DREAMS AND REALITY. Kids in the 1990s

What toys did children dream of in the 1990s? What did they actually play with? What influenced their wishes?

In the 1990s, Estonia started shifting towards the Western consumer society. The newly opened borders and the media created an image of “good Western life”, but not all families had equal opportunities to achieve that.


The first years of the 1990s were still a lot like the previous decade – the shops were empty and even the most ordinary commodities were hard to come by. Soon after the Estonian kroon was introduced in 1992, stores started filling up with imported goods which many people did not have enough money for. Just like the “good life” ideal remained an unattainable dream for many in the adult world, children also had to substitute expensive brand products with cheaper analogues or self-made toys.

The exhibition gives a chance to see the phenomena of that new era: toy commercials, cult series the heroes of which were made into games, TV programmes which were imitated or parodied at kindergartens and schools, collectible toys from sweet and snack packets, etc.

The exhibition includes a separate display of outdoor toys, as at least in the summer kids tended to play mainly outside. Outdoors, they often didn’t even need any special toys – when there were enough kids, they played run-outs, four square, French skipping and other chasing, jumping and ball games.

Visitors can also see the wondrous things children collected and exchanged in the 1990s, from small rocks to beer cans. Novel and foreign items were particularly highly valued. With some of those (sticker albums, football cards, etc.) the producers used clever sales tricks to ensure that kids kept buying the products.