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Playtime as Seen Through the Eyes of an 80s Kid


“For the honor of Grayskull! I am She-Ra!”

The words echoed from my hot-pink bedroom, kicking off countless playtimes. I was not She-Ra—the action figure in my hand was. And she needed to utter the iconic ’80s phrase to transform from Adora to that Princess of Power. Of course, She-Ra wouldn’t be complete without her ride—a white unicorn named Swift Wind—and her pink Cloud Castle.

After I was finished playing with She-Ra, I’d grab my Jem doll and whisper, “Showtime, Synergy,” to give the low-key Jerrica her rock-star swagger.

Toys, we know, have the unique ability to unlock a child’s imagination—and many of them have serious staying power. My younger brother, Harry, would’ve had a shell surgically attached to his back if he knew it would make him a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. His Red Power Ranger costume is back in fashion, too.

For me, it was Legos, Star Wars action figures, Barbies, board games, Nerf guns and baby dolls. If it didn’t pass the “fun test,” it landed in the donation bin.

When it comes to toys, recycling ideas is easier than coming up with new ones. Any good marketer knows that if a toy makes parents feel nostalgic, they’re more likely to get it for kids. You can’t “buy” a childhood, but timeless toys are a great way to share a bit of our youth.

At 9 years old, I didn’t understand the deeper meaning of my two favorite toys having alternate identities. And it didn’t matter that Legos were for boys. I liked building those houses and cars, waiting until I was almost finished to attach the door or the tiny rubber wheels.

Whether you have one toy or a roomful, it’s about creating something only you need to understand—or, as it is with wooden blocks, knocking everything down and starting over.

Katie Kohler likes to pretend the 2015 live-action movie Jem and the Holograms never happened.