For most millennials, the 1990s is revered as the golden age of childhood. When kids were satisfied with inflatable armchairs and Nickelodeon alarm clocks as bedroom furniture, parents never questioned why the vitamins were shaped like Flintstone characters. It was the last generation to have seen what life was like before the internet and the first to be able to experience the dial-up tone (or “You’ve Got Mail!”). And, never forget the purple ketchup. If you’re ready to take this nostalgic trip, here is a list of the top 20 things every ’90’s kid remembers; a genuine sentiment to the greatest decade.
Every ’90s kid remembers when their only responsibility in life was to keep their pocket pet from starving to death. Tamagotchis were a digital step-up from the pet rock, a popular fad in the ‘70s, and were seen clipped to the backpacks and lunchboxes of everyone you knew. (Bonus points if you remember the Digital Monster counterpart).
At some point in the ‘90s, you asked your parents for a Wonderball just to split the hollow chocolate sphere for the better candy (and collectible stickers) inside. For a short period of time, Wonderball had tiny prizes. But the idea was later deemed too dangerous for children, so they were quickly removed. Either way, they were a hit with kids and a fundamental part of our collective childhood.
3. Crazy Chewing Gum Packaging
Ouch! Bubblegum came in three flavors that lasted approximately 30 seconds: watermelon, strawberry, and grape. The gum’s packaging, a neon pink and green tin, has been ingrained in every ‘90s kid’s memory. Then, there was the pink jug of powder that became gum when you chewed it long enough. Beeper gum came in the shape and style of a plastic beeper so that we could also pretend we were getting paged and Hubba Bubba came as a 6-foot piece of tape. And lastly, Fruit Stripes: A zebra-striped piece of gum notorious for its temporary tongue tattoos, but also having a fleeting mysterious flavor.
4. Commercial Breaks
Kids these days will never appreciate the journey of a commercial break. There were no pause buttons in our day. Just a complete rush of adrenaline to help make it to the bathroom and collect all your snacks in the allotted few minutes between “Amanda Show” skits.
5. Blockbuster Video Store
Friday night was for perusing Blockbuster’s shelves with your family for the perfect movie and snack combination. It was a big deal to watch your older cousin flash his laminated card at the counter. Nowadays, Blockbuster cards and their stores are obsolete. Except one, which for a time, you could rent for a night on Airbnb.
Remember when you could listen to a minute of your favorite Britney Spears song from a tiny boombox attached to your belt clip? Because I do. Never mind that regular-sized CD players existed and played full songs, or that HitClips audio quality sounded as if Britney Spears recorded tracks underwater. They were about status.
7. Lisa Frank Stationery
The ‘90s would not have been so iconic without the help of Lisa Frank. Inside the desks and backpack of each girl were school supplies covered in glittery unicorns and neon aliens flying through red and orange skies. Good luck trying to borrow a pencil, boys.
8. GameBoy Color
The end of the ‘90s gifted us the GameBoy Color, a big step up from our older sibling’s original Gameboy. Now, we had options: electric Pikachu yellow, seafoam green, or translucent purple. (I went with the translucent purple).
9. Nickelodeon Slime
The giant nose from the ‘90s Nickelodeon show, “Double Dare,” is etched into my psyche. Contestants would slip and slide through lime-green slime to collect red flags for points. And what about the anxious anticipation each time a guest judge on “Figure It Out,” would guess incorrectly? A gallon of slime was dumped on their heads and you reacted as if you didn’t see it coming. Nickelodeon slime was a staple of our childhood that showed up when you least expected and looked more fun than it probably was.
There was a strange time in the ‘90s when Furbies took over the world. Almost every one of our parents has a story of how they managed to smuggle one under the Christmas tree that year. (My Dad bought mine from some guy behind a Toys “R” Us). But, while Furbies are something that every ‘90s kid remembers, they disappeared as quickly as they came. Now we just have vague memories of weird owl creatures (with one droopy eye) that only shuts off when you take out the batteries.
11. Easy-Bake Oven
If you grew up in the ‘90s, you probably have an Easy-Bake Oven experience. These tiny pink ovens, powered by household light bulbs, created the most decadent oreo cakes known to man. (My brothers remember it differently). The Easy-Bake Oven was so popular with young kids that production lasted until May 2017, allowing plenty of kids to half-bake cookies to later force their parents to eat.
12. R.L Stine’s “Goosebumps” Series
R.L. Stine gave us spine-chilling horror stories with his series of “Goosebumps” books. “The Night of the Living Dummy”, the “Monster Blood” series, and “Say Cheese and Die” being among fan favorites. Then later he introduced us to his campy television show, with its bad acting and rushed plots, it was still creepy enough to keep us afraid of the dark. If you get the sudden urge to relive the experience, Goosebump is currently available to stream on Netflix.
13. The Scholastic Book Fair
While we’re on the subject of books, every ’90s kid remembers the euphoria of the Scholastic book fair. It was always in September, leaves were falling, and the weather was getting colder. Your teacher would take your class down to the gymnasium so that you could spend your parent’s money on erasers and bookmarks. Simpler times.
14. Aol’s Dial-Up Internet
It’s hard to believe we were alive for the beginning of the Internet. And then, there was a time when you had to choose between getting phone calls and checking your email. But, it was real, and we spent hours arguing with our siblings over it. Later on, we would advance our skills and become the generation of snarky, emotional away messages on AIM, still having to suffer through the sound of AOL’s dial-up signal.
15. Mufasa’s Death
While Disney movies could have their own list but, “The Lion King” deserves special attention. The death of Mufasa came with no warning and traumatized every unassuming ‘90s kid.
16. Saturday Morning Cartoons
After a long week of tackling elementary school, Saturday mornings were a sweet reprieve for many of us. The weekend was for kicking back with a bowl of Cookie Crisp and watching our school-yard, beanie-wearing favorites, in “Recess”.
Although initially marketed in 1967, Lite-Brite was a staple for ’90s kids. The toy consisted of multi-colored pegs that you’d pierce into a lightbox to create a handful of vivid images. I spent a good portion of one Christmas arguing with my cousin over what colors to use for the clown stencil. The Lite-Brite was the start (in my case, the end) of our art careers.
18. The FBI Warnings on VHS Tapes
Every ’90s kid remembers the off-putting but iconic FBI warning on each VHS tape we put into the VCR. It created a generation of adults that know better than to make illegal copies of “The Little Mermaid.”
19. Pokemon Cards
I’ve never met anyone who knows how to play a real game of Pokemon but, most ‘90s kids will have fond memories of their glossy-paged collection cards. And, maybe, even remember the gold-plated versions sold at Burger King.
20. Playing Outside
Every ’90s kid remembers a childhood where the streetlights determined baselines and curfews. There were pleasantries at the door of a friend’s house while you asked if they could play while the sun was still out. There were hours without screens and phones, just imaginations that learned to stretch. A ‘90s childhood was filled with playgrounds and swing sets and basketball hoops, and it raised a generation of kids who got the pleasure of experiencing the better parts of both worlds.
About the Author/s
An aspiring writer and journalist based in Central Jersey. Loves poetry, vinyl, coffee, Rolling Stone magazines, and her dog, Bo.