In the ’90’s, we didn’t have YouTube/random indie blogs/Spotify to hook us up with the coolest and latest music. Instead, we came home from school and turned on MTV. Host Carson Daly would take us through a whirlwind 30 minute session — where we got to see the latest and greatest in the music world. Big time favorites included Eminem, Usher, Limp Bizkit, Christina Aguilera, and Good Charlotte.
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Britney Spears Mania
Very few dominated the music video era like Spears. Her effervescence and innocence later made way for a more colorful appearance, but there’s no question her vast amounts of hit songs made her a legend during the ’90’s. Plus, it made the popularity of plaid skirts exponentially blow up throughout the United States.
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Spice Girl Fame
While it wasn’t exactly on the same level as The Beatles, this version of the British invasion involving the Spice Girls was highly potent. The quintet of energetic girls offered us karaoke favorites such as “Wannabe” and “Say You’ll Be There.” The group also gave us Victoria Beckham — which then introduced us to David Beckham.
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There was always that one popular girl holding the cards to your proverbial future with the game MASH. The ringleader would often poll the entire class using this intricate game. Your profession would be determined — as would your future car, spouse, residence, and number of children. This activity was perfect for down time in class, at recess, or during the dreaded rainy day schedule.
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Pen With Different Colors
Why have four different colored pens, when you can have four pens in one? The versatility of this writing utensil was simply fantastic — as one could transition seamlessly from a standard black to exciting colors like green, red, and blue.
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Every girl growing up had a pack of these special pens. These sparkly tools were extremely vital when doodling during class. It was always a battle with teachers, as these pens were often outlawed for assignments. While the traditional black pen may have taken precedence for classwork, milky/gel pens were the preferred implement of choice.
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The child’s form of drug deals, these crack-like cards were all the rage during this time period. Parents spent hours trudging their children around to malls and card shops, where the purchasing of multiple Pokémon card packs were frequent. In a sense, this craze was akin to baseball cards on steroids.
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Notes In Class
The art of texting didn’t really come into focus until the new millennium. In order to talk to your friends in class, you had to be sneaky. The slick way of passing notes — without the teacher noticing — was both tricky and exhilarating. Worst-case scenario would include having your teacher read the note out loud.
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Before the days of DVD’s and Blue Ray, there were VHS tapes. Let’s be honest, every ’90’s child had cabinets chock-full of VHS tapes. These likely were Disney cartoons — though classics such as Little Giants, Space Jam, and Home Alone were also present.
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Dial-up AOL screen
Ah, the days of AOL! Children today don’t realize that when one used the family computer (yes, not everyone had a tablet or laptop at that time), you couldn’t use the phone at the same time. The patented dial-up noise was one of euphoria for one who wanted to jump in a chat room, or converse with friends via AIM.
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Water Ring Toss Game
Resembling a fish tank, this near-impossible game was a staple in virtually every childhood throughout the ’90’s. Children spent hours trying to get those colorful rings on hooks scattered throughout the apparatus. More often than not, the challenged proved to be too great.
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The consumption of candy during this period was at an all-time high. It was always a great feeling to pool up any money you found around the house (usually in couches) in order to buy candy from the ice cream man or the local store. Some standouts in this category include Wonder Balls, Pop Rocks, Fun Dip, Nerds Rope, Caramel Apple Pops, and gigantic Jawbreakers.
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Friday was the best day of the week for a number of reasons. For one, the school week was over. Secondly, you could head with your parents to Blockbuster on a Friday night. You’d invariably run into friends from school, who were also there ready to snag the latest movie or video game made available. For those too young to remember, Netflix was not created at this point (though Netflix certainly had the last laugh). As such, you’d get to rent VHS movies/video games from a store, and return them a few days later. But be sure to rewind the tape before bringing them back.
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There were a myriad of computer games made accessible as the digital world continued to develop. When in school, ’90’s kids surely utilized the likes of Math Blaster, Kid Pix, and Mavis Beacon. When you got home, there were also great choices — such as the Backyard Sports franchise, The Sims, and Rollercoaster Tycoon.
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This handheld device got many families through long car rides and trips on planes. A child could get lost in his or her gameboy for hours. The primary game of choice for a Gameboy was Pokémon. Though we’ve seen successors in recent times, this gaming option was truly ahead of its time.
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While laser tag is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, the height of this activity truly took place in the 1990’s. The perfect (and often typical) Saturday afternoon included a laser tag birthday party — where you’d run around for two hours blasting people in the dark. Then, you’d enjoy pizza, soda, and cake before returning to the battlefield — followed up by some time in the arcade. At approximately 4:00 p.m., your mom would pick you up.
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Let’s be honest, we’ve all had that moment when your parents wouldn’t let you get a pet. Japanese designer Aki Maita solved this issue with the tamagotchi. This keychain-sized toy enabled users to look after their own digital pet. It essentially gave the child a sense of responsibility…without having any tangible responsibility when it came to looking after a real-life pet.
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These milk caps became a hit game with the youth during this time period. Though the actual game existed, no one really played it. These circular caps often had crazy designs on them — including cartoon characters. The best ones to acquire were “the slammers.” These were often made of a more durable material, and had a shiny coat to them.
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Sorry LeBron, but Jordan is the true GOAT. At this point, he delighted the audience with his play on the basketball court for the Chicago Bulls. However, he was also a large fixture within the pop culture realm. He appeared on Saturday Night Live with multiple funny skits, and also promoted Gatorade, Hanes Underwear, Ballpark Franks, McDonald’s, Wheaties, and the Air Jordan brand routinely on television via commercials.
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The children’s television network had a much bigger cult following than it currently does — particularly pertaining to cartoons. The likes of Doug, The Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren & Stimpy, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters were staples. Additionally, you had shows such as Salute Your Shorts, All That, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Clarissa Explains It All, and The Secret World of Alex Mack.
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This was THE best after-school snack. There was nothing better than to dunk the small vanilla cookie into a pool of frosting goodness. The flavors for the frostings varied — and even included sprinkles on occasion. And who doesn’t like sprinkles?
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Dannon’s Sprinkle Yogurt
Speaking of sprinkles, the “Sprinklins Yogurts” were a fun surprise for any child’s lunchbox. While the actual yogurt was plain, a small tinfoil envelope of sprinkles were given in order to jazz up the snack. It was immensely fun with the rainbow-laden sprinkles parachuting down into the white pillowy cloud of yogurt.
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Juice boxes were truly the lifeblood of any summer day. When you got parched from playing outside with friends, you’d often make a quick stop at your house in order to grab a thirst quencher. Capri Sun, Hi-C, and Yoo-hoo were certainly crowd pleasers.
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There was always that one mysterious kid possessing the immense ability with the hacky sack. After the masses saw the gifted individual exhibiting prowess in knocking the knitted ball around, others invariably followed. It became a huge lunchtime and early morning activity…until the evil yard duties took them away.
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The Fear of Getting Slimed
Every child in the ’90’s had an irrational fear of getting slimed — even if unrequited joy invariably followed the “sliming” of another unsuspecting person. The neon green substance was highly sticky, and made its appearance primarily on the show Double Dare.
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All of the cool kids rocked skate gear (even if you didn’t skate). Any elementary/middle school would be jam-packed with Volcom, DVS, Etnies, Val Surf, Hurley, and Osiris. Even if you didn’t skate, you could be a part of the scene with the finger mini skateboards.
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Conquering the CRAG
Aside from having fantastic cartoons, Nickelodeon featured multi-player competition games. The most entertaining was GUTS — a show ultimately culminating in competitors trying to traverse the treacherous Super Aggro Crag mountain. The gigantic, colorful feat looked like loads of fun.
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The Terrifying Legends of the Hidden Temple Guard
Legends of the Hidden Temple was truly awesome. Taking a play on the Indiana Jones film series, this adventurous competition had children running through a jungle temple with the hopes of winning prizes. These kids would garner instruction from a gigantic talking tiki head. Perhaps the most frightening aspect is when the scary temple guard would grab children from behind and disappear with them behind a secret door (don’t worry, it’s all imaginary).
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The ’90’s was infamous for infomercials and commercials geared towards the “latest and greatest” in the toy world. One of the best examples of this is Skip It. Countless children played outside with this contraption. For some of the more agile children, it was tons of fun. For those who had a propensity for clumsiness, it wasn’t very much fun.
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This creepy looking toy made many feel as if it was going to come alive. During its heyday, it was the “it” toy for many during the holiday months. Though there’s not really a market for the toy anymore, it was a highly popular entity back in the day.
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Though a once popular activity, we’ve seen a steady decline in recent years. It used to be very common to see children careening down the street with a full assortment of helmets, knee guards, wrist guards, and even elbow guards. And who can forget those rollerblading dances, where the girl of your dreams is mere feet away. Any sort of skating arena surely was the setting for a myriad of emotions and pre-pubescent strife.
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While walkie-talkies were present prior to the 1990’s, children during this time went crazy for them. It was always the best when you could run around the neighborhoods with your friends in some sort of two-team competition. Communication was immensely vital for some of these games. As such, this was the more effective way of getting in touch with your mates.
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Lisa Frank School Supplies
The beginning of every school year correlated with an expensive and exciting trip to the supplies store. Here, one could pick up a plethora of pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, and all sorts of things. The leader in the clubhouse when it came to this was definitely Lisa Frank. These colorful and eclectic designs were everywhere.
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While the ’80’s holds the mantle as the cheesy music decade, some of it trickled over into the ’90’s. The hit song “Macarena” by Los del Rio took the country by storm. At this point, anyone born during that time period — or beyond for that matter — knows some of the dance. It was a particular hit at clubs and at Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.
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Speaking of music icons, Ricky Martin was certainly a power presence within the music scene during this decade. “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and “Cup of Life” were two of the most popular songs in the ’90’s — despite the fact they came out in the latter portion of the decade. Martin’s dance moves — coupled with his devilishly good looks gave him true global notoriety.
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While they weren’t overly stylish or practical in any way, snap bracelets were all the rage during school. For one, they were lightweight and comfortable. Secondly, they didn’t take a whole lot of time to put on (nor take off). Lastly, it was fun to snap it on your wrist with the corresponding “pop” sound.
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Boy Band Duel
Were you a fan of the Backstreet Boys? Or, did you prefer *NSYNC? In a sense, you had to pick your allegiance to one group and sit there. Justin Timberlake clearly won the battle against Nick Carter for the most prevalent member decades later. With that said, there’s a mass amount of nostalgia when either one of these bands comes on the radio.
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You actually know who 2pac and Notorious B.I.G. are
Yes, the highly controversial duo are two of the best the rap game has ever seen. While phenomenal as a music artist, 2pac was also an extremely underrated actor. Notorious B.I.G. had unbelievable lyric skills, and had a uniqueness truly not seen today. Very few understand the impact these two had on the current crop of popularized singers in the genre.
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In order to listen to all of these talented artists, ’90’s kids didn’t have the luxury of having a cell phone, or an iPad. The act of burning a CD — whilst utilizing a CD player/Walkman — was the move during this period. There wasn’t an unlimited amount of songs people were able to listen to. As such, the 10-track CD was one often appreciated to the fullest.
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Life Without Cell Phones
Yes, there was a period in which cell phones were non-existent. There wasn’t calling your friend up to go play, or even texting. And don’t think about the use of apps. Instead, you made plans using your home phone. This could leave you susceptible to a lurking parent on the other line, but it made face-to-face interactions with your friends much more frequent.
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The parents of ’90’s children absolutely hated this toy. While it did offer benefits in terms of hand-eye coordination and memory, it also offered some of the most obnoxious sounds imaginable. Each toggle and button had its own corresponding sound. For a parent on a long drive, this would not be the ideal scenario.
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Cory and Topanga
Boy Meets World offered the youth a wholesome show chock-full of humor, witty dialogue, and life lessons. The duo (portrayed by Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel) were one of the most popular sitcom childhood couples to date. Duly, who could forget Cory’s crazy brother, Eric, or the most iconic and wise character of the show: Mr. Feeny.
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The Stamp Markers Crayola
There was no practical use in having these stamp markers — other than to decorate your assignment folder during class, or add an extra bit of whimsy and pizzazz to one’s lined sheet of paper. With that said, these were far more popular than anyone expected them to be.
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Stop, collaborate and listen. Ice is back with a horrific haircut and bizarre style. The rapper (real name Rob Van Winkle) was a one-hit wonder with the song “Ice, Ice Baby” — even if he did have an eerily similar beat to Queen/David Bowie’s classic “Under Pressure.” Ice’s claim to fame was probably when he appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.
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Are You Afraid of The Dark/Goosebumps
The combination of Nickelodeon and R.L. Stine both delighted and freaked out children during this time. Goosebumps spiced up the imagination of many with these toe-curling, and somewhat horrifying novels. Are You Afraid of The Dark was essentially the televised version of the books. One will never forget the Midnight Society carefully tossing dust into the campfire before divulging a scary story.
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Boyz N The Hood/Friday
Both of these films spoke about the African American community in Los Angeles. Ice Cube starred in both — demonstrating equal parts comedy and drama with his roles. Friday is considered a quotable, cult-classic film. Boyz N The Hood featured tremendous acting, and an Oscar-nominated script by the uber-talented John Singleton.
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The Robin Williams Era
The late Robin Williams was one of the most diverse and richly versatile actors within the past 50 years. During the ’90’s, he demonstrated his immense range — starring in dramatic roles and ones firmly rooted in comedy. Some of these included Aladdin, The Birdcage, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, Hook, Jumanji, Jack, and Toys.
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The Tim Allen grunt became a staple within households all across the country. Allen played the everyday working man tasked with hosting a show about power tools. Allen’s quirky behavior made him one of television’s most popular figures. Home Improvement also added to the mystique of actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas — who was easily one of the biggest teen heartthrobs of the decade.
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“Yeah baby, yeaaaaah!” Portrayed and created by comedic legend Mike Myers, Austin Powers was a raunchy British crime-fighter out to stop the sinister Dr. Evil (also played by Myers) from taking over the world. This trilogy was wildly funny — as it parodied British action films of the past. These films still hold significance within the pop culture realm two decades later.
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Pull Down Maps in School
Forget that iPad or laptop. When teachers during the ’90’s were teaching you about geography, they’d simply walk over to the whiteboard, and pull down a gigantic map from the top of the board. Here, they’d actually point to places on the map (usually with a ruler) as opposed to having the class follow on an overhead projector. Plus, it was always fun when the teacher tugged down on the map, and it snapped back up with a loud cracking sound.
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Having cool school supplies was always a must — particularly at the beginning of the school year. While many often hated the smell of sharpies, scented highlighters were all the rage back in the ’90’s. One could get a nice whiff of strawberry without actually consuming the fruit. The same goes for an array of fruit-based flavors. One key though: Don’t actually lick the highlighters. Those not-so-bright students often mistook a scented highlighter for a lollipop. Yuck.
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Book Fair Handouts
When your teacher broke out the book fair handouts, all hell broke loose. You’d scour the four page booklet with glee and precociousness. Invariably, you’d then run home and tell your mom about all of the books and posters you’d want to pick. Even though reading books seemed like a major chore in elementary school, there was something special about heading to the book fair. It was almost akin to a trip to the toy store.
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While children didn’t often preoccupy themselves with mail very often, Zoobooks were a different story. Each booklet featured one main animal on the front cover. In a sense, it was almost a TIME magazine for children — though it was chock-full of random and rather fascinating facts about animals all over the world.
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Not Having DVR/Netflix/Having to Record Manually
Using VHS, people had to manually record television shows they were slated to miss. Additionally, it was one tape per VHS player — meaning ’90’s children (and families) were not afforded the functionality and easiness of TiVo or a DVR. It also completely ruled out binge watching of any sort.
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Push Up Ice Cream
DING, DING, DING! The ice cream truck is here! During those summer months, there was nothing better than to run up with loose change in order to purchase that perfect frozen treat. For many, it was a Push Up. Usually featuring Fred Flintsone, the flavors were generally of the fruit variety. The 50/50 creamsicle ones in particular were tremendous.
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Disney Channel Original Movies
After a long week at school, Friday nights were the prime time for fun. If you weren’t out at your local high school’s football game, you were likely at home — tuned in to the Disney Channel. Friday night original movies were truly awesome. Some of the gems from the ’90’s included Johnny Tsunami, Brink!, Halloweentown, Smart House, Genius, Horse Sense, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and The Thirteenth Year.
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Mary-Kate and Ashley Movies
Once Full House had run its course, the Olsen twins were literally everywhere. Their transition into the film netted them roles in classics such as Double Double Toil and Trouble, To Grandmother’s House We Go, Switching Goals, and It Takes Two. Both also acted as fashion icons during this decade, which is no surprise since each has a prominent role within the industry today.
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Attitude Era of WWF
Before professional wrestling became family friendly, it was a raunchy, raucous, and highly entertaining two-hour period of television. RAW and Smackdown! were events rather than the typical television show. We were introduced to a number of colorful and fascinating characters — including the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Mick Foley, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels.
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For those children aspiring to cook in the kitchen like their parents, they had to look no further than with the Easy-Bake Oven. This mini cooking device enabled kids to “cook” both cookies and small cakes. While the premise of this toy was highly clever, the actual treats often were grossly under-cooked.
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Creepy Crawlers Bug Maker
The boys version of the Easy-Bake oven, one was able to “cook” plastic, gummy, and non-edible versions of bugs in a small mold. These were quite fun — as one could create different bugs with a mixture of various colors. These were excellent when wanting to place them in your older sister’s cereal, or on your mother’s pillow at night.
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