The Best Art Toys Of The 90s (Or, The Toys That Propelled My Future Career)

As we get close to Christmas, I have no clue what kids today are asking Santa for! I don’t have kids myself, and don’t know many people with young kids. Also, 3-year-olds seems to have smart phones and tablets now, so … Do they still play with toys? Who are they planning to call, Big Bird? I have so many questions. All that aside, toys can be tools that help kids develop their interests and explore what they may want to be or do in the future. In homage to 90s nostalgia and the time when toys were still not quite high-tech, I’ve compiled a list of the best art and design toys from when I was a kid. I’m sure a lot of these will look familiar to many of you! And so our trip down memory lane begins…

Fashion Plates

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This toy let you be a high-class big name designer, mixing and matching your own styles with plastic stencils you could shade over with a magic black crayon and then render in your favorite color story. That woman with the bob, chunky bracelets, and boots is basically the me of today. Check out that dapper lady on the top right adjusting her bow-tie!

Blush Art

First off, this commercial is just nauseating. That aside, this was a fun toy, again utilizing stencils so even those terrible at drawing could be a star, thus preventing any destroyed self esteem. I had the fashion design stencil set for this rather than the ones shown in this video – I was obviously a bit singularly focused. I liked my clothes far better than cuddly creatures, but I’m no Cruella de Vil, just cursed with being allergic to anything fuzzy.

Crayola Stampers Markers

You could make some wacky mosaic drawings with these markers, case in point the self portrait on the right, circa 8 years old. Remember the 70s revival yellow smiley face craze around that time? Those guys are in there.

Barbie Fashion Designer PC Game

Again with the fashion designing … I honestly did consider this career path but alas, discovered later on that I hated sewing.

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As you can see, the earlier self portrait was pretty spot-on.

Nickelodeon’s Mix ‘N Spin

ece0a94f8a84a07aedf4329a4605a677I never had this, but one of my friends did – The 90s kid version of all that pour art that is so popular now. Was there any design trend that people loved more than rainbow splatter painting in the 90s?

 

Watercolor Coloring Books

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These books really lulled you into a false sense of security, giving you perfect blending and shading with just a smear of water, provided you followed the coloring book code and stayed inside the lines ;). Nevertheless, they were so relaxing to sit and fill in, and I spent many a rainy day with a pile of these in front of me, completing one picture after another.

Sand Art

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Like color by numbers but with colored sand, you would peel off one number at a time revealing a sticky surface to pour the corresponding colored sand upon to slowly reveal a finished masterpiece. Though Disney ones were always super popular, my sets were of unicorns and tropical birds!

Shrinky Dinks

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As a kid the shrinky dinks I had were pre-outlined, and you colored them in like a coloring book before putting the plastic sheets in the oven and watching them curl up, shrink, and harden into durable plastic pendants or flat mini figures. As an adult, I discovered the fun of using blank shrink plastic to design your own one of a kind pendants covered in art! I sold these for a couple years in a local handmade shop downtown, and they did really well.

These truly are the toys that made me! I hope everyone gets what they were hoping for this Christmas, though of course, no gifts could ever possibly be as epic as these.

 

 

 

 

New Series Re-Imagines Childhood Drawings

Now that I got all of my work finished for the upcoming Michigan all area shows I am entering, I wanted to take the opportunity to spend some time on a new project that I’d done sketches for about 2 years ago and never revisited after getting distracted by mountains of other projects. Working with kids and youth over the summer at Creative 360 while Artshop was on break,  we did lots of acrylic painting. Acrylics is a medium I’d abandoned over the last couple of years, and it made me miss it.

I had a teacher once who said you will always be who you were when you were 8. You may drift in the in-between teen years; who doesn’t go through an identity crisis at least once in high school or within early young adult age; but you will always come back to the most basic facets of personality you exhibited as child. At your core, you are who you were at eight years old and will still be at 80.

When I think about it, at 28 I do share many of the same traits with my 8 year old self. I still adore books, I still have my own distinctive and at times highly experimental fashion sense (I was wearing sun glass frames with the lenses popped out far before hipsters ever existed.), I am still always actively finding ways to meld creativity with vocation, I still am obsessed with all things design oriented (Look how pumped I am about my digital runway show I’ve put together on that snazzy Windows 95), and I still can’t sleep unless buried under 3+ layers of blankets even in summer :P.

Luckily for me, and this project, my mother is amazing and has the best of my childhood drawings from each year of my life archived in a neat, chronological little binder, so finding artwork examples was no big thing. I have chosen a drawing from each year, 2-10 (nothing for year 1, I’m not that amazing.) I will be using the same subject matter, colors, and proportions to re-imagine these childhood drawings as fine art acrylic paintings. Here is the first piece I’ve completed for age 4.

Kid drawings aren’t all the same when you really look at them, and you truly can tell a lot about someone from what they create, same as with adults. Here are some other fun projects people have done taking inspiration from kids’ drawings.

Bored Panda / Go Monster Project

Cafe Mom / Parents Turn Their Kids’ Art Into Tattoos

Huffington Post / Mom-Toddler Painting Collaborations

Busy Mockingbird / Artist Collaborates With 4-Year-Old Daughter

Doodle Your Toys / Custom Handmade Plush Toys