The 1970s was a decade of casually following murderers’ escapades, laying the foundation for future skin cancer by baking in the sun, and testing water sanitation by only ever drinking from the garden hose. Parents today would balk at the dangerous toys of the 70s that somehow passed safety regulations.
Then again, when your parents are dealing with the whiplash of the love and peace late-60s to the horrifying existential 70s, it's no surprise kids were left to fend for themselves. So, grab your corduroy and grow your hair out — we’re traveling back to the 1970s and visiting the dangerous toys kids were lucky to survive.
The only possible explanation for how Clackers made it past the concept pitch is hallucinogens. How else could you explain a company green lighting two heavy plastic or acrylic balls tied together with string to be used as a primitive noisemaker?
Smashed fingers, broken noses, and knocked out teeth are just a few of the injuries you’d sustain thanks to a misplaced Clacker. However, if you watch a kid try to play putt-putt and see how violently they sail their colorful golf balls through the maze, then you’ll understand exactly how Clackers went from whacky idea to full-on craze.
Lawn Darts feels like something the writers' room would’ve concocted for an episode of The Addam’s Family. Wednesday would’ve been playing target practice with Pugsley, but inevitably missed and somehow struck a outlet and electrocuted Uncle Fester. However, they were totally normal outdoor toys marketed to kids everywhere.
These huge darts looked less like a toy and more like something you’d shove in a pipe and use to hunt down an elephant. Just like fireworks, you needed the all-clear to toss those suckers across the lawn. And even then, your feet were at a high risk.
Lemon Twist Toy
Nineties kids remember Skip-Its well, but those plastic wiffle balls paled in comparison to the ROCKS-FILLED lemon tied to a string from the 1970s. Essentially, it was the same exact shape and concept as the Skip-It, but it featured a lemon-shaped ball at the end that was supposedly weighed down by rocks.
Dodging Chemtoy’s Lemon Twist had higher stakes than a kids' toy deserves to have. No need to imagine what getting hobbled by Kathy Bates in Misery felt like when you could crack an ankle bone with one of these suckers.
Resin art and jewelry might feel like a TikTok trend, but it has come and gone from the crafting zeitgeist. Back in the 1970s, you could find Dip-a-Flower kits in Christmas catalogs targeted towards young elementary schoolers. On paper, these craft flowers seem harmless until you realize it was chemical warfare in a box!
Today, you’re supposed to wear gloves and a specific face mask when mixing the chemicals together to create resin. It’s a wonder no eight-year-old accidentally fried the inside of their lungs when playing around with one of these kits.
Disc-o-Punches were Nerf guns before people cared about not hurting each other. These handheld toy guns shot miniature plastic frisbees through the air. And with good enough aim, you could take out an eye or bloody a nose.
Kids can be aggressive, so we’d like to know whose great idea it was to put the scaled-down power of a paintball gun into the hands of a six-year-old.
Shrinky Dinks have gone through many permutations over the years. But if you were a kid anywhere between 1970 and 2000, you remember having your mind blown by these bake-and-shrink figurines. Simply color in large illustrations, cut them out, and bake them in the oven to make them bite-sized figures to play with.
Today, you’d never recommend a toy that requires anything but warm water to complete a magical transformation to young elementary schoolers. But in the 70s, eight-year-olds were up and cooking breakfast for the whole family, so how hard was setting the oven and putting in a baking tray going to be, anyway?
Various Craft Kits
If you’re a crafter, you long for the days of the 1970s when niche craft kits lined every store’s shelves. But crafts that parents barely let their teens tackle were marketed to elementary schoolers without pause.
Sure, little Kenny, why not heat up a glorified branding iron and burn a few designs into a wood block? Or Carole, of course you can tear open some old cans with tin snips and glue felt to it as decoration. There’s no way those wholesome crafts could end up with someone in the ER, right?
Easy-Bake Oven has been a popular toy since the 1960s, but little did you realize just how dangerous it can be. The lamps inside the oven can heat it up to around 350°F! Imagine a six-year-old trying to shove a tiny tray of cake batter into this super-heated oven and not catching their grubby sausage fingers on the super-heated insides. Thank goodness microwaves took away some of Easy-Bake Oven’s magic, or else we'd wouldn't have any skin on our fingers left!
BB guns aren’t technically categorized as toys, but kids in the 1970s sure treated them like they were. Kids were gifted BB guns as playthings by every well-meaning pop around the block. Sharpshooting practice only held so much of a thrill, which leads to how BB guns hit this list.
You pump a BB gun hard enough, and you’ll give someone a welt, dent, or even broken skin. Running around a wooded neighborhood in the 1970s must have felt like you were stepping into The Lord of the Flies.
Strictly speaking, CB radios were designed for adults. However, movies like Smokey & the Bandit turned kids on to the thrill of chatting with strangers late into the night. Need we say, stranger danger? Nineties kids had their yearly internet safety lecture, but kids in the 70s sure could’ve done with a CB radio safety lecture.
While there probably weren’t too many cases of kids traveling to the nearest truck stop and chatting with one of the strangers they met, we can’t say the chances were zero. And with the sheer number of active serial killers roaming around in the 1970s, those odds were much higher than any of the kids thought about at the time.
Today's kids' chemistry sets are as safe as they can be with mild, harmless chemicals and plastic lab equipment so no child can ever inadvertently cook meth, release toxic gasses, or build a bomb.
But back in the 70s? Not so much.
One LoveToKnow GenX staffer recalls their kids' chemistry set that was filled with actual dangerous chemicals (sodium cyanide, anyone?), alcohol-filled bunsen burners, and glass beakers and test tubes.
While legislation in the 60s required manufacturers to begin to label substances that could be caustic, flammable, explosive, and toxic, the chemicals were still right there in some sets with warnings they should be kept away from young children. But when did GenX latchkey kids looking for some excitement read warning labels?
Gen X...More Like the Close Calls Generation
Despite all the dangers lurking around every corner, 70s kids had a grand old time. While you wouldn’t be caught dead recommending these toys to the kids in your life now, you wouldn’t trade those close calls with death for anything else. What’s an extra tetanus shot or two when you’re having fun?