A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: Once the highlight of the breakfast table experience, the cereal box toy is sorely missed

Sometimes I wonder why some things blow right by me without gaining my attention. Do I need to get out more? Possibly. Am I unobservant from time to time? Probably. Regardless — and maybe I’m the last to notice — cereal boxes no longer contain toys.

I know. I’m as shocked as you are. What’s worse? Apparently said toys have been absent for at least a couple of years.

It’s a crying shame if you ask me. Finding those toys was one of the highlights of breakfast.

Well, that’s not entirely true. My brothers and I usually found the prize within seconds of opening the box. Which was usually minutes after the groceries were put away. And suffice it to say it was rarely breakfast time.

Which begs the question, is there ever a bad time for cereal? I don’t think so. But I digress.

Anyway, those cereal box toys were real gems. From spy gear and submarines to pencil toppers and glow-in-the-dark pens, finding toys among magical deliciousness never disappointed.

My all-time favorites were the records that were printed into the back of the boxes, featuring songs from heartthrobs like the Monkees, the Archies and the Jackson Five. Good times, I tell ya, even if I had no idea how the producers of these paper records were able to get real music to play from a piece of cardboard.

And now, this simple thrill of childhood is gone forever. Economics aside — assuming these cereal companies were going bankrupt by dropping a ten cent toy into a box of sugar-coated goodness — I suspect the legal risk grew to be more than any company cared to bear. After all, this is the society whose young eat Tide Pods. Sigh.

Instead of going off on that tangent, though, I thought I’d share this fairly good list of some of the top cereal box toys. And I’ll also remind you, although this era has come to a close, we can still find solace in a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Happy Meals do still have toys… right?

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Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

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