5 Things Kids Loved in the ’80s

by Staff & Contributors

It’s been over 30 years since the 80s decade ended, but to those who grew up in the 80s, it feels like yesterday. It’s also easy to bring in that feeling of nostalgia by mentioning the hobbies, toys, and movies of that era. Here are 10 things that 80s kids loved.


Mix Tapes

Kids today have no idea what it was like to own music 40 years ago. And they certainly have no idea what it was like to have a cassette tape with 11 of the top 40 songs in the country. Plus, today it’s a lot easier to mix and match a playlist on Spotify and iTunes than it was to get your favorite songs off of several albums and combine them into one.

Back in the 80s, kids would record songs off the radio so they could pirate music into their cassette collection. And, if they wanted to create a mixtape from their friends’ collections, they had to have a dual cassette player. They’d play one song from a cassette and hit record on the other one. They’d have to play the entire song and hit stop at just the right time.

If that seems insanely taxing, it is. Well, compared to how music is managed today. If you own physical media today, you are in the vast majority. Very few people nowadays own physical media. But there’s been a comeback with vinyl which is kind of fun.


Star Wars

Today, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Harry Potter have swept over the last two generations of youths. But back in the 80s, it was Star Wars. It’s not like Star Wars isn’t a big hit with kids today, but it’s not the same viral fanfare.

You have to remember, Star Wars was still very new in the 80s. Luke Skywalker was the biggest character in movies back then. And after they made the original three movies, they stopped. Nowadays fans would get at least 7 movies with that kind of fandom.

Conventions were created to honor George Lucas’s work. Toys were flying off the shelves. And Every studio in Hollywood was trying to figure out how to copy him. If you think Marvel is big, you should’ve seen the chaotic popularity of Star Wars.


Michael J. Fox

It’s hard to find a modern-day male actor that has the teen appeal that Fox had back in the 80s. He was the teen heartthrob of the biggest sitcom and in one of the all-time biggest trilogies of Hollywood’s history: Back To The Future.

You may remember the recent reboot (and hit) of Teen Wolf, but it did not explode like the original Teen Wolf movie did in the 80s. With these massive successes, Fox could do no wrong. As he got older, he became a big-time sitcom lead before being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.


Saturday Morning Cartoons

Believe it or not, there used to be a time when cartoons came around only on Saturday mornings from 6 am-12 pm. And sometimes you had to pick which of the three channels to watch or switch back and forth to your favorite ones because you couldn’t go back and just watch the one you missed.

If you were lucky, your parents had a second tv with a VHS recorder that could record one cartoon while you watched another one. And if you had a sport to play on the weekend, you missed out completely. Also, every 5 minutes a little advertisement called a “commercial” would interrupt your cartoon.

This is a big difference between watching your favorite streaming cartoons any time you want and without commercials.



Ok, we still have lots of toys to buy today but it’s not like it was in the 80s. Today, you’re only missing out if your kid is the one without an iPhone. But back in the 80s, your kid would be missing out if he didn’t have all the Transformers (and their villains).

Toys had more of the market-share than video games back in the 80s, so the lines that you see on Black Friday for the latest Xbox or Playstation would be for the newest…Care Bear. Or G.I. Joe character. Or He-man figure. Or Glo-worm (don’t ask). Or Viewmaster.

And there was no internet. So you couldn’t order what you wanted online and wait for a truck to pull up to your house 2 days later with your item. You had to wait in lines that make Los Angeles traffic look tame and reasonable.

Not having the right toys was a fast way to be the outcast in your friend group.


Bonus: Malls

Have you seen those big, empty buildings in your suburb that look like ghost towns? Those are what kids in the 80s called malls. They still exist today, but they aren’t the cultural zeitgeist that they used to be.

40 years ago, they were the coolest place to hang out. Parents dropped their kids off and came back hours later. What did kids do there? Mostly talk and eat. Yes, they could shop, but that wasn’t the reason to be there. It was a local center to meet up and maybe even find a new boyfriend or girlfriend.

Instead of looking for reasons to stay inside like most kids do today, they used to try to find places to be outside the house and the mall was the go-to joint.

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