Our Furry Friends

Our Furry Friends

What comes to mind when you hear the word “animal”? Do you envision farm animals, your pet at home, or something a bit more wild? Perhaps you even think of a Muppet or two. Either way, it’s hard to ignore that animals fulfill a pretty big role when it comes to play.

Bear Country coloring book, 1980, courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.As toddlers, many of us learn our animals and their corresponding sounds through that popular little ditty “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Animal stories can teach us valuable life lessons too. In The Story About Ping, we learn the importance of being punctual through a dawdling duckling. In Bread and Jam for Frances, we discover the value in trying new things, when a perpetually particular badger eats only bread and jam. Anthropomorphic animals have limitless capabilities. They drive, cook, work, and have homes and families. For instance, the Berenstain Bears (popular in books, television, and an exhibit here at The Strong), are a working class family of five from whom I’ve learned a tremendous amount—don’t eat too much junk food, don’t watch too much television, and don’t fear the dentist. Presenting familiar concepts through animal characters seems to resonate in a way that is both entertaining and effective.

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Monkeying around with Sock Monkeys

Monkeying around with Sock Monkeys

The beloved sock monkey is easily recognizable, cute, silly, and soft, but where did it originate? According to Bonnie Krauss Connelly’s book, Everything’s Coming up Sock Monkeys!: Art, History and Business of the American Sock Monkey, the classic toy’s beginnings can be traced back to Rockford, Illinois, where Swedish immigrant John Nelson settled in 1852….

The World Series of Shopping: The Black Friday Game Plan

The World Series of Shopping: The Black Friday Game Plan

In many families across America, preparing and then devouring the Thanksgiving Day dinner is followed by a quiet evening watching football or a Charlie Brown television special or simply sleeping off the tranquilizing effects of the largest meal you will eat all year. In my family though, the hours after the meal are not for…

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You CAN Solve the Rubik’s Cube

You CAN Solve the Rubik’s Cube

Initially known as the Magic Cube, today’s Rubik’s Cube—a six-sided puzzler that has challenged several generations—holds the title of best-selling toy of all time. Along with bubbles and little green army men, Rubik’s Cube is one of the 2014 inductees to The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame. I first tackled the cube in the…

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Screen-Play: 123-45 Sesame Street

Screen-Play: 123-45 Sesame Street

Well, paint me blue and call me Grover—Sesame Street premiered 45 years ago today, on November 10, 1969. With more than 4,300 episodes to date, it is one of the longest-running shows in television history. My colleague Scott Eberle has written about the series’ cultural and educational impact. And as The Strong inducts three new…

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Little Green Army Men Join Forces with the National Toy Hall of Fame

Little Green Army Men Join Forces with the National Toy Hall of Fame

Little green army men marched right into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong on November 6, 2014. The tiny figures, along with Rubik’s Cube and bubbles, took their place of honor among the other 53 classic toys that evidence the iconic status, longevity, and play value necessary for induction. The green army…

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

Autumn is upon us, replete with all things paranormal and pumpkin spice. Hollywood once again offers us an opportunity to be terrified for the cost of a movie ticket and large popcorn. Annabelle (2014) isn’t the first “playful” villain that has captured our collective attention: for a half a century, scary toys have come alive…

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“I’m Sorry, the Card Says ‘Moops’”: Play in Seinfeld

“I’m Sorry, the Card Says ‘Moops’”:  Play in Seinfeld

Seinfeld is not, as people often claim, a “show about nothing.” It is a television show about four narcissists whose seemingly petty dialogue and ripple-effect exploits produced a significant impact on the modern pop culture landscape. I confess―I’m a Seinfeld devotee. In fact, I recently completed my own personal “Summer of George,” where I re-watched…

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Cabbage Patch Kids: A 1983 Phenomenon

Cabbage Patch Kids: A 1983 Phenomenon

As a child who preferred playing outside with sticks and leaves, only a handful of dolls ever really captured my attention. In fact, I only recall true fondness for four dolls: Baby Tenderlove, Raggedy Ann, Darci cover girl, and my Cabbage Patch Kid—Kendall Walter Winner. In 1983, at the age of 13, I wasn’t interested…

Screen-Play: Television Characters Ruin Game Night, Too

Screen-Play: Television Characters Ruin Game Night, Too

My friends and I embrace game nights: snacks, beverages, stuffed mascots, inspirational posters. Some people don’t, probably because not everyone can handle it when (not if) their true colors emerge in the throes of battle. Similarly, television series use games as plot devices to place characters in opposition to each other, draw out the best…

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