Thursday, November 06, 2008

No Surprises in This Year's Toy Hall of Fame Selections

I am a ludophile. I love games and toys...more than I love baseball, and that is saying something. Thankfully, like baseball, games and toys -- well at least toys -- have their own Hall of Fame at the Strong National Museum of Play. Every year, they announce new entries into the Hall. Last year they shocked some people with their selection of the "Cardboard Box" as one of the great toys of all time, they were right by the way, so it should come as no shock that this year's inductees included The Stick. The stick...that universal simple machine that can transport players into fantastic places. Want to be Babe Ruth? All you need is a stick and imagination. Darth Vader? Same. Errol Flynn? You guessed it. Scaramouche? Uh-huh. Robin Hood? Yep. Evel Kneivel? Naturally.

I am actually very impressed with the Strong Museum's commitment to promoting the "original" toys which require the use of our imagination, that greatest toy of all, in addition to those toys we -- or our parents, or grandparents -- cherished as children. We too often forget how little is really needed for a young mind to create joy...and that is what simple tools/toys allow us to do -- create joy.

Don't get me wrong. I think things like the stick and cardboard box should be let into the Hall in the same way that many of the pre-modern era greats were let into the baseball Hall. They should be brought in as a line-up, from ball to rock, all at ones. That is, unless you want people discussing the meaning of play every year. Then you let them trickle in, one by one and remind people how the simple things can provide pleasure.

Press Release below:

Baby Doll, Skateboard and—the Stick! Inducted Into National Toy Hall of Fame® at Strong National Museum of Play®

ROCHESTER, New York—The latest toys to be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame require no instruction manual. Welcome the Baby Doll, the Skateboard, and—the Stick!

The Baby Doll and Skateboard were chosen from among 12 toy finalists that included Clue®, Dollhouse, Flexible Flyer® Sled, The Game of Life®, Hot Wheels®, Magic 8 Ball®, Rubik’s Cube®, Thomas the Tank Engine™, Wiffle Ball®, and Yahtzee®.
Cradle it, feed it, take it for a stroll. The Baby Doll, with its newborn features and realistic qualities, brings out the nurturing side of pretend moms and dads. Loved by children (especially little girls) since the late eighteenth century, manufacturers have made such dolls ever-more lifelike. Most early baby dolls were made of papier-mâché or wood, followed in the mid-1800s by wax, porcelain, and composition, and in the 1950s by plastic and vinyl. In the mid-1850s, a patented German device allowed dolls to say “mama”; and an 1879 patented design made way for a drinking doll that could hold water in her head and then return it to the bottle. In 1933, Effanbee released its Dy-Dee doll, which could drink and wet. The Betsy Wetsy doll soon followed. Today’s dolls can crawl, cry, eat, dirty a diaper, and—thanks to 1990s microchip technology—talk back via voice-activated commands! While the baby doll comes in hundreds of different styles, it continues to inspire children to imitate parental roles and foster their own sense of identity.

On the flip side, the Skateboard—encouraging speed, sharp turns, spins, thrills, and risks—brings out the more daring side of a child’s personality and has been attracting kids to the sport since the early 1950s. The first skateboarders cruised the beach walks of Southern California trying to imitate the moves of the surfers they watched offshore. Singing duo Jan and Dean’s Top 40 hit “Sidewalk Surfin’” gave the new sport national exposure. Network television aired skateboard competitions, and by the time Life magazine put a skateboarder on a 1965 cover, more than fifty million skateboards had been manufactured. The early contraptions were homemade affairs of roller-skate wheels fixed to two-by-fours but changes in skateboard technology in the 1970s improved traction on asphalt and concrete. Today’s superior technology and improved safety gear provide for a safer, more stable ride. Skateboarding requires creativity, discipline, stamina, and risk-taking. It is now the sixth most popular participant sport in the United States.

And last but not least, one very unconventional “plaything”—the Stick!—has now taken its honored place in the hall. Found in all sizes in nature, sticks inspire spontaneous, unstructured play and can be used in unendingly imaginative ways—to draw in the sand on a beach, or to use as a magic wand, slingshot, light saber, fishing rod, or walking stick; not to mention playing stickball, toasting marshmallows, or playing “fetch” with your dog. Sticks are the original construction toys: children make toy buildings out of sticks and design toy boats with leaves for sails. Many an adult has picked up a driftwood souvenir from the beach, and artists and crafters use sticks in wreaths, chairs, and sculptures. The stick now keeps proud company with another untraditional “toy”—the Cardboard Box—inducted into the hall in 2005. After all, the best toy is often a plaything that’s free, easy to get, and a source of endless creativity.

The National Toy Hall of Fame® at Strong National Museum of Play® recognizes toys that have engaged and delighted multiple generations, inspiring them to learn, create, and discover through play. Criteria for induction include: Icon-status (the toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered); Longevity (the toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations); Discovery (the toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play); and Innovation (the toy profoundly changed play or toy design).

To date, the following 41 toys have made it into the National Toy Hall of Fame®: Alphabet Blocks, Atari® 2600 Game System, Barbie®, Baby Doll, Bicycle, Candy Land®, Cardboard Box, Checkers, Crayola® Crayons, Duncan® Yo-Yo, Easy-Bake® Oven, Erector® Set, Etch A Sketch®, Frisbee®, G.I. Joe™, Hula Hoop®, Jack-in-the-Box, Jacks, Jigsaw Puzzle, Jump Rope, Kite, LEGO®, Lincoln Logs®, Lionel® Trains, Marbles, Monopoly®, Mr. Potato Head®, Play-Doh®, Radio Flyer® Wagon, Raggedy Ann & Andy™, Rocking Horse, Roller Skates, Scrabble®, Silly Putty®, Skateboard, Slinky®, Stick, Teddy Bear, Tinkertoy®, Tonka® Trucks, and View-Master®.

Playthings, the leading trade magazine covering the children’s toy industry in the United States, is a national media partner of the National Toy Hall of Fame®. Founded in 1903, Playthings offers the most current and in-depth information and news on toy manufacturers, retailers, licensing, products, and people. Playthings is published by Reed Business Information, the largest business-to-business publisher in the United States.
For more information on the National Toy Hall of Fame® visit www.museumofplay.org.
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