Toys of the 1980's and how they have changed - or endured, as Sylvanian Families have!


Sylvanian Families Cottage and 1980's figures

I wonder what toys you were wishing for in your Santa's sack back in Christmas of 1987?  

If you were between 5 and 8 years old back then, it's highly likely you were wishing, with all fingers and toes crossed and on your best behaviour, in the hope that your Mum or Dad would buy you the British 1987 Toy of the Year - these fabulous new toys out called "Sylvanian Families"!

In this article we are going to take you down a memory lane trip of vintage toys that were all the rage back in their year and maybe these were toys that you had as a child, or remember seeing them advertised on TV and wishing you could have them, right up until 1987 when Sylvanian Families became the toy phenomenon of the year.

Sylvanian Families vintage 1980s toy of the year

Sylvanian Families enduring over 30 years

Isn't it just amazing to think that Sylvanian Families, fairly new to the toy market in 1987, really haven't changed much at all over 35 years. Back then at Christmas time, an 8 year old would have received perhaps a Sylvanian Families Deluxe cottage and a Timbertop Bear family in 1987, and today's 8 year old would receive maybe a Beechwood Hall and Kangaroo Family. Apart from the style of homes, the era of the furniture and the species of flocked figure, very little has changed at all! And they're just as loved and adored!

Maybe that's why so many Mum's in their 40's show such an interest in their daughter's collection today, loving to share their former childhood passion in the same way with their own children. Today's Sylvania is just a slightly more modern, yet essentially the same extension of their own childhood role-play village.

Favourite Toys from 1978 to 1987

Toys have changed so much over the past 30 years, that many of the toys that were super popular back in the 80's would be unrecognisable toy names to the children of 2019.

Simon Says vintage 1978 toy

1978's most wanted toy - The Simon Says game

This game was based on the children's game "Simon Says" and had a simple set of rules. Each of the four colour buttons needed to be hit in sequence to match the tune played by Simon. If you didn't hit them correctly, you lost. In 1978, this simple game took the world by storm. 

Image result for 1980s atari

1979 - Atari Video Computer System

Who remembers the Atari Video game? It would be difficult not to have heard of it, due to it's immense popularity at the time. Released in 1979 it came out at a whopping introductory price of $199 USD. Now, you would have had to be very very lucky, or have very well off parents to receive this for Christmas of 1979!

Although originally released in 1977, it wasn't until two years later, in 1979, that the Atari Video Computer System (later known as the Atari 2600) began to enjoy immense popularity on the toy market. The Christmas of 1979 saw this console selling like hotcakes, in fact, that year 1 million of them were sold. Popularity continued to grow in the years that followed too, with 10 million Atari consoles being sold by 1982. 

 Vintage Rubik's cube

1980 - Rubik's Cube

Now I remember this one! The puzzle my brother could always master, yet it always left me defeated!

This amazingly popular 3D puzzle was known as the Rubik's Cube. With it's simple premise, yet testing your puzzle solving skills greatly, this little toy turned out to be incredibly popular in 1980.  By 1983 it is estimated that a whopping 200 million Rubik's Cubes were sold worldwide!


Vintage Papa Smurf figure

1981 - Smurfs

How blue were you in 1981? The Smurfs were those little blue creatures who lived in wild mushroom homes.  I'm afraid this toy fad never caught on it our household, but I remember the craze very well! Smurfs were at the top of children's Christmas wish lists in 1981, especially once the TV cartoon series had become popular.


 BMX retro vintage 1980s bike

1982 - BMX bikes

These were the days! Every second kid at high school had a BMX. It was the coolest of cool! Especially with the obligatory banana seat!

BMX was a fad that started in the early 1970s when children began racing their bikes in a style inspired by motocross sports stars of the time. The phenomenon of BMX racing was born and the BMX bike grew and grew to great popularity by 1982. 


1983 - Cabbage Patch Kid

How could you ever forget these unique little faces?

Cabbage Patch Kids were the absolute must-have kids toy of 1983.  Originally, the dolls weren't sold, they were "adopted" with their own names and birth certificates. They were first made in 1978, but began to be mass produced by 1983, when the Cabbage Patch craze caught on. They went on record as being the most successful doll introduction in the history of the toy industry. They were well loved for being slightly ugly, slightly cute. 

Original Transformers 1984

(Photo from


What was the most popular christmas toy in 1984? - Transformers

Hasbro produced the Transformer toy line, which arrived on the toy market in September of 1984, a line of toy robots that could change into an alternate form (vehicles such as cars and planes, miniature guns or cassettes, monsters, and even dinosaurs) by moving parts into other places.

Image result for carebears vintage


Care Bears

Funshine Bear, Tenderheart Bear, Bedtime Bear or Love-a-lot Bear, which was your favourite?

Each Care Bear is a different color and has a special "belly badge" that represents its personality. So popular were these furry friends and their TV series, that Over 40 million Care Bears were sold between 1983 and 1987.


The Nintendo Entertainment System

Also known as the Nintendo Console, offered the ability to play arcade games such as Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros on a home Television set. If you're a child of the 80's who was lucky enough to receive this for Christmas, you'll have fond memories of Mario and Luigi, the two Italian plumbers who find themselves in the Mushroom Kingdom trying to rescue Princess Toadstool from the evil King Bowser?  It is one of the best-selling game series, with more than 40 million copies sold.

Sylvanian Families vintage years


And this brings us to the Year of the Sylvanian. Sylvanian Families was awarded British Toy of the Year in 1987, 1988 and 1989, the only toy to ever receive this prestigious title three years consecutively. Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who received the Sylvanian Families Country Cottage and Babblebrook Grey rabbit family that year?

Image result for sylvanian vintage babblebrook

Isn't it interesting that several of the toys above have made comebacks in recent years, albeit an evolved version of the toy, such as Transformers and the Rubik's cube, which we see in toy stores today. Others faded off toy shop shelves, never to be heard of again after the peak of their popularity and would likely be unknown to children today. However, Sylvanian Families has endured, with very minimal change over the years and I think most Sylvanian fans would agree that we don't wish to see much change. We love them just the way they were and still are today. 

 If you've enjoyed this article, then you might like to read some of our other many Sylvanian Families themed articles on our website

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