Some toys received a special honor today for the fun and joy they've brought to kids of all ages.
On Nov. 10, the Strong Museum's National Toy Hall of Fame added the swing, Fisher-Price Little People, and Dungeons & Dragons to the ranks of other great toys, including the stick, Barbie, Nintendo's Game Boy, the Super Soaker, dollhouses, blankets and Silly Putty.
These three toys won out over the likes of other nominees, including Clue, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and coloring books.
The swing was inducted for its long-lasting appeal — cave paintings depict humans using them, after all — and ease of use, with museum curator Patricia Hogan calling it "the perfect vehicle for outdoor play."
Fisher-Price's Little People became a part of playrooms in 1959, first as wooden carvings and now as plastic figurines. Sets of the figures invite children to explore airports, restaurants, farms, fire stations and many more locations. As Chris Bensch, the Strong's vice president for collections, pointed out, Little People led "generations of small children [to] imagine big adventures."
Speaking of big adventures, Dungeons & Dragons has made kids and adults into halfling bards, dragonborn paladins and dwarf clerics since 1974. The tabletop game, the favorite in the hall of fame's online poll, relies on imagination, roleplaying and dice to tell thrilling stories. Its game mechanics have been essential the development of many video games, including the ever-popular World of Warcraft, says curator Nic Ricketts.
Selecting the best
Every year, the National Toy Hall of Fame receives thousands of nominations for its list of the best of the best. Anyone can nominate a toy through the Strong's website, and then the museum consults with a committee of educators, historians and others who have, according to the museum, exemplified "learning, creativity and discovery through their lives and careers."
If you raised an eyebrow at the mention of the stick and blankets above, it's important to note that the Toy Hall of Fame does not define what a toy is; instead, officials are more interested in how kids use these items during play. When selecting a toy for induction, the committee considers four criteria:
- 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.
- Innovation. The toy profoundly changed play or toy design.
It's easy, then, to see how sticks and blankets figure in to that picture: Sticks very quickly become swords or batons and blankets become capes and doors and the roofs of forts as kids imagine themselves in various scenarios during play. Even the cardboard box is in the hall of fame as a toy because what kid hasn't seen a cardboard box and said, "That's going to be my house! Or my castle! Or a place where my stuffed animals live!"
The other nominees
The Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots couldn't defeat the other toys and become hall of famers. (Photo: Ariel Waldman/flickr)
There were other nine toys in the running this year. They included:
1. Bubble wrap. Created in 1957, bubble wrap is great for packing, sure, but it's also great for making loud noises whether you're 8 or 38.
2. Care Bears. While they started as a line of greeting cards in the 1980s, the Care Bears quickly became plushies, figurines and stars of TV and film who taught us all about the value of, well, caring.
Clue has had people answering "Whodunnit?" for decades. (Photo: FreePhotos4U/flickr)
3. Clue. This popular board game was originally developed during World War II and has players trying to solve the murder of the hapless Mr. Boddy at the hands of colorful characters like Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard and, yes, Professor Plum.
4. Coloring books. Coloring books have helped kids develop motor skills by coloring inside the lines (if they want!) and learn any facts included in more educationally geared books.
5. Nerf. Nerf started as a ball that wouldn't break everything inside the house and quickly evolved into a line of products including blasters and bows and arrows of foam. (Whether or not the house's breakables are still intact is another story.)
6. Pinball. This arcade and bar game has its roots in 18th-century France, but that hasn't stopped it from evolving into a brightly colored, noisy and addictive machine.
7. Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. These pugilistic robots first entered the ring in 1965, and they no doubt inspired various actual robotic fights to the death.
8. Transformers. These robots in disguise haven't hidden themselves very well since the 1980s, what with the comic books, movies and TV series overshadowing the fun of turning a truck into a robot.
Uno is a game of strategy and bright colors. (Photo: Bob Owen/flickr)
9. Uno. This shedding card game is easy to learn and quick to play, and while the classic scheme of four colors is still going strong, lots of pop culture licensed versions also exist.
This story was originally written in September 2016 and has been updated with new information.