Back in the day, kids weren’t handed gifts left, right and centre for every occasion that came around. In fact, if you were a kid of the 1950s and ’60s you might remember only getting toys on two days of the year — your birthday and Christmas.
This is why it was so much more exciting when you were allowed to fish around inside an empty a cereal box to find a small toy that was barely the size of your palm. Most of the time they needed assembling and sometimes they didn’t do much – but there was always something magical about seeing the treasure fall into your bowl first thing in the morning.
And although finding the toys were often the highlight of the week, the only downside to the surprise was that there was only one prize dished out at a time. This could often mean some pretty nasty breakfast brawls were likely to break out between siblings over who got to keep it this time.
Although simple, the toys created hours of fun and kids would usually eat as much cereal as possible to get to it first. Most kids will remember patiently waiting for the cereal to end before they could pick out the plastic toy that came in many different shapes and sizes.
Waiting was the aim of the game for securing most cereal box prizes as god forbid your mum caught you with your arm half-way into a fresh box of Corn Flakes! Some kids mastered the art of sneakily pouring out the cereal, getting the toy, then putting it all back in – but that was definitely for those who didn’t mind taking a risk!
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes was the first brand to introduce cereal box toys and remained some of the most memorable ever since. A few of the more popular toys included the ships, the cow with a little bucket or of course the crazy Crater Critters.
But the all-time favourite among many was definitely the horse that had a string and a little weight attached to it that would hang off the edge of the table and walk all on its own. Known to many as Ned the Horse, kids would race them up and down the table to pass the time.
However, Kellogg’s wasn’t the only brand to jump on the trend. Weeties cereal also gave kids large cards with cartoons like The Flinstones pasted on the front that could be folded in half so it could stand on its own.
Meanwhile, collectible cards were sent out from brands like Brooke Bond Dividend Tea as well as the extremely popular sets from Weetbix. The Weetbix cards showcased a new set every year including everything from wildlife and landscape scenes to cars and shots of outer space.
Still to this day people are looking to collect the vintage toys (often for a pretty hefty price) simply to hold onto the feeling of nostalgia that comes from the little piece of plastic. And even though today, the prizes wouldn’t seem like much – as a kid in the ’50s and ’60s there was nothing better than discovering the magic of a ‘free’ prize that was handed to you simply for eating your breakfast!