Turn Out the Lights, It’s Lights Alive!

A light up toy with no pegs to lose, but plenty of ways to create artwork with incredible colorful light?

What is this witchcraft?!

Previously, on Allison’s Written Words…

A toy that creates beautiful pictures with light, smiling friends shining bright, and “Here’s Suzy!” was the topic of last week’s article mired in the archives. That toy was Hasbro’s Lite Brite, and it was everything and a catchy commercial.

As I was wrapping up the Lite Brite article last week, I mentioned how I didn’t have Lite Brite, but not to weep for my Lite Brite-less life. I actually had something similar, yet different and equally special. It was similar in the sense that you could create artwork, but different in the sense that you had to actually be creative to create that artwork, and special because, well, it wasn’t messy…?

That counts as being special, right?

I’ll explain the different but similar aspect, trust me.

But first, in the true spirit of Flashback Friday, a word from the “sponsor,” and the focus of today’s article!

Upload via The Toys Channel

I admit, not as catchy as Lite Brite’s jingle, but the imagery is just as fascinating!

The Light Box Toy With No Pegs To Clean Up

That’s quite a boast for a commercial, don’t you think. It’s almost like saying “hey, our toy has easy cleanup! No pegs to lose and wind up in mom’s vacuum cleaner! CLEANEST LIGHT PLAY EVER!”

It’s Lights Alive (Lights Alive)!

Lights Alive is a lightbox-style toy, unleashed on the world by Tomy in (I believe) 1983.

Image: Reddit

Lights Alive boasts the concept of creating artwork through the beauty of colorful light, but with a difference: the aforementioned pegs are not part of the creative process. Rather, the toy comes with six different tools to stamp shapes (circle, diamond, triangle, and square) and two rotary-blade type toys to create lines. The colors were created by a tiny bulb-shaped bit of plastic, and different-colored mirror pieces within the lightbox gave those colors the rainbow effect of the artwork created on Lights alive. And of course, I don’t remember this, but those colors could be changed with the spinning of a wheel on the side of the box. The packaging boasted that the item needed no electricity, ink, or paper in addition to not needing pegs. It operated on 3 “D” batteries. Your imagination, and the integrity of the tools, were your limits to what you could create.

Now that is cool!

Tomy was the original manufacturer of Lights Alive, but eventually, Playskool took over the production of Lights Alive. I can’t find any information as to when that switch happened, but there are sets by Playskool in the wilds of eBay from 1990 and 1992. So, I’m assuming late 1980s, early 1990s? And incredibly, there is even a modern-day version of Lights Alive that allows children to draw on the board with special markers, and with the press of a button, the images come to life through flashing, strobing, bouncing to the center and back, and moving left to right. And like the original, the artwork can be erased, and the fun can start again.

Image: QVC

Sadly, this was unavailable/out of stock on QVC’s website, and I can’t seem to find it anywhere else. Likewise, I don’t really know when the original version was discontinued.

Talk about a lost art form.

In the Wilds of eBay: Availability

Both the Tomy and Playskool versions are easy to find of eBay, ranging in price from $15 to $125 (in varying states of completeness and condition), with listings for replacement tools starting at $10.

Allison’s Experience With Lights Alive

As I said, I owned the original Tomy Lights Alive. It was a Christmas gift in 1984, according to some pictures I found in an album. I couldn’t see the actual name of the item on the packaging, but I did see the item on the package, so that was all I had to go on. I started searching for it in the mid-2000s or so, and it eluded me for a few years until I finally came across it in a Google search. So while I didn’t remember the actual toy’s name, I remembered the concept and the fun I had with it. I was two years old when I got it, but this was obviously something I was able to grow into, as I remember playing with it as I got older. I don’t really remember what happened to it, or when we no longer owned our Lights Alive lightboxes (my brother and I each had one), but I do remember the satisfaction of using the tools on the board, and how a simple slide of the board meant a nice new canvas, and a fresh start to make something pretty all over again.

Simply put: make it, erase it, no evidence.

And Now, You!

Did you ever own a Lights Alive, be it Tomy or Playskool? Do you remember making anything particularly interesting aside from houses and flowers?

Did you just write “Bob” because you could?

I’d love to know your Lights Alive stories, even if you only remember the somewhat unremarkable commercial.

Until next time, have a great weekend, and try not to lose any pegs!


  1. Hi Allison- I love your posts! It’s like reliving forgotten parts of my childhood! I regularly share your posts with my younger sister, who also gets it. We had one and I mostly just remember making abstract patterns with the swirly thing. Fun times- somehow it kept us occupied for far longer than it should have!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww thanks! My aim is always to help my readers relive their childhood, one forgotten piece at a time, and no matter how obscure! The pass along readership is also appreciated! I remember punching the board with those tools, and how satisfying it was!!!!!


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