The most deceptively dangerous stuffed toys kids cuddled in the 1980s
Warning: This may squeeze all the fun out of your favorite '80s plushies.
In the 1980s, toy watchdog groups that were activated during the 1970s to step up the safety game when it came to kids' playthings began really taking top toymakers to task. Among them was lawyer and consumer advocate Edward M. Swartz, who authored an influential cautionary tale against toys in 1971 called Toys That Don't Care. It was his goal to eliminate every hazard on every kids' playroom floor, and so in 1986, he published a follow-up book with an even scarier title: Toys That Kill.
We had to know what toys he was warning us about, even if it was retroactively, so we tracked down the book and tore through its pages. In them, we found the typical toys you'd expect to worry moms: toy guns, explosives, and electrical toys. But we also found a whole section devoted to a much more deceptive subject: Our beloved stuffed animals.
Here, we've collected 10 of the top stuffed toys that Swartz warns parents about from the 1980s. These toys were all recalled for the reasons indicated below. Scroll on through and see how many cuddly nightmares you may have encountered (and escaped!) in your childhood.
1. Tiny Message Bears
Russ Berrie and Company has cranked out some of the most lovable stuffed bears (and other critters) since the 1960s. The issue with their line of Tiny Message Bears in the 1980s, though, isn't the stuffed bear, but the dangerous wooden stick that bears its well-meaning message. The sticks posed a risk for eye injuries, while the little balloons on top were branded as choking hazards.
2. The Smurf Bean Bag
This popular plushie had an unfortunate tendency to come apart at its seams, especially if a kid hugs a little too hard when squeezing the Smurf Bean Bag. When that happened, the stuffing would pour out and it was common for kids to stuff it right back... in their mouths. Back in the 1980s (according to Toys That Kill), stuffed toys like the Smurf Bean Bag didn't come with age restrictions or adequate warning labels often enough to appease toy watchdog groups.
3. Big Bird Sleepytime
This Big Bird Sleepytime in the photo here is missing the key ingredient that made it so dangerous in the 1980s: Big Bird's nightcap. Apparently the pom pom at the end of the doll's hat came detached super easily and once again posed a choking hazard for young kids inclined to pop it in their mouths. This was particularly problematic for Swartz, who sees Sesame Street characters as specifically marketed to small children.
4. Stuffed Teddy Bear with Removable Snow Suit
There's a general theme to the next few items on our list: If a toy features a removable item, you can bet toy watchdog groups had a problem with it. This stuffed teddy bear with a removable snow suit fell in that category the very first year its manufacturers, Giftco, were in business. It didn't stop them from continuing, either. Today the company sells an array of customizable stuffed bears dressed in tees, hats and uniforms.
5. Dress Me Snoopy
Just before Knickerbocker Toy Company was bought out by Hasbro in 1983, they joined a bunch of plush Snoopy doll makers who got led astray by the beloved cartoon dog's nose. The problem was that the nose would fall off too easily, causing a choking hazard for small kids. The Knickerbocker Dress Me Snoopy doll shown here was recalled for that very reason.
6. Cuddle Wit Stuffed Raccoons
Cuddle Wit was founded in 1979 and put out plushie after plushie through 1992. That put their stuffed toys primarily in the arms of '80s kids, and the only trouble seemed to be a tricky stuffed raccoon that, again, posed a choking hazard for kids who gnawed off its nose and eyes and ripped it open at the seams. The biggest issue for toy watchdog groups was distinguishing between ages that were appropriate for stuffed animals that appeared harmless.
7. Sesame Street Honkers Dolls
It seems every toymaker took a crack at these loud, little honkers dolls, but the ones that Toys That Kill took issue with was created by Hasbro. These honkers were recalled in the 1980s as ingestion threats, too. The bottom line? If a kid might be tempted to take a big, honking bite out of a toy that could possibly rip, it's probably not an ideal plaything.
8. Musical Teddy Bear
Douglas Co. has been around for 60 years as a top maker of stuffed toys. It's too bad then that their history is dampened by more than a few recalls, just like this 1980s musical teddy bear. The ribbon around its neck unwinds to 24 inches and was recalled for posing a strangulation risk for small kids.
9. Rabbit Plush Toy
If your eyes flew right to the scarf, then you might be ready to become a toy watchdog yourself. This rabbit plush toy put out by Well-Made in the 1980s again was considered a strangulation threat because of the 10-inch scarf loosely tied around its neck. it was eventually pulled from shelves for that very reason.
10. Stuffed Dog
The company that created this little stuffed mascot dog is called Wolverine, a shoe company popular for its comfy Hush Puppies loafers. They were forced to recall this toy in the 1980s because it was deemed a choking hazard, along with many other stuffed animals of the time.
See also: 9 TOYS FROM THE 1960S THAT WOULD BE DEEMED TOO DANGEROUS FOR TODAY'S KIDS
These toys arguably made '60s kids stronger and ready for the real world. Read more.