The universally-loved Play-Doh has been making little hands happy since 1956 when Joe McVicker created a soft modelling clay from wallpaper paste for his sister’s pre-school students.
The mouldable dough, which stayed soft and safe inside an airtight container, could be shaped into almost anything, and then squashed back into a ball for round two.
Rainbow Crafts in Cincinnati, Ohio sold the simple off-white, newly dubbed Play-Doh to department stores and primary schools, and it was soon adopted by Kenner.
Play-Doh was so popular that three primary colours – red, yellow and blue – were created in addition to plain off-white.
The non-toxic, fun for all ages goop kept kids quiet and fuelled imaginations, as Play-Doh was painstakingly sculpted and shaped into masterpieces by hand, or with the help of its many moulding sets.
The charming boy in the smock and beret, Play-Doh Pete, made his first appearance on the can in 1960 and has remained the Play-Doh mascot for over forty years.
Within that time, Play-Doh has delivered endless hours of fun and artistry via the squishy, squashy mound of coloured dough that became the greatest thing since Silly Putty, and even better.
Kids made cars, cookies, dolls and just about anything the imagination could conjure up.
And of course, if all this fun needed more fun, the ‘Play-Doh Fun Factory’ (pictured at left) could turn little girls and boys into industrial moguls, churning out tubes, snakes, and spaghetti as fast as possible with their new Play-Doh machine.
The simple pump action pushed the pliable Play-Doh through specially shaped holes, extruding a lump of Play-Doh into stringy star-shaped, square-shaped, and squiggly-shaped tubes.
And once kids got a kick out of the Fun Factory, they tried their hands at hairstyling and trimming via the ‘Fuzzy Pumper Barber and Beauty Shop’.
The whole Play-Doh family – tube-shaped Mom, Pop, and child – got a little off the top, or a whole new hairdo. Short hair, long hair, green hair, yellow hair – try it on for size, and if it doesn’t suit you, cut it off and get back in the chair for a new look in hair.
A Fuzzy Pumper Monster set gave kids the best of both worlds: creepy monsters and squishy, growing blue hair.
If being a barber didn’t curl your toes, what about practising for dentistry with ‘Dr. Drill ‘n Fill’, your very own patient with Play-Doh teeth?
Actually, it was just a big hinged head that opened wide to expose a mouthful of teeth needing your care, but that didn’t stop the fun. Fill cavities, create crowns, and restore the smile to perfection; or, for the junior sadists, rip those teeth out with a twist and a yank from the Play-Doh pliers.
Food has always been a natural product of Play-Doh, from the early days when little girls did their best Mummy imitations and made elaborate cookies for everyone’s delight. (Just don’t eat them – they don’t taste as good as Mum’s . . . too salty). But the cooks in training didn’t stop at the simple rolling pin and cookie cutters stolen from the kitchen cabinet.
Play-Doh provided the Play-Doh Bakery and Chef’s Oven, the Pizza Party and Sandwich Shop, and the Ice Cream Truck, for all your culinary needs. Imagination and artistic food preparation not your forte? Let the McDonaldland Happy Meal Playshop recreate all your favourite fixings, made to order.
In 1983, Play-Doh enhanced its image by adding four new fashion colours to create the modern (now called “Classic”) 8-pack. The cardboard cups were replaced with airtight plastic containers in 1986, and in 1991, Play-Doh became an official member of the Hasbro family.
The traditional Play-Doh concoctions got a modern update with glow-in-the-dark colour, sparkling glitter addition, and Play-Doh’s comforting smell got new scents with ‘Funshine Sunshine’, ‘Splurple’ and ‘Pinktastic’.
Kids in the 90s needed more than clumps of clay to entertain them, and Hasbro’s Playskool introduced Play-Doh Creations, an interactive computer CD-ROM game that brought virtual Play-Doh sculpting to the screen.
But there’s still nothing like getting your fingers between the squishy stuff and making something you can feel.