What Were Kids' Fads in the 1970s?

Lava lamps hit the American scene in the '70s.
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Watergate, Roe vs. Wade and America's exit from Vietnam marked the decade of the 1970s. As adults concerned themselves with these and other major news issues, kids were going gaga over a wacky assortment of games, toys, hobbies and clothing styles. The '70s were full of kid-friendly fads, many of which lost their luster by the end of the decade.

1 Toying Around

Kids of the '70s kept busy with games, toys and gimmicks, including Dungeons and Dragons; action figures of pop icons like Evel Knievel and characters from popular movies like "Star Wars" and "Planet of the Apes"; lava lamps; and clackers, which consisted of a handle, string and solid glass or acrylic balls that clacked against each other when the handle was moved up and down quickly. Outdoors, kids skipped with the Lemon Twist, which attached to one ankle and circled around the other leg. Possibly the most noteworthy gimmick of the '70s was the pet rock, a low-maintenance alternative to traditional pets. It came packaged in a cardboard box complete with air holes, straw and a training booklet. Remarkably, within a few months of hitting the market in 1975, more than a million rocks were sold for $3.95 each.

2 Pushing Buttons

The '70s saw a rise in the use of electronic equipment for entertainment. Teens listened to music stored on eight-track cartridges, which were replaced by smaller, handier cassette tapes by the decade's end. Kids were enthralled by noisy memory games with large flashing buttons and handheld electronic versions of tennis, football and race car driving. It was also in the '70s that Odyssey and Atari developed game consoles that worked with a standard television set. Kids played "Pong" -- an electronic variation of tennis, minus the sweat -- while lazing in the family room.

3 Looking Good

Regarding fashion, tie-dye of the 1960s morphed into hot pants, wide collars and platform shoes in the 1970s. Teens took their cue from John Travolta's wildly popular "Saturday Night Fever," which inspired the disco look, complete with its faddish three-piece suits for guys and wrap dresses for girls. Meanwhile, younger girls sported colored tights, short dresses and skirts and boys wore bowl-type haircuts and plaid polyester bell-bottom pants. Garanimals hit the fashion scene in the '70s. With its unique system of animal-shaped tags, Garanimals helped kids of both genders mix and match clothing separates for a more coordinated look. The decade was also marked by mood rings, iron-on patches, long tube socks, clogs and macrame everything -- including belts, necklaces and purses.

4 Cracking Smiles

The bright yellow smiley face image exploded on the American scene in the early 1970s. Two brothers, Bernard and Murray Spain, drew a smiley face, attached the words "Have a nice day" to the image and copyrighted their creation. Kids went wild over the smiley face, buying up buttons, posters, greeting cards, T-shirts, bumper stickers and jewelry that featured the perky symbol. Crafty types were hooked on hook rugs, God's-eyes and string art, and young collectors fell for Holly Hobbie stationery and Wacky Packages cards and stickers.

Judy Fisk has been writing professionally since 2011, specializing in fitness, recreation, culture and the arts. A certified fitness instructor with decades of dance training, she has taught older adults, teens and kids. She has written educational and fundraising material for several non-profit organizations and her work has appeared in numerous major online publications. Fisk holds a Bachelor of Arts in public and international affairs from Princeton University.