Did I ever tell you about the time I got ill on holiday, and ended up being sick all over the doctor’s office, including up his sleeves? That’s the kind of kid I was.
This tendency towards chicken pox, mysterious childhood snots, and trying to wangle time off school led me to be familiar with the toys in the doctor’s waiting room. These toys were invariably covered in germs and various bodily fluids, but this didn’t deter me.
These days, whenever I have to go to the doctor’s I am generally to be found scrolling through my phone with all the other anti-social automatons in there, but when I was a kid, a trip to the doctor’s was an excuse to go crazy with the communal bits of plastic and soiled books. Obviously I couldn’t go too crazy, as I was either ill or pretending to be ill.
Anyway, here are 10 toys that always made being violently ill fun…
1. Matchbox Activity Bear
This chap lived at the bottom of that plastic toybox that graced the corner of the waiting room. While it was really meant for babies who were too young and stupid to play with the cooler stuff, I did while away some pleasant minutes honking its nose, spinning the things on its foot, and trying to avoid the month-old Ribena stains on its general person. The babies would just have to find something else to do, like pooing.
2. Tomy Tutor Play Computer
I always wanted one of these but never got one. I once had a bash at mugging another child to try and get one (didn’t work – since I was 3, I wasn’t very good at mugging). However, I did get to play with it at the doctor’s, which is maybe why I was ‘ill’ so much.
When you pressed buttons on the keyboard, different pictures would pop up on the screen. To me, this was some sort of magic. Also, no Windows updates. I predict that after the apocalypse, when we have no electricity, we’ll all go back to using these.
3. Fisher Price Chatter Phone
This was used for three things. Firstly, phoning up your friends while they were at school, so you could brag about not being at school. Secondly, phoning up She-Ra, Zippy or any of the Turtles to tell them all about your mystery illness/discuss a crime that needed solving. Thirdly, pulling it along by that string, trying and failing to not get it tangled up in the legs of tutting adults.
4. Pop Up Pets
This was a mini Krypton Factor for small, slightly ill children. Not only were you supposed to guess which animal would pop up from the picture clues on the front, you also had to figure out how to make the pets pop up. As you can see, sometimes it’s a simple button, sometimes it’s a twisty knob. That chicken one’s really obvious, that must be Level 1. Also, a chicken isn’t really a pet.
5. Trolley with building blocks
The waiting rooms of my childhood weren’t too fond of stocking toys that contain loads of small parts, but there were a couple of exceptions. One of these exceptions was the pull along trolley that contained an unspecified number of wooden or plastic building blocks. I say unspecified, because you were never guaranteed to have the full set of blocks due to them having been eaten, stolen or pooed on.
I always viewed this trolley as one of the greatest toys ever, again due to me never owning one of my own. Strangely, I never used the blocks to build anything, I just pulled the trolley along, displaying all my hoarded blocks like some sort of Gollum.
Pop-up books, books with furry and shiny bits, Ladybird ‘Read It Yourself’ books. All the books, without exception, will have the following –
– Pages 1 and 16 missing
– Crayon scribbles
– Bits torn off most pages
– Pencil indents from where a child has used the book to rest their drawing on
– One mysteriously damp corner
7. Stickle Bricks
Another exception to the ‘no small parts’ rule, Stickle Bricks were Lego’s spiky and useless cousin. Used for building nonsensical, overlapping structures, and also for making patterns on your arms to prove you were ‘hard’.
8. Wind-up Musical TV
This was a good toy to play with if you were genuinely ill, and didn’t have the energy to go carting blocks around or phoning imaginary people. All you had to do was turn the windy-knob-thing, and a ‘TV show’ would parade across the screen to the accompaniment of lovely glockenspiel music. If you got bored with this, you could always pretend you were watching Going For Gold.
9. Playskool ‘Lil Lady’ Buggy
Usually with soiled doll occupant.
I would sit in my corner, with my blocks and my scribbled on books, and watch as the other kids fought over this. For some strange reason, no one ever had it in the ‘pushchair’ position; it remained resolutely in the ‘pram’ position. The doll that lived in it would usually be naked and have one strand of hair left, and would be called Malcolm.
10. Fisher Price Play Family Garage
This graced the bigger waiting rooms, and most primary schools – back in the day there was no better pastime than doing the elevator ‘n’ slide combo. Also came with that one really pissed off looking figure, who had just had to fork out to unclamp her car.
In order to play with this, you either had to break your leg in order to get into a big hospital waiting room, or beat up Peter Reveley, thus cementing your position as ‘hardest one in Reception class’. I never did either of these.