite back in the day.
I’m going to be honest with you, I could never skip well, but I could “Skip-it”. Using a Skip-it was just easier for me. Maybe because I only had to worry about one foot and no hands? I don’t know.
I remember the originals used to have an unnecessarily large end with a counter on it. We used to make our own with some rope and a tennis ball.
Jump rope was always popular and is still a schoolyard staple to this day. Sadly the Skip-it is not. Perhaps it just lost out to the simplicity, size, and versatility of regular skipping rope.
Water guns have been around for ages but in the 1980s we got the Super Soaker. They changed the way we think of water guns and they are still popular even today.
Super Soaker is a water gun that utilizes manually pressurized air to shoot water with robust accuracy, power, and range. The precision of the water shot is better than other ordinary squirt pistols.
Over time, there have been many updated versions of the Super Soaker. But all reincarnations mostly rely on the same pressurized pump system as the original. I remember having a dual-chamber super soaker that was so big it came with a shoulder strap and carrying handle.
No matter how many versions they make, the most popular is still the classic Super Soaker 50 (SS50). Small enough to be lightweight and portable, but just the right size to pack a punch and deliver a few good drenchings without having to reload.
Slip N Slide
The Slip n Slide was actually an accidental creation that became a massive hit among kids and adults alike. Even today it is still a favorite.
Wham-O first manufactured Slip n Slide in 1961 after purchasing the rights from creator Robert Carrier. According to Carrier, seeing his son slide on wet painted concrete inspired him to create the toy.
Carrier’s toy had a long Naugahyde strip with a sewed tube to pass a hose through. Evenly spread holes allowed water to spurt out for easy sliding.
When Wham-O bought it from Carrier, they replaced Naugahyde with plastic to minimize the cost of production. The new version had a long sheet of thin plastic, lined on one side by a heat-sealed fold that you can connect to any conventional garden hose.
It may be worth noting that if you remember this classic from the 80s, you should think twice if you see one and you want to relive your childhood. Backyard water slides often make the list of most dangerous toys
Simply put, they are designed for kids. Anyone with a “larger frame” can risk all kinds of injuries, everything from broken bones, to permanent paralysis. Be careful out there.
In the early 1970s, motocross was starting to become popular. This gave rise to children racing their bicycles in Southern Californian dirt tracks. By the mid-1970s, the BMX bike became a huge phenomenon.
It is no wonder that it holds a special place in every 80s child’s heart. With its popularity, kids began racing standard road bikes around any off-road track they could find (or make).
But for most kids getting a bike for Christmas or a birthday, meant your play-time was no longer limited to a few houses along your street. You could go to the park, the store, or the other side of town in just a few minutes.
The bike became the great connector for children of the 80s. You could hang with kids you didn’t usually hang around with and explore every inch of your neighborhood and beyond.
Today, it is far less common to see kids cycling around in their neighborhood jungle. The world is not as safe as it once was and its people are too immersed in technology to remember how great it is to get out and ride a bike now and then.
What did you play with in the summers of the 80s? Let us know in the comments