The U.S. toy industry grew from $12 billion in 1990 to $19.6 billion by 2000—and a big part of that record-breaking success had to do with compelling commercials aimed at kids. A 1998 Consumer Reports study estimated that, on average, 30,000 toy-related television ads ran each year. So in between episodes of Rugrats and The Mickey Mouse Club, a flood of catchy jingles for Polly Pocket sets, Skip-Its, and Easy-Bake Ovens would send children running to their parents, begging to go to Toys "R" Us. Chances are, you can still hum a few of those jingles just as easily today as you could when they first aired. Check out 11 of our favorites below.
If the Crossfire board game wasn’t enticing enough on its own, the theme song certainly put it over the top. Originally released in 1971, the game—in which two players fired plastic "guns" at pucks on the board to get them into each other’s goals—found new life in the ‘90s due to its rock 'n' roll-inspired power jingle. Not a fan of this Monster Ballads ripoff? Check out this soft piano version of the song from comedy writer Scott Gairdner.
2. Polly Pocket
Nearly every little girl growing up in the ‘90s was obsessed with Polly Pocket, and for good reason. The doll was first conceived in 1983 by Chris Wiggs, who wanted a mini playset for his daughter that could be taken on the go. When Polly Pocket was officially released to the masses in 1989, it became an instant hit, quickly growing out of its pocket-sized compacts and into entire plastic neighborhoods (like in the catchy commercial for Pollyville above). Although Polly’s look changed when it was officially acquired by Mattel in 1998—she grew in size and became more fashionable with the addition of rubber clothes—the company still makes compact versions that are close to the original.
3. Crocodile Dentist
Was there any toy more adorably terrifying than Crocodile Dentist? A simpler version of Operation, the game involved pulling plastic "teeth" out of a toy crocodile’s mouth—but if you pulled the wrong one, he would jump forward and snap at you. And thanks to Crocodile Dundee's impact on our popular culture, the catchy commercial jingle came with plenty of Aussie flair.
Skip-It was the toy that kids could away with using in gym class. After stepping your ankle into the Skip-It loop, you had to hop over the plastic jump rope-like contraption as it spun around and around your feet. Skip-It made a high-pitched noise that increased the faster you skipped, and it recorded your score as you jumped (the jingle basically runs down all of its features). This game was a tripping hazard, but at least it made physical activity fun.
5. Sock 'em Boppers
Another toy that promoted physical activity—albeit rowdier in nature—was Sock 'em Boppers, whose jingle encouraged kids to "sock all day, and bop all night." After blowing the boppers up, kids popped them on their hands and engaged in a little boxing. That was apparently a pretty universal kid crowd-pleaser: More than 3 million sets of Sock 'em Boppers were sold between 1993 and 1998. The toys are still on the market, but were renamed Socker Boppers in 2002 after a legal throwdown with Mattel, which owns the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots trademark.
6. Connect Four
Milton Bradley’s beloved Connect Four game encouraged kids to "go for the glory, go for the score" of getting four colored checkers in a row. All kids had to do was drop their red or black checker into one of the game’s 6-by-7 slots; a player won once they got four checkers in a row, whether horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. It's a game of intense strategy and logic, and kids often tried to trick their opponents so they didn’t see their four-in-a-row win coming.
7. Mouse Trap
"Mouse Trap, I guarantee, it’s the craziest trap you’ll ever see!" was the opening line of Hasbro’s zany '90s jingle. The object of the game was to trap opponents’ “mice” within a complex obstacle course while guiding your own mouse to safety on the board. The commercial—which came Seussically close to infringing on The Cat in the Hat—essentially gave you the game instructions right in the song. As long as a player remembered to "Just turn the crank/and snap the plank/and kick the marble/right down the shoot," they had a solid chance of winning, even if the instructions somehow went missing in the toy box.
8. Sky Dancers
Sky Dancers were a dangerous toy in a pretty package. Eventually recalled in 2000 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, their hard plastic wings and unpredictable nature caused 170 cases of reported injuries (some of which included temporary blindness, broken teeth, concussions, and even facial lacerations). But before they were taken off the shelf, they were part of a huge merchandising campaign, appearing in books, clothes, and even a cartoon. The commercial’s song lyrics, "Fly for me/Just for me/Sky Dancers dance for me," certainly helped with their marketing efforts.
9. Creepy Crawlers
ToyMax really channeled its inner Vincent Price with that "Creeeeeepy Crawlers!" jingle. This toy was pretty much all about pranking siblings, parents, and friends: After pouring colored goop into molds—which included flies, worms, and other assorted unpleasantness, some of which could even glow in the dark—and letting them set in an Easy-Bake Oven-like contraption, kids had instant rubbery pests on hand for all of their devilish activities. The only thing more frightening than the latest Goosebumps, Creepy Crawlers' homemade wasp warriors and bug brigade were sure to give everyone nightmares.
10. Don’t Wake Daddy
One of the oddest products of the ‘90s, Don’t Wake Daddy was a Parker Brothers board game in which you had to get your player to a rainbow fridge without waking up an unsettling sleeping "Daddy" figurine. Players pulled a card from a deck and move to the correlating space on the board—but if they landed on a space with a number on it, they had to press the snooze button on Daddy’s alarm clock that number of times or risk waking him up. If they did, the figure would bolt out of bed, his face a frozen mask of terror. Then the player would have to start from the beginning of this nightmarish ordeal.
11. Easy-Bake Oven
Any adult fan of The Great British Bake-Off or Cake Wars probably remembers using an Easy-Bake Oven as a kid to whip up a quick batch of brownies after a long day of navigating through third grade. The miniature oven used an incandescent light bulb to heat desserts, and its Betty Crocker-provided cake mixes introduced little bakers to their first taste of independent cooking. The Easy-Bake Oven was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2006, and it’s still on shelves for young dessert artists to use today.