100 Years of Kids’ Christmas Lists

One quick look at America’s ghosts of Christmas past and it’s obvious the holidays are definitely not what they used to be.



Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, and giant Christmas lists are definitely a modern affair, but the idea of giving gifts is actually a very young American tradition. The most popular gift of the late 1880s? Cards.

Yep, cards were the common go-to in the 19th century until giving gifts grew more popular as a way to maintain personal relationships during a time of major social changes. Eventually people realized they really liked acquiring more material crap and they gave in to the idea of gift-giving. Children, of course, loved the idea and have been making their lists ever since. Let’s take a look at what children desired most throughout the decades.


  • Crayola Crayons
  • Die-Cast Model T Ford
  • Rocking Horse

Gift of the decade: Oranges and nuts. At this point, only one in five people had a Christmas tree, and between the war, poverty, minimal participation, and lack of accessibility kids were lucky to get anything at all.


  • Teddy Bear
  • Raggedy Ann
  • Lionel Trains
  • Erector Set

Gift of the decade: Gloves, mittens, and handkerchiefs. If you gave a kid a handkerchief today, they’d pummel you with their Hulk Hands.




  • Tinker Toys
  • Radio Flyer Wagon
  • Joy Buzzer

Gift of the decade: Yo-Yo. Pedro Flores brought them over from the Philippines, and their popularity was so immediate that his business grew to 600 employees in just a year.


  • Shirley Temple Doll
  • Viewmaster
  • Monopoly
  • Sock Monkey
  • Army Men

Gift of the decade:Red Ryder BB Gun. An official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle, to be exact.




  • Scrabble
  • Slinky
  • Magic 8 Ball
  • Silly Putty

Gift of the decade: Bubble solution. OK, moving on…


  • Water Balloons
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • Play-Doh
  • Barbie
  • Pez Dispensers
  • Legos

Gift of the decade: Hula Hoop. What could be better than a giant circle? You know, for kids!




  • G.I. Joe
  • Etch-A-Sketch
  • Easy Bake Oven
  • Lite Brite
  • Legos

Gift of the decade: Sea Monkeys. Somehow that still popular “As Seen on TV” scam-gift has been duping kids since the ’60s. Parents should know better by now.


  • Star Wars action figures
  • Pong
  • Speak and Spell
  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Legos

Gift of the decade: Pet Rock. This less than extraordinary rock-in-a-box was the most popular gift of 1975 until people finally realized they were paying for a rock in a box (which took 6 whole months). Even though the fad was short-lived, its inventor made $2 million selling… rocks. In boxes.




  • Teddy Ruxpin
  • Cabbage Patch Kids
  • Care Bears
  • Glo Worm
  • Koosh Ball
  • Pound Puppies
  • My Little Pony
  • Transformers

Gift of the decade: My Buddy. Wherever you go, he goes – which is unfortunate because, don’t you think… he looks a lot like…




  • Furby
  • Nintendo (NES)
  • TMNT
  • Troll Dolls
  • Power Rangers
  • Buzz Lightyear
  • Super Soaker
  • Beanie Babies
  • Legos

Gift of the decade: Tickle Me Elmo. This toy caused such an annoying craze that people were arrested for fighting over it. Nowadays when a toy sells out you either pay double the cost to some lucky jerk on eBay, or give up and tell your kids Santa finally died – cuz it’s only a matter of time before the Internet tells them he’s a sham. But in 1996, Rosie O’Donnell went crazy over Elmo on her show, and people developed such horrible ‘Elmo Mania’ that they trampled a Wal-Mart clerk who was trying to re-stock them on the shelf.


  • Zhu Zhu Pets
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Razor Scooter
  • Playstation 2
  • Bratz
  • XBox 360
  • Elmo Live
  • Tamagotchi
  • Legos

There’s no gift of the decade this time, because this is where things start to move really fast for kids. Elmo is back and better than ever, and every game console is pretty much obsolete within a few years.


  • Zoomer Dog
  • Teksta Robotic Puppy
  • Nerf Gun
  • Web-shooting Spider Man
  • Furby Boom
  • Ninja Turtles
  • and… Legos.  Again.  Forever and always.



  • Zoomer Dino
  • Monster High crap
  • Hot Wheels
  • Wii U
  • XBox One
  • But the most highly coveted toys this year are, of course, Legos and absolutely anything and everything that even remotely resembles Frozen.


As we learned from the Tickle Me Elmo incident, don’t mess with parents and their kids’ most-wanted toys. If you find yourself holding and Elsa doll this year and there’s a mob of angry mommies coming toward you, let it go.