See this year’s finalists for the National Toy Hall of Fame

Regional

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Officials from the Strong National Museum of Play announced Wednesday this year’s finalists for the National Toy Hall of Fame.

This year’s finalists include:

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

“These 12 toys represent the wide scope of playthings — from one of the most universal playthings in the world like sand to a game-changing board game like Risk to the popular adult game of billiards,” says Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections. “Whether old or new, for kids or adults, all 12 of these toy finalists greatly influenced the world of play.”

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)

Meet the finalists

American Girl Dolls

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

Created in 1986 by educator and newscaster Pleasant Rowland, the 18-inch American Girl dolls (and their accompanying books) explore America’s social and cultural history. Each 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. The Pleasant Company released the My American Girl line of dolls in 1995 (originally under the name American Girl Dolls of Today) and designed them to look like their owners. 

Battleship

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

Originally a pencil-and-paper game, Battleship’s inspiration began with similar two-person strategy games in the late 19th century. Various manufacturers printed paper versions beginning in the 1930s and Milton Bradley’s 1967 plastic adaptation became a hit. The game was among the first board games to be computerized in 1979, and today countless electronic versions exist.  

Billiards

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

Billiards is a blanket term for many different cue sports, but pool—or pocket billiards—is the most common term in the United States. The game evolved from earlier European outdoor games, like croquet in the 14th and 15th centuries, and became extremely popular in the 1800s. While the dedicated poolhalls of yesteryear may be mostly gone, billiards remains a popular form of adult play in arcades, restaurants, bars, and entertainment centers.

Cabbage Patch Kids

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

When Cabbage Patch Kids launched in 1979, they offered American children a soft, cuddly playmate in a world of hard toys and cold electronics. Consumers could not get enough of the dolls, each with its own name, its unique, lumpy rounded face, and adoption papers. They became the must-have holiday toy of 1983 and generated massive demand, paving the way for later holiday crazes around Tickle Elmo, Beanie Babies, and Furby. For more than 40 years, these dolls have expanded children’s notions of play and fantasy, of beauty and belonging.

Fisher-Price Corn Popper

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

Fisher-Price introduced the Corn Popper in 1957, calling it an amusement device for young children. Parents quickly discovered that by pushing the device, children could strengthen gross motor skills, and it has become a staple toy for toddlers ever since. The bright, flying balls and popping sound also help to stimulate the senses, promoting curiosity and discovery.

Mahjong

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

Mahjong (also known as Mah-Jongg) evolved from 18th and 19th-century gambling card games in China. Variations spread to Korea, Japan, and other areas of Asia before becoming popular in the United States in the 1920s. Standard Chinese Mah-Jongg played like American gin rummy but was changed in the 1930s when the National Mah Jongg League established more formal and limited rules. According to the 2021 book Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture, the game caught on with Hollywood starlets, high-society, middle-class housewives, and immigrants and “signified both belonging and standing apart in American culture.”

Masters of the Universe

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

The Master of the Universe line of action figures, which includes the iconic He-Man and She-Ra, traces its popularity to maker Mattel’s use of comic books, television, and the big screen. The cartoon series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which ran from 1983 to 1985, created a cohesive, fantasy world that allowed Mattel to introduce new characters and new toys to the line. Over the years, Mattel has paired the brand with everything from toothbrushes to sleeping bags.

Piñata

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

As the centerpiece of a party game, a piñata is a paper mâché object filled with small toys, confetti, fruits, candies, or coins and raised high with rope. Both children and adults can play; while blindfolded, players swing a stick and try to break open the piñata and shower guests with the treats inside. Commonly associated with Mexican culture, the object may date back to early 13th-century China. Although there is an inherent impermanence to the piñata as a plaything, it has been and continues to be used in religious and secular celebrations all over the world.

Risk

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

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.

Sand

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

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.

The Settlers of Catan

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

The Settlers of Catan, now called “Catan,” was first published by Kosmos in Germany. It’s one of the first German-style board games to find widespread popularity outside of Europe. It is a cooperative game in which players representing settlers establish a settlement on an island by spending resources, which are earned through trade and rolls of the dice. It’s been called the “game of our time” by the Washington Post, is sold in more than 30 languages, and has won multiple international awards in game design.

Toy Fire Engine

(Strong National Museum of Play photo)

Although toy fire engines have evolved in materials, design, and technology over time, the benefits of play with these vehicles remain the same. A child might use a toy fire engine to explore role playing by assuming the position of a firefighter or person in danger. A child might spin the wheels or extend the ladder to test the capabilities of a toy fire engine. This variety of possibilities allows a child to practice communication skills, cognitive flexibility, and to explore risk, technical competence, and emotional fortitude.

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


Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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