February 17, 2023
SINGAPORE – Barbie dolls and toy race cars never seem to grow old with children. But there are also childhood toys that evoke fond memories and remain popular among adults who still play with or collect them.
Here are five toys that were a fad in Singapore and may still strike a chord with people who grew up in the 80s and 90s:
This toy line of dolls and accessories was hard to miss for a girl. The dolls are life-like and live in doll houses with intricate furniture. Most of the playsets are in pastel colours and the plastic doors open to reveal a bed, refrigerator, a vanity set and even a skating rink.
The first playset was designed in 1983 in Britain and the toys went on sale in 1989. United States toy giant Mattel acquired the brand in 1998 and introduced a larger version of the toy.
Mattel discontinued the smaller playset in 2002, and it has since undergone several reboots, with the latest in 2018.
Polly Pockets are available here at some Toys ‘R’ Us stores and e-commerce platforms such as Shopee, Lazada and Amazon, at much higher prices than previously.
A local collector, who wanted to be known only as Anna, said she paid around $100 for a special-edition set on Amazon. The 34-year-old art freelancer recalled spending only about $20 on a single set when she was younger.
“Though Polly Pocket is not as popular as it used to be, I have collector friends in Singapore and around the world who still have the craze. It reminds us of our childhood. Someday, I would love to pass the collection down to my daughter,” Ms Anna said.
Japan’s Tamagotchi created a huge buzz when it landed in Singapore in 1996. The egg-shaped digital device with three buttons displays a virtual pet that its “owner” can feed and care for to let it grow.
An instant hit among children, it became one of the biggest toy fads of the late 1990s and the early 2000s. As at 2021, around 83 million units have been sold worldwide.
Originally retailing for about $24, a Tamagotchi now costs around $60. Knock-off versions are available online for much lower prices.
Lego: Harry Potter, Star Wars, Eiffel Tower editions
Started in 1932 by a Danish carpenter, Lego began with wooden toys but later expanded to plastic toys, in particular its famous interlocking building bricks.
The toys have since become a pop culture phenomenon, with Lego releasing theme sets such as the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises, attracting a huge following among both children and adult collectors.
More recently, it released a 2022 edition of the Eiffel Tower. Comprising 10,000 pieces, it is the tallest Lego set to date at 149cm. It retails for almost $1,000.
Lego fan Riley Koh bought two Disney Princesses sets for her nieces, which cost around $180 each, while she bought five more special-edition sets for herself.
“They are very pricey, but I had the best time building them with my nieces,” said the 29-year-old jewellery designer.
Many adults will be familiar with Beyblades. Sold for a few dollars each at neighbourhood shops, they attracted children from nearby schools, who could be seen spinning the toys.
Checks on online marketplace Carousell show they are still being sold at $5 a piece, with a set at Toys ‘R’ Us costing around $18.
There are several guides to help children and parents master the skill of keeping the toys spinning. Many adults are also buying them for the nostalgia factor.
Capteh is a game involving a rubber disc with long colourful feathers that players try to keep in the air for as long as possible by using their feet. (Sorry, no hands allowed).
It was first used to train soldiers in ancient China and later became a martial art and competitive sport in other countries such as Vietnam, where it is the national sport.
The game, which requires balance and skill, became popular among the young and old in Singapore.
The shuttlecock, also known as capteh, is sold for about $2 at FairPrice supermarkets, neighbourbood shops and pasar malam.