Nerf Ball

Nerf Ball

Nerf Ball, Parker Brothers, 1969, The Strong, Rochester, New York.“Stop playing with that ball inside the house! You’re going to break something—take it outside!” Those are familiar phrases that I heard when I was younger, and I am sure many other children can relate. What helped alter parental attitudes towards indoor ball play? Well, that would be the introduction of the Nerf ball, a four-inch foam ball officially marketed as “the world’s first indoor ball.”

According to Tim Walsh in Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them, inventor Reyn Guyer wanted to create a game that would garner as much popularity as Twister (a Guyer-conceived game that was manufactured and sold by Milton Bradley). In 1968 Guyer and his creative team started working on a prototype for a game they dubbed “Caveman” which utilized “fake money, paper stepping-stones, and rocks cut from mattress foam.” Guyer and his engineers play-tested the game by  jumping on the paper stepping stones, collecting fake money, and throwing “rocks” at one another. At some point during their attempt to perfect the game, Guyer had an epiphany—what if the polyurethane foam rocks were shaped into balls? If a foam rock was reconfigured into a sphere it could become a “soft, safe ball that could be thrown and kicked indoors with no fear of knocking over a lamp or breaking a window.”

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It

When The Strong museum recently acquired a Shirley Temple doll from the 1930s, it went to the museum’s doll conservator Darlene Gengelbach for treatment. These dolls have sleep eyes that open and close with metal rockers. The rocker is a spindle attached to the inside of the doll’s head with a small weight attached to…

Attention Trekkies: Star Trek Tridimensional Chess!

Attention Trekkies: Star Trek Tridimensional Chess!

In 2015 David Howe, an avid chess enthusiast in Rochester, donated 40 different variations of chess sets to The Strong’s permanent collection. Howe’s gift included 4-Way Chess for four players, 3 Man Chess in the Round, Grand Chess, Knightmare Chess, and Stealth Chess to name just a few. A chess purist might ask, why tamper…

Good to Go: Playful Ways to Get Around

Good to Go: Playful Ways to Get Around

It seems that now, perhaps more than ever, people everywhere are constantly on the go. Traveling to work or school, the gym, or the grocery store—the list goes on and on. We eat on the run, drink coffee on the run, and even get our information on the run thanks to smartphones that make emails,…

“All Aboard!” for Fun with Trains

“All Aboard!” for Fun with Trains

Growing up in Pennsylvania, my parents frequently looked for family excursions within a few hours’ drive from our home near Pittsburgh. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, became a frequent destination for the Novakovics, thanks in part to my younger brothers. Both Bobby and Billy loved reading the Thomas the Tank Engine series by Reverend W. Awdry; watching…

Out of this World: A Brief History of the Yo-Yo

Out of this World: A Brief History of the Yo-Yo

I remember my first yo-yo: a blue Duncan Imperial. I was 7 years old and had saved up enough of my allowance to buy it. The drive to the store felt like an eternity. When I finally opened the package, the bright, shiny yo-yo smelled of plastic and felt as smooth as ice—it was perfect….

When I Was a Kid: Adult Memories of Play

When I Was a Kid: Adult Memories of Play

One of the great pleasures of working at The Strong is that every exhibit features a time portal back to childhood, most of which hold innumerable portals. No sooner does a visitor exclaim, “Oh! I had one of those when I was a kid!,” at the sight of Teddy Ruxpin before she is confronted by…

Spin Master: Putting Their Own “Spin” on Toys since 1994

Spin Master: Putting Their Own “Spin” on Toys since 1994

Think about some of the “must-have” toys you’ve seen (or even procured) over the last few years. How about the playful robotic dog Zoomer? Or the small, colorful, hooked building balls called Bunchems? Or the great craze of 2016, Hatchimals (described by some as a cross between a Furby and a Tamagotchi)? These massively popular…

Oh Brother! Oh Sister!

Oh Brother! Oh Sister!

Mothers get their day in May. Fathers are feted in June. And what about sisters and brothers? Their turn comes on April 10—Siblings Day. Siblings Day hasn’t earned recognition as a federal holiday (yet), but since 1998, governors have proclaimed Siblings Day in 49 states. From experience and observation, I know that sibling relationships can…

Postwar Plastic Playthings: Affordability, Resources and Military Surplus

Postwar Plastic Playthings: Affordability, Resources and Military Surplus

I first became interested in the increase of plastic in children’s toys through my own daughter’s toys, especially since my undergrad degree was in Environment and Health, with a fourth year focus on Bisphenol A (also known as BPA) in baby bottles. Throughout my Masters studies, I focused on the central question of why we…