Childhood millennial things in Malaysia


Ask any millennial how life was like growing up in the 90s and they’ll most likely tell you that their childhood made for far simpler times compared to today. Sans technology, many of us spent our days playing games with our friends or purchasing cheap new thrills at our nearby kedai runcit – which made up a bulk of most of our fond childhood memories.

As millennials are fast approaching or have just crossed the big 3-0 mark, we’ve rounded up 30 childhood things every Malaysian millennial owned or wished they had before the internet to remind you of the good ol’ days. So read on and check off all the things you might have forgotten you grew up with.    


– School supplies –


1.  Multi-functional pencil cases


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - multifunctional pencil cases
Image credit:
Lelong.my

These nifty multi-functional pencil cases were more than just something to store your pencils. They came with a sharpener with plastic covers that popped out with a push of button for you to empty the pencil shavings, and a pop-out pencil stand for kids to show off their collection of gel pens. 

Other functions of these cases include a built-in compass – in case you get lost on the way to school – and transparent card slots to hold cards or calendars, among others. Some of them were even double-sided so you could segregate different types of pencils.

The foam covers of these cases were often printed with images of animated characters, so many of us who wanted one of them didn’t mind that they were bulky and added weight to our already-heavy bags filled with textbooks.


2. Scented fruit erasers


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - scented fruit erasers
Image adapted from:
Shopee

Making non-edible things appear edible to kids seems like a health hazard. But that didn’t stop scented fruit erasers from becoming all the rage among kids in the 90s. They came shaped like fruits, such as bananas and strawberries, and with artificial scents of each fruit to match.

They didn’t do much as erasers, mostly smudging written words rather than erasing them. But because they were so adorable, anyone who had these in their pencil cases were considered cool among their peers. There were cheaper ones kids could get at local stationery stores too, which looked like regular erasers but with the same fruity scents of watermelon and apple.

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - scented erasers
Image credit:
Shopee


3. Marble gel pens


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - marble gel pens
Image credit:
Jet Pens

Marble gel pens, or milky pens, cost a bomb in the 90s, with some priced at a high of RM7. So anyone who owned one made sure not to lose them and to use every last bit of the paddle pop-coloured ink up before they dried out. 

They were marketed as tri-colour gel pens, as they came in pastel shades of blue, yellow and pink, and with metallic undertones. This meant that colours came out pretty randomly, and you could be left writing in one colour for quite some time. But that was part of the charm of these whimsy pens – being surprised at what colour would come out next for you to decorate your books with.


4. Snap bracelet rulers


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - snap bracelets
Image credit:
Orientaltrading.com

You’ll still see these snap bracelets given as promotional freebies today. But back in the 90s, these bracelets were part of our school supplies as they were supposed to double as rulers.

While no one really used them as rulers unless they didn’t have their legit one on hand, they were also considered collectibles, as they came in different prints and colours. Millennials will recall using them as tools of “torture” as we slapped them on our friends’ wrists too. 


5. Stacking point plastic pencils


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials COVER
Image credit:
Oriental Trading

Stacking point pencils were a level up from your average 2B pencil. These came with pencil tips that didn’t need sharpening stacked in a plastic tube. Many of us wanted one of these to skip out on the messy process of sharpening pencils as we could simply remove a pencil tip and return it to the top of the plastic tube whenever the lead ran blunt.

But the tricky part about these pencils is that missing even one pencil tip meant that your pencil could no longer function, as the pencil tip would retract inwards whenever it’s used. 

Newer versions of stackable pencils in the early 2000s were more elaborate, with pencil tips that you could reconfigure to form different shapes, with sky’s the limit to what you could make from them.

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - stackable point pencils
Image adapted from:
CDSHLT


6. Flag erasers


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - flag erasers
Image credit:
Carousell

Open the pencil case of anyone growing up and going to school during the 90s and you’ll most likely find a flag eraser. While they were meant to educate kids about different countries and get them to buy many to form a collection, many bought these 20 sens erasers to engage in a game of flip erasers – where one would try to flip their eraser with 1 finger to get it to go on top of their opponent’s to “win”.

Their standard sizing made the game fairer than using erasers of different sizes to play the game, while the flags printed on them meant that players could easily identify their challengers.


– Apparel –


7. Roller shoes


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - roller shoes
Image credit:
India Mart

If you had one of these, chances are you had friends bugging you to let them take a walk in your sneakers even if it didn’t fit them well. That’s because these trendy pairs of roller shoes were just roller skates in disguise, with a single wheel built into the heel of the sneakers. 

They were often clumpy and heavy, and made loud noises when the wheels clunked against the floors if you opted to walk rather than skate in them. And while these roller shoes were fun for those who wore them, they were every mum and mall worker’s nightmare. From the risk of injuries to scuff marks on floors, these shoes were a safety hazard for anyone other than 90s kids who thought they were cool.


8. Jelly sandals


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - jelly slippers
Image credit:
Crafty Sandal

Before famous jelly shoe brands added heels to them, jelly sandals were already a “thing” in the 90s. Despite the fact that wearing one will almost always cause blisters to form on various parts of our feet, with the constant rubbing of the PVC material against our skin, we’d bear with the pain as we had the most glittery pair to wear and boast to our friends about.

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Jelly flats
Image adapted from:
Amazon

There were many variations of these shoes in Malaysia, including a stylish flats version. This is because they were perfect for our rainy weather, and were mum-approved with how durable they were. 

Side note: There is an even a less-trendy version of them in the form of plastic slippers that you can find in toilets in Malaysian households.

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - jelly slippers
Image adapted from:
DH Gate


9. Friendship bracelets


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - DIY bracelets
Image credit:
Pinterest

Before we had the Internet to entertain us, arts and crafts was something many of us did to DIY our own fashion accessories and bond with our friends. Among the list of things that were popular to craft were plastic lanyard bracelets.

These were friendship bracelets that we gave to our closest ones, or held onto to give our outfits a pop of colour. It didn’t matter how many we received or gave out too, as the layered-on look for these bracelets were popular. 

A cheapo version of this were rubber band bracelets, which were also more common as it only required a little know-how and colourful rubber bands to make.

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - rubber band bracelets
Image adapted from:
Etsy


10. Velcro wallets and plastic spring keychains


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - velcro wallets
Image credit:
DH Gate 

Every 90s kid’s first wallet was most likely a velcro wallet. These 3-fold wallets mostly held our pocket money and Pokemon cards, among other things. They also came in many designs, but popular ones had our favourite animated characters and superheroes on them.

Those who had these wallets will remember attaching a plastic spring keychain to them, with the other end looped to your clothes or bags, to prevent scatterbrains from losing their wallets. 

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - velcro wallets
Image credit:
Aliexpress


11. Name-on-rice pendants


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - name on rice pendants
Image adapted from:
Shopee

If you had a childhood sweetheart or a first crush, you most likely had or toyed with the idea of getting them one of these name-on-rice pendants that you could attach to necklaces, keychains, bracelets or mobile straps.

These pendants comprised grains of rice with endearing words written on them suspended in a vial of water. Most popular ones that you could find in stores came with declarations of “I love you” and “Best friend forever”.

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - name on rice pendant
Image adapted from:
Shopee


– Books –


12. Biodata books


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - biodata books
Image credit:
Pen Hitam Dot Com

Before the days of social media, millennials had biodata books – or address books for kids. With TMI details such as date of birth, favourite foods and colours, and age included in these books, many of us who kept them will remember our childhood friends clearly from it. 


13. Sticker books


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - sticker books
Image credit:
@WooWork

Another way in which many millennials made friends while growing up in the 80s and 90s was through sticker books. While the thrill came from collecting stickers and placing them in our keepsake sticker books, most of the fun came from exchanging them with friends and acquaintances and trying to get your hands on the “higher-valued” ones – with prized ones being puffy or furry stickers that often required two or more stickers in exchange for one.


14. Lockable diaries


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Lockable diaries
Image credit:
Kikki-k.com

There’s a reason why movies such as The Princess Diaries and Bridget Jones’s Diary were popular with the millennials – most of us used to jot down our memories in our very own diaries. And because we didn’t want other people to read our innermost thoughts, those that came with locks were highly valued. It didn’t even matter to the tween or teenager that literally anyone who had one of these lockable diaries could open yours with their own set of keys because the lock-and-key sets were always identical. 


15. Foreign comic books


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Master Q comic books
Image credit:
Carousell 

If it wasn’t local comic strips in newspapers such as Kee’s World or Lat’s Comics, you’ll find 90s kids burying their noses in foreign comic books. Some popular titles were Doraemon from Japan, Archie Comics from the US, and Old Master Q, a.ka. Lao Fu Zi, from Hong Kong.

While Doraemon’s popularity meant that comic books of this robotic cat got translated into Malay and Chinese, Archie Comics were only available in English. Old Master Q was also only published in Chinese. But many of the comic strips were free of dialogue and could be easily understood just by looking at pictures – else, we would often rely on a friend who could speak more than one language to help us out.  

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - comic books
Image adapted from:
Carousell & Shopee 


– Toys –


16. Masak masak


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - masak masak
Image credit:
Shopee

It’s safe to say that every Malaysian kid growing up in the 90s had fun with these play cooking sets of kitchen utensils, cookware and food, otherwise known as masak masak. You can still find them today, but we’d hazard a guess that many Gen Z kids prefer the various digitised versions of play-cooking, such as Cooking Mama, so these plastic sets have become a nostalgic item of the past for millennials. 


17. Viewmasters


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - viewfinders
Image credit:
Ubuy

Viewmasters were miniature slide film viewers for kids. You had to look into a binocular-like gadget, or viewfinder, to look at images – usually of animals or cartoon stills – on a wheel. Each wheel usually contained 16 images, and to view the next image, you had to press on a toggle. Because these didn’t have any fancy mechanism, you had to view these in a bright room with enough light to let the images shine through. 


18. Polly pocket


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Polly Pocket
Image adapted from:
@star_garagesale

Kids in the 90s had a wealth of toys. And those who liked to make up stories and play dress-up will know that a Polly Pocket was on every kids’ must-have list. These tiny plastic dolls with bendable legs came in toy “houses” shaped like pocket mirrors. But while pocket-sized, these toys didn’t come cheap, with parents having to fork out at least RM50 to get one of these. 

This is why those who couldn’t afford them went for a cheaper version of these coveted toys called Stylish Candy, which could be found in the toy section of supermarkets such as Giant for less than RM10 for a set of dolls with a change of clothes and even “pets”. The houses for these dolls were sold separately, unlike a Polly Pocket set. 

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Stylish Candy
Image credit:
Mercari

An even cheaper version of dress-up dolls were locally made Paper Doll, a cardboard dress-up toy sold at almost any kedai runcit. They cost less than a ringgit, which meant that a lot of us growing up could splurge on a packet or 2 of these paper dolls with our own pocket money. 

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials COVER - Paper Dolls
Image credit:
Carousell


19. Scooters


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Scooter
Image credit:
Decathlon 

E-scooters have become a popular eco-friendly mode of transportation for urban dwellers. But during the 90s, kids were fussing their parents to get them a kick-off toy scooter, sans a motor, to ride at a nearby park. Most of these could be folded up too, which made a “scooter gathering” with your friends super convenient.


20. Koosh ball


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - koosh balls
Image credit:
Shopee

Other than yo-yos, these furry koosh balls were a fad among 90s kids. While they are popularly known as stress balls for adults, they were fun toys for those who didn’t know how to play with yo-yos, as you could just swing them around and they would come right back at you without much effort.

Some came with lights inside that glowed every time they hit a surface – which made them fun for many to swing around and play-hit their friends with. Don’t worry, these were soft and light, without sharp protruding parts so it’s hard to injure someone with one. 


21. Furbies


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Furby
Image credit:
Carousell 

These furry toys called Furbies that could talk were launched in 1998, and were among the list of must-have toys of the era. Much like a furkid, you had to keep your Furby happy by feeding it to burping it. But it’s also safe to say that many of us wanted these before we learned that newer versions of Furbies would turn “evil” by reportedly farting or making rude noises if you didn’t pet it enough, overfed it, or turned it upside down.


22. Magnet toys


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - magnets
Image adapted from:
Alibaba 

Before the Internet infiltrated every part of our lives, anything could be fun so long as they could be rearranged into different shapes. Case in point, neodymium magnet toys – otherwise called singing magnets because of the buzzing sound they made when they collided into each other.

These toys should have been considered hazardous for kids, as they were strong magnets that came in different shapes and colours – from magnetic balls to colourful sticks. But they were marketed as educational toys to stimulate our brains, as they could be spun around and stacked up to form different large-scale pyramids and blocks.

You’ll still see these toys around today, but back in the 90s some of us kept these stored in our pencil cases and traded them around so we could build up a collection of differently shaped magnets to build more imaginary stuff. 

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - magnets
Image adapted from:
HSMagnets 


– Games –


23. Brandless card games


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - brandless card games
Image credit:
Shopee

Malaysians have been coming up with card games to celebrate our local culture. But some of the OG ones didn’t have a brand name attached to them, and were just known by their game “names” of Donkey, Old Maid, Snap, and Happy Family. The best part of these budget-friendly card games was that they could be found in pasar malams or local stationery stores for under RM3. Because the cards were made out of a thin cardboard material, shuffling them was often a fuss, and the loser often had to do it even after enduring a round of smacks on the back of their palms after losing. 


24. Tamagotchi


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - tamagotchis
Image credit:
Shopee

Tamagotchis were black-and-white, pixelated digital pets that could “hatch” from an “egg”, and go through different stages in life, from baby, kid, teen to adult. Much like a Furby, but made entirely of pixels, you had to take care of your virtual pet by feeding it and keeping it happy – and more importantly, making sure it didn’t “die”.

Newer versions of tamagotchis could be connected to each other, which meant friends could introduce their digital pets to each other and play games. They came in several primary colours to collect, but not everyone could afford them so those who actually owned one were the envy of other kids. 


25. Fishing games


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - fishing game
Image credit:
Toys.co.nz 

Called mari memancing, or let’s go fishing in English, this gadget was a little more advanced than most regular toys. They required batteries to make the “pool” turn, so you had to get the timing right to catch a “fish” using one of the plastic rods it came with. 


26. Water toss games


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - water toss game
Image credit:
Worthpoint 

Water toss was a popular handheld game – but it was also the cause of many 90s kids’ stress. Part of its charm was its simplicity. There was only 1 button that you had to press to get the rings in the toy moving. But the hard part was having to get as many rings over the pegs in a limited amount of pushes of the button. They also came in different sizes and shapes, but the most common one was those with a red base. 


– Gadgets –


27. VHS tapes and rewinders


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - VHS tapes
Image credit:
Carousell

Before the days of VCDs and DVDs – which have also become a novelty item today with the proliferation of online video streaming platforms – 90s kids had VHS (video home system) tapes of our favourite cartoons and films.

The earlier tapes could only fit 1 or 2 30-40 minute episodes – or a full movie – and were pretty bulky at the size of a B6 notebook and about an inch thick, so they often took up a lot of shelf space. 

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - VCR
VHS tapes are played on a VCR player, which can also be used to record shows if you had empty tapes.
Image credit: @l.oliveira83

You’d need a VCR (video cassette recorder) to play these tapes, and both are available for rent from joints such as Speedy and Video Ezy, which are also no longer around.

90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - tape rewinder
Image adapted from:
Shopee

While VCRs let you rewind the tapes easily, they also had the tendency to mess up the film tape. To keep your VHS tapes in tip-top condition so you could re-watch your shows, you’ll need to rewind them using rewinders. These often came shaped like a car, in shades of blue, red, and black.


28. Gameboys


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Gameboys
Image credit:
Etsy

Ask any 90s kid what they wanted as a gift on birthdays or rewards after our exams and they’d most likely say a Gameboy. They were the “smartphones” of the era as every kid saw it as an unending source of entertainment. That’s because cartridges containing different types of easy-to-play games could be switched out and played on these devices. And they only required just a few batteries to operate, but could last us plenty of game plays.  


29. Music players, or “Walkmans” 


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - Walkman
Image credit:
Wikipedia 

Before music streaming sites allowed us to hit repeat on the latest tracks from our favourite artists, there were music players from Sony, coined Walkmans by the Japanese brand. While brands other than Sony had these music players, the term Walkman stuck for most of the era.

There are several versions of this gadget, from the earliest ones that played cassette tapes, to mini cassette tapes, then CDs, and eventually, MP3 (digital audio files). Everyone wanted to own one because they wanted to play music from popular artists of the 90s – Spice Girls and Siti Nurhaliza included – on demand. 


30. Brick Games, or Tetris


90s childhood things of Malaysian millennials - brick games
Image credit:
Aliexpress

Brick games were handheld electronic games popular because of their affordable price tags – especially when you couldn’t afford the more-expensive Game Boy. While newer versions could hold over a hundred games with different speeds and difficulty levels, first-comers to brick games in the early 90s might remember them storing just 3 games, and playing Tetris and a pixelated racing game for hours on its LCD screen.  


1990s childhood things Malaysian millennials owned


Millennials can’t help but get invested in 21st-century trends, be it flaunting our #OOTDs on Instagram or tackling a TikTok challenge. But we’ve had to say a sad goodbye to some of our favourite childhood things that’ve been phased out with the advent of technology. 

While some of these items have been making comebacks, we’ve all grown up and it’s unlikely we’ll buy them again – if we get so lucky to find them still sold in stores. Nonetheless, this list of childhood things 90s kids used to see in their everyday lives are a pleasant reminder of “old times” of our past, as we’re now all growing a little older (and wiser) each day. 

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Cover image adapted from: Shopee, Carousell & Shopee

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