Toy Record Players

Toy Record Players

In a world where portable music devices are commonplace, it seems unfathomable that it wasn’t always possible for a youngster to play their favorite music in the confines of their bedroom. Sure, mom and dad had the fancy, expensive stereo in the living room but it wasn’t exactly kid-friendly. One was likely to face the wrath of an angry parent if caught mishandling their prized phonograph collection. But, as usual, the toy industry came through to save the day, allowing children the same pleasures of the adult world. With the introduction of toy record players, now a kid could close the bedroom door and have complete control of their listening choices. The world would never be the same.

These kid-friendly devices first exploded on the scene in the 1950’s, just about the same time that Elvis was showing off his wiggling hips to stunned adults and delighted teenagers. Adolescents quickly caught the rock and roll bug and would forever lock themselves in their bedroom, serenaded by the rebellious sounds of the emerging artform. But these little portable record players were also embraced by younger children as well, who could listen to stories and music that was more age-appropriate. Record companies took notice of the demographics and marketed a steady stream of long-playing albums and shorter, two-song 45s to appeal to the younger age group. Problem was, teens weren’t thrilled about letting their younger siblings use their easily damaged equipment.

Toy companies took notice of this dillema, with Kenner introducing the Close’n Play phonograph in 1967. Housed within a red plastic carrying case and completely portable, the device allowed children to play their favorite 45s just about anywhere, something that was impossible to do with mom and dad’s stereo. The Close’n Play still used real records, however, and the youngest children weren’t quite ready for that responsibility just yet.

Fisher-Price stepped up to plate in a big way in 1971, with the definitive preschool record player, originally called the Change-a-Record Music Box. Mindful that vinyl records were fragile beasts, easily scratched and certainly not fingerprint friendly, they devises a series of plastic, almost indestructible disks for their Music Box Players which were wind-up powered and could read the series of notches in the discs and play a selection of kiddie songs. Now, toddlers and teens alike had the luxury of being their very own disc-jockey and spinning the sweet sounds of the day.

Years later, cassette tapes, compact discs and iPods would take over and render theses toy record players obsolete. Still, kids of today will never know the excitement that came from owning that very first record player. The appeal and charm of these devices remains strong in the hearts of collector’s everywhere. Often adorned with pictures of the superstars of the day, especially Elvis and The Beatles, they fetch a respectable price at garage sales and on Ebay where they are often quickly snatched up by those with an affinity for these little technological marvels that just ooze nostalgia. People still remember the first record they ever played in their bedroom, the first story that put them to sleep that wasn’t narrated by a parent. It may have been a simpler time, but it was also a magical one, where a kid could finally have a little freedom in their musical tastes and spin the (plastic) wax to their hearts content.

Were you the proud owner of a Fisher-Price Music Box, or a Close’n Play, or any of the other kid-friendly toy record players from the era? Do you remember the first record that you ever played in your bedroom? We’d love to hear all of your recollections in our comments section below, as we tip our hats to these early portable music devices that put smiles on so many of our faces.

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