What is it about construction toys that continues to entertain us as both children and adults? Is it the satisfying “click” we hear as pieces come together? Is it the towering structures we create? Or is it the tactile nature of the medium, allowing us to bring imaginative play to life, creating something that, moments before, only existed in our minds?
Classic Toys of the National Toy Hall of Fame
The presents have been unwrapped, the new year celebrated, and the holiday treats devoured. Now what? For many folks, the post-holiday season appears bleak, with only frigid weather and sunless days stretching out over the weeks ahead. But for some, the fun has only begun. If you’re an avid skier, snowboarder, or snowmobiler, you’ve just started enjoying the season and delighting in fresh white blankets of snow. Perhaps you’ve even pulled out your snowshoes or the old Sno Bronco.
In the big picture of play, all toys have a purpose: they teach physical and mental skills, develop young imaginations, and encourage kids to think in new ways. However one category of toys has puzzled me for years: housekeeping toys. The term seems like an oxymoron. I love a well-cooked meal, nicely laundered and pressed clothes, and a thoroughly cleaned house as much as the next neatnik, but housekeeping as play?
Many of us grew up playing domino games. And once the game was over, we carefully lined the dominoes up on end, just to watch them topple in a chain reaction. With a history stretching back more than 700 years, dominoes today look the same as they did two centuries ago. Dominoes are devices, like cards and dice, which provide hundreds of different games. And like playing cards, a 2010 inductee to the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong, you can find dominoes in electronic versions just about anywhere today.
If you haven’t spent the last week in a galaxy far, far away, you have probably heard that on November 15, Star Wars action figures joined the 50 other august toys honored in the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong. It seems like big honors for such itty bitty, 3.75-inch toys, but these figures demonstrate the iconic stature, longevity, and creative play essential to earning Hall of Fame status.
Watching the Emmy Awards recently turned my thoughts to the upcoming 2012 induction of new toys into the National Toy Hall of Fame on November 15. Although our induction ceremony doesn’t boast television stars, glittery evening gowns, or tearful acceptance speeches, it nevertheless offers suspense leading up to bestowing a significant honor on two (or sometimes three) deserving winners. No one goes away with an impressive trophy for their mantel, but classic toys receive their moment in the spotlight.
Among my childhood toys, I cherished none more than my teddy bear. According to the family story, when I was six months old, my mother and grandfather were shopping with me in a department store. As we walked past a display of teddy bears, my mother picked one up and showed it to me. “Look Megan,” my mother said sweetly. With as much fascination as a baby could muster, my wide-eyed awe let her know that I’d fallen under the spell of the fluffy plush toy. Of course, my mother didn’t have the heart to put it back on the shelf. Sale made; favorite toy acquired.
When I wrote my first blog for The Strong more than a year ago, I talked about nostalgia—so it seems appropriate that I should come full circle and take some time to reflect back on my time at the museum before heading off to a new job in a new city. I’ve learned a great deal in the last two years. I can safely handle artifacts and identify French fashion doll manufacturers.
Consider a paradox: people who play the fastest devote great lengths of time to doing so. This presents a conundrum only slightly less challenging than a Rubik’s Cube—unless you’re the current world record holder, who solved the puzzling polyhedron in less than six seconds. If you asked champion Feliks Zemdegs, he’d probably say the goal of playing quickly is achieved slowly.
…except when it comes to toys. We spend a lot of time talking about the way the media portrays women—how images of svelte, scantily-clad models on New York City’s sky-high billboards affect us mere mortals below, for instance. The struggle with body image and beauty standards begins at a very young age for girls, often with toys like Barbie, the beautiful doll who stares mockingly up at everyone unfortunate enough to be made of something other than flawless plastic.