Sand, Risk, American Girl Dolls inducted into National Toy Hall of Fame

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Officials from the Strong National Museum of Play announced this year’s inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame Thursday morning.

The 2021 class includes sand, Risk, and American Girl Dolls. They beat out the other finalists from this year’s nominees, including:

  • Battleship
  • Billiards
  • Cabbage Patch Kids
  • Fisher-Price Corn Popper
  • Mahjong
  • Masters of the Universe
  • Piñata
  • The Settlers of Catan
  • Toy fire engine

The National Toy Hall of Fame was established in 1998 and “recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period.” Anyone can nominate a toy to the National Toy Hall of Fame and final selections are made on the advice of historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity, and discovery through their lives and careers.

According to Strong officials, The National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys that have “engaged and delighted multiple generations.” 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)

Toy bios

About American Girl Dolls: Created in 1986 by educator Pleasant Rowland, the 18-inch American Girl dolls—and their accompanying books—explore America’s social and cultural history. Each historical doll comes with a unique narrative that fits her era, such as Molly McIntire, who is waiting for her father to return home from World War II. American Girl released the Truly Me 18-inch contemporary doll line in 1995 (originally under the name American Girl Today) to help girls express their individuality and build confidence. 

Says Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer, “Rowland’s formula for combining doll play with history lessons worked, in her words, like ‘chocolate cake with vitamins.’ In an era when some education experts claimed that school curriculums paid little attention to history, this toy may well have filled a void. It now offers a range of dolls and stories of girls growing-up in America and promotes diversity in the world of dolls.”

Photo courtesy Strong National Museum of Play

About Risk: Based on the French game Le Conquete du Monde, Risk translates the hobby of wargaming with miniature figures into a mass-produced war and strategy board game. First published in the United States in 1959, Risk challenges players to control armies and conquer the world. The game’s innovative mechanics ignited renewed interest in strategy games in the 1970s and continues to influence the board game industry.

“Risk became one of the most popular board games of all time, inspiring a new corps of passionate gamers, and influencing other games which began the wargaming hobby—and by extension the Euro-games like The Settlers of Catan that many enjoy today,” says Curator Nicolas Ricketts.

Photo courtesy Strong National Museum of Play

About Sand: Sand may be the most universal and oldest toy in the world. Educator Maria Montessori has argued that sand “is only one substance that the modern child is allowed to handle quite freely.” Children recognize sand as a creative material suitable for pouring, scooping, sieving, raking, and measuring. Wet sand is even better, ready for kids to construct, shape, and sculpt. Sand provides unique opportunities for tactical, physical, cooperative, creative, and independent free play.

Chief Curator Christopher Bensch says, “Although some playthings can only be found online or in certain stores, sand has a global reach that most toy manufacturers would envy. It’s been a vehicle for play since prehistory, and anyone who has spent the day at the beach can understand the allure of this toy.”

Photo courtesy Strong National Museum of Play

To date, the following 74 toys have been inducted into the Hall (sorted alphabetically):


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