Dirty Dancing in the Borscht Belt

Dirty Dancing in the Borscht Belt

Nobody puts Bubbie in a corner. (Oy.) I think of the movie Dirty Dancing (1987) whenever I see this poolside photo of my grandparents at Grossinger’s resort in the Catskill Mountains in 1964. They look sophisticated, fun loving, and reminiscent of Baby’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Houseman, New Yorkers who visited the fictional Kellerman’s Mountain…

Young and Green: My Early Environmental Education

Young and Green: My Early Environmental Education

Every day should be Earth Day, of course, but once upon a time, a group of concerned citizens coordinated its very first occasion. Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, with schools across the United States hosting concurrent teach-ins to protest practices polluting natural resources. It’s apropos, then, that my lifelong respect for the environment…

West. Honey West: Female Spies in Television and Toys

West. Honey West: Female Spies in Television and Toys

Though Bond girls and seductive villainesses have been the most memorable women of the spy genre since Dr. No premiered to American audiences in 1963, not all ladies have found themselves relegated to supporting roles. Surely female characters engaged in espionage have James Bond to thank for sparking the 1960s spy trend and the fantastic…

Game for a Party

Game for a Party

Few things beat a good party game for putting people at ease—be they best friends or acquaintances at best. I attended a baby shower whose host displayed a platter of adorable infant-related items and instructed us to commit them to memory. After Jackie and her tray left the room, her mother-in-law distributed pencils and paper….

Free Play among the Furniture

Free Play among the Furniture

Make-believe makes a big difference. Children’s pretend play equips them for real life, write Julie A. Fiorelli and Sandra W. Russ in their 2012 article for the American Journal of Play. Fantasy play is essential to children’s health and welfare, affirms Vivian Gussin Paley in another Journal issue. Traveling through time and space, assuming imaginary…

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About Time: How Kids Perceive It, and Why They Wear Watches

About Time: How Kids Perceive It, and Why They Wear Watches

Did you wear a wristwatch when you were a kid? I recall owning at least half a dozen watches, all prized possessions, but I don’t remember checking my wrist very often. When a collections project here at the National Museum of Play at The Strong unearthed a Funtime Barbie watch that sent me into a…

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Physical Fitness: Play or Punishment?

Physical Fitness: Play or Punishment?

As the Olympic Games conclude, I can’t help but remember my years as a star athlete . . . just kidding. People who condition their bodies and minds for extreme competition will forever surpass my skill and understanding. However, I appreciate their urge to better themselves through feats of athleticism. And I, like many of…

Have Toys—Will Travel

Have Toys—Will Travel

Have you ever wondered how The Strong uses artifacts not currently on display at the National Museum of Play? Scholars from around the world visit Rochester to study firsthand The Strong’s collections, which are unique not only for their rarities but for their breadth and depth. Museums also borrow The Strong’s artifacts for temporary exhibitions,…

Play-Time: Racing Against the Clock

Play-Time: Racing Against the Clock

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…

New Year’s Resolutions from the Artifacts

New Year’s Resolutions from the Artifacts

Some folks have reported visions of sugarplums recently—I’ve worked so closely with museum artifacts that I’m hearing their voices. Call me the Toy Whisperer or just plain loopy, but I listen when the museum’s toys and games talk about their New Year’s resolutions. The artifacts have some ambitious goals for 2012, but this doesn’t surprise…

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