In the 1970s, every kid wrote to Santa with a long list of the toys they wanted to see under the tree. You sat down with the Sears Wishbook and carefully chose which presents you wanted that year. If you were a kid in 1970, these are probably the toys you had on your list. Let’s look back on the most popular Christmas toys in 1970.
- 1. Cowboy and Indian Outfits
- 2. Banana Seat Bike
- 3. Living Barbie
- 4. Velvet Doll
- 5. Baby Go Bye Bye
- 6. Harvest Gold Steel Play Kitchen
- 7. Sno-Cone Maker and Other Food Making Toys
- 8. Juliette Hairstyling Salon and Wigs for Little Girls
- 9. Talking View-Master
- 10. Matchbox Parking Plaza
- 11. Make-It Hot Wheels Factory
- 12. Peter Max Sleeping Bag
- 13. Swinging Shuffling Karate Robots
- 14. Romper Room Romper Stompers
- 15. Lite Brite
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1. Cowboy and Indian Outfits
Westerns were still hugely popular in 1970. Bonanza and Gunsmoke were popular TV shows, and movies like True Grit (which came out in 1969) ruled at the box office. And anything that adults liked was popular with kids as well.
Kids played in groups in 1970. I remember leaving my house in the morning, hanging out with the neighborhood kids all day playing games, and returning home exhausted in the evening for dinner.
One of the most popular games in my neighborhood was “Cowboys and Indians,” where we would split up into two groups and “fight” each other, complete with pretend shootouts and melodramatic death scenes.
We didn’t know the term Native Americans then, but I also don’t remember the Indians being the game’s bad guys every time. We generally acted out scenes from movies and TV shows we had seen, so the heroes and villains changed depending on the story.
Of course, you needed to look the part, so everybody loved wearing western costumes. The 1970 Sears Wishbook devoted five pages to Cowboy and Indian outfits and boots. I remember finding an outfit similar to #5 in the picture under the tree one year (along with a pair of boots!), and I wore that outfit every chance I got until I sadly outgrew it.
2. Banana Seat Bike
Banana Seat Bikes were invented in 1963 and designed to look like the long seats of chopper motorcycles. By 1970, if you had a bike, it had to have a banana seat. You accessorized it with a playing card attached to the tire spokes with a clothespin to give it that “vroom-vroom” motorcycle sound.
Sadly, these stylish rides fell out of favor in the late 70s when BMX and mountain bikes became popular. But there was a time when you felt like the coolest kid in your neighborhood riding down the block on your banana seat bike with your playing card, adding the sound effects and your handlebar streamers flowing in the wind.
3. Living Barbie
Barbie dolls were more popular than ever in 1970. The Sears Wishbook had six pages of Barbie toys to drool over. You could buy Barbie clothes, Barbie shoes, wigs for your Barbie, Barbie cases, Barbie cars, and, of course, Barbie playhouses.
Barbie herself was evolving to become more active in 1970. The Living Barbie, with bendable legs, knees, ankles, wrists, and hands, was introduced, and she came with five outfits, so she was ready for any sport. The Living Barbie was such a big deal Mattel introduced her with a commercial starring Maureen McCormick, who proclaimed, “Wow! She’s real like me!”
4. Velvet Doll
There was one doll that every little girl had on her Christmas list in 1970: Velvet. Velvet was the younger sister of Chrissy, the popular doll introduced in 1968 by the Ideal Corporation.
Chrissy and Velvet had hair that could “grow” from shoulder length to midway down their back when you turned a knob. You could also get several cute outfits for Velvet and Christy and a hair care kit so you could style their luxurious locks.
I had a Velvet doll and spent many hours dressing, brushing her hair, and playing with her. At some point, I got a little too carried away and decided to give her a shag haircut. Sadly, Velvet couldn’t pull off that hip look and was consigned to the trash. I’m sorry, Velvet!
5. Baby Go Bye Bye
Of course, there was always a new baby doll for the little girls to play with. Baby Go Bye-Bye was the hot doll of 1970. Baby Go Bye Bye traveled along in her Baby Buggy when you pulled the string.
6. Harvest Gold Steel Play Kitchen
Moms wanted Harvest Gold Kitchens in the 1970s, and so did their daughters. This stylish set provided hours of fun playtime for the kids. From the looks of it, it probably also provided their Dads with hours of frustrating labor putting it all together on Christmas Eve.
I love the detail in this kitchen set and how realistic it looks. Of course, you would want to fill the fridge with various play foods and “cook” meals using your best pretend cookware.
7. Sno-Cone Maker and Other Food Making Toys
Toys that made something to eat were popular in 1970, just like the Easy Bake Oven was in 1975. Every kid, both girls and boys, seemed to have at least one toy under the tree that let them indulge their inner chef.
The Sno-Cone Maker was probably the most popular of these toys. It seems like every kid wanted one in 1970. But the Toot Sweet toy, which acted like a Play-Doh Factory, but with Tootsie Rolls, you could actually eat, was also much requested.
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8. Juliette Hairstyling Salon and Wigs for Little Girls
Little girls loved toys that made them feel like big girls in 1970. One of the most popular toys in 1970 was the Juliette Hair Salon: a vinyl mannequin head with hair that little girls could wash and curl. This toy was so popular that Mattel came out a Barbie version, the Quick Curl Barbie Beauty Center, a few years later.
The young women of 1970 also enjoyed changing their looks with various wigs. So, of course, you could get a child-sized play wig for the young fashionista in your life.
9. Talking View-Master
The View-Master, a portable 3-D viewer that lets kids travel to foreign lands and relive their favorite movies, has been a popular toy since it was introduced in the early 1960s. However, in 1970 we were introduced to the talking View-Master, and our little minds were blown.
The Talking View-Master used special reels which had a small plastic record attached. When you advanced to the next slide on the reel, you could press a button that played the record track associated with the slide.
Sadly, the sound quality was pretty bad, and the Talking View-Master was eventually discontinued, but it was a must-have in 1970.
10. Matchbox Parking Plaza
Every kid had a collection of Matchbox in 1970, and you had to have some way to store them, right? I can’t think of a better storage solution than this high-tech garage.
You parked your cars by placing them in the elevator, pushing the button to your desired floor, and then flicking the lever to park your car in the left or right tower. When you were done playing, all you had to do was fold up the garage and store your cars away.
11. Make-It Hot Wheels Factory
If you didn’t have a collection of Matchbox Cars in 1970, then you collected Hot Wheels, Mattel’s answer to Matchbox Cars.
The Hot Wheels Factory let you make custom plastic Hot Wheels by melting plastic pellets and inserting the melted plastic into molds. Playing with melted hot plastic! Well, that’s the 1970s for you.
Once your cooled car came out of the injector, you could add wheels and decorate it with the included paint and decals. Hours of fun!
12. Peter Max Sleeping Bag
Were you invited to a slumber party in the 1970s? If you were, you packed up your sleeping bag and headed to your friend’s house, where you would roll out your sleeping bags in the living room and giggle with each other while watching TV and staying up all night.
Your choice of sleeping bag was vital, of course. It had to be stylish and show off your personality. If you were little, your sleeping bag featured a bear or cuddly animal. But older kids had sleeping bags that reflected the styles of the time.
These colorful and funky sleeping bags featured designs from pop artist Peter Max. You rolled the sleeping bag into its case, which became your pillowcase when you reached your destination. (I don’t know how you transported your pillow; maybe the host provided it?)
13. Swinging Shuffling Karate Robots
Fighting robots of all kinds were huge in 1970. These robots shuffled and swung their arms while fighting. If one got knocked down, he automatically performed a backward somersault and got right back up.
14. Romper Room Romper Stompers
Before Sesame Street, we had Romper Room. I know I wasn’t the only preschooler eagerly watching the TV to see if Miss Nancy would say my name in her Magic Mirror. (Sadly, she never did.)
Of course, any popular TV show had to have a toy line, and Hasbro introduced a Romper Room line, including the Romper Stompers, in 1970. The Romper Stompers were more enjoyable than you would think from their simple appearance.
As a little kid, it felt empowering to suddenly become taller and stomp across the room, making a lot of noise. Every kid loved stomping around on their Romper Stompers.
15. Lite Brite
Lite-Brite was invented in 1967, and by 1970, the toy was so popular Hasbro came out with a Deluxe edition. The creators of Lite-Brite were inspired by the neon lights of the city and wanted to come out with a version that kids could play with.
So, they invented a simple pegboard with translucent pegs lit up from behind with a light bulb (not included!) Their toy was so popular you can still buy Lite Brite today.
I remember spending hours playing with my Lite Brite: creating my own art work, and also using the included templates. I’m sure there’s a kid in your life right now, who could use an excuse to get off their tablet and engage in some creative play!