How Classic Toys and Games Have Evolved

Many of the toys and board games children play with today have been around for a very long time – in some cases, for three or even more generations. While these playthings have enough timeless appeal to survive over the long term, most have undergone some significant changes since they were first invented.

Mr. Rutabaga Head?

The toy known as Mr. Potato Head didn’t used to come with a head at all. Introduced when many families still had their own root cellars, this plaything was originally intended to be used with an actual potato – or with any other vegetable kids could get away with poking plastic ears, eyes, and lips into. Consumers soon found that it wasn’t wise to have their children create toys out of perishable food items, and the plastic potato body was introduced twelve years after this toy’s initial debut. Mr. Potato Head has been in continual production since he was first introduced. Eventually he was joined by a wife and outfitted with accessories like his own car, but the basic concept has remained the same: interchangeable parts that allow children to create all sorts of funny faces and change them at will.

Water on the knee? Operation!

This game has changed little over the years, although it’s spawned several spin-off products. Players have to keep a steady hand in order to perform surgery on the patient – called “Cavity Sam” – without touching the sides of the namesake cavities from which they’re extracting his offending parts. The game is still played the same way more than 50 years after it was first introduced, although one part – “brain freeze” – was added in 2004 by consumer vote.

Cavity Sam has kept up with evolving technology, as hand-held and computer versions of the classic game were introduced. There have also been numerous iterations of Operation that celebrated various pop culture icons. This game has also been featured, often in larger-than-life form, on numerous television shows and contests.

The Game of Life

This perennial favorite is, incredibly, over 150 years old and still going strong (although the modern version was first sold in 1960). As real life has evolved, so has The Game of Life. One constant change has been the value of Life money, which has experienced inflation just like the real thing. The hip convertibles that came with the first modern version of Life were replaced in the 80s with family-friendly minivans. In the 90s, the game evolved to reward players for pro-social behaviors like recycling and doing charity work. Changes in 2005 allowed players to be more strategic, although the game remains largely based on chance and still includes rewards for taking risks.