For Christmas 1979, I received one of my favourite presents of all time. It is even up there with the Sindy house I received in 1984. It is a toy that I will never forget playing with, one that has left me with some magical memories. However, it is a toy that went to the charity shop/jumble sale/tip at some point in the 80s. Clearly the fond memories hadn’t started to grow at that point.
Such was the aching nostalgia I felt for this toy that I felt the urge – aged 39 – to buy it once again for my kids to play with (cough, cough).
The toy I had never forgotten is the Palitoy Family Tree House.
It was clearly a big seller during the 1970s and early 80s as most people of a similar age to me who see a photo of it seem to enjoy a moment of warm, childhood nostalgia. Maybe not quite enough to hunt one down on eBay, but enough to suddenly remember winding the little lift while drinking Kia-Ora and half watching Bagpuss on TV. It is one of those definitive childhood toys of the late 1970s/early 1980s, up there with the Fisher Price garage, plane, house etc. and the iconic orange space hopper.
The tree house was a simple idea – a tree which had a carry handle and a button that when pressed revealed some exquisitely 70s-esque decorated rooms. Not only was this tree a secret family home but it even came with furniture, a family, a car and – my favourite – a small spotty dog! I named the dog Rover and have since discovered that many other tree house toy owners also christened their dog Rover.
Rover even had his own removable kennel which was also designed to look like some kind of smallish tree/bush.
Now, you might presume that a family who lived in a tree would be somewhat new-agey and alternative. Think again! The ‘daddy’ figure wore a smart striped business suit! Who says you can’t look slick and live in a tree? And it was some tree, it had its own lift and a lovely tree swing in the garden. The two children would often fight over who would go in that swing which was all over quite quickly as usually the plastic ‘rope’ of the swing broke early on. Hence not many tree houses for sale on eBay include the tree swing. The ladder is also often missing.
The ‘mummy’ figure looked to be wearing an apron. The Palitoy tree house made no apologies for its gender stereotyping! The children sported wonderful 1970s hairstyles and clothes, the little boy in particular had a superb blonde bowl cut and wore denim dungarees.
The real joy of the tree house was that its scale was roughly the same as some of the popular Fisher Price toys around at the same time. This meant that the little wooden Fisher Price people with plastic heads could come over for the day, and the tree house family also got to go places in the camper van, or even the plane!
The Palitoy family tree house was – in my opinion – one of the best toys ever. However, given the fact that production of this toy had ceased by the mid 1980s, it was only one of the best toys of its time.
How would it fare in today’s world of – literally – all singing, all dancing battery operated toys?
In fairness, my youngest children were very interested in the tree house when it arrived. that may have been because I had talked up its arrival and raved about how much I had enjoyed playing with it when I was a little girl. They did play with it but I think it might be obvious to you already who loved it the most…
The thing is, when it comes to toys from your childhood, it’s not necessarily about how ‘great’ the toy actually was, or is. It is about all the magical memories of childhood that have somehow attached themselves to that one thing. The wonderful days of playing innocently when your only care in the world was how to get Rover back out of the tree house lift shaft. When we remember playing with a particular toy from our childhood we briefly get to revisit that magical, carefree place deep within our minds, if only for a second or so. That warm rosy glow of nostalgia is such a special feeling, and one that I am unashamedly addicted to.
So, my Palitoy family tree house sits on a shelf alongside my Fisher Price school and some ladybird books.
Ipad minis, interactive plush toys, dolls that talk, sing, dance… They’ll never reach the heady heights of some of the toys I recall playing with as a child! And that is because nostalgia is a wonderful thing, and it makes plastic trees with 70s interior decor one of the best toys in the world.
Thank you for reading!
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