The Kids Are Alright

The Kids Are Alright

I met some naughty kids when I worked as a babysitter and camp counselor. But after five years with the National Museum of Play at The Strong, I’ve observed enough children to know the good ones far outnumber the brats and that misbehavior, when it occurs, isn’t limited to one gender. So why do little…

Colonel Mustard in the National Toy Hall of Fame with the Candlestick?

Colonel Mustard in the National Toy Hall of Fame with the Candlestick?

It doesn’t take much detective work to discover that many people enjoy mysteries. For example, I can vividly remember being enthralled when I first read Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None. I know I’m joined by millions who eagerly follow the crime-solving exploits of Christie’s hero, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Certainly Poirot…

Toys That Talk: Blathering Bears of the 1980s

Toys That Talk: Blathering Bears of the 1980s

I’ve reached the age where pangs of nostalgia hit me when anyone mentions pop culture references from the 1980s. (DuckTales. Rainbow Brite. Trips to the mall with a pit stop at Orange Julius.) I’m not alone in this; compilation stories reminiscing about my generation’s “good old days” proliferate on the internet. I recently conducted an…

Transitional Objects of Play: A Man and his Motorcycle

Transitional Objects of Play: A Man and his Motorcycle

Summer weather has again brought an influx of motorcycles onto roads and highways. Seeing men and women enjoying a ride on everything from a small scooter to a big Harley V-Twin inspired me to think about when I graduated from my old Columbia to something with more oomph. Growing up in the 1960s, when motorcycle…

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…

Selective Attention and Collecting

Selective Attention and Collecting

What catches a collector’s attention and prompts the impulse to accumulate? Depending on the individual, it might be a melody, a clever cartoon, a poem, an unfolding drama, or a special object that stirs the imagination. The response is personal, even though it may be shared by a multitude. It may be sparked by a…

The Heart of the Issue: Mattel’s Forgotten Family

The Heart of the Issue: Mattel’s Forgotten Family

Over the years, Barbie has had countless competitors, including Jem and the Holograms, the Disney Princesses, and even Spectra, the chic pink-haired gal from outer space with metallic limbs and eye makeup rivaling the likes of David Bowie. Among the many contenders, none have challenged Barbie quite like the Heart Family, who—ironically—appeared to be the…

Patriotic Play

Patriotic Play

When I think of the 4th of July (what my calendar more formally calls Independence Day), I conjure up images of parades featuring plenty of red, white, and blue crepe paper. I smell the aroma of burgers on the grill. And I envision fireworks exploding into colorful sprays of light across an inky nighttime sky….

The Wheel Thing

The Wheel Thing

Any state fair, carnival, or amusement park needs to have a Ferris wheel. Ferris wheels rank up there with carousels, roller coasters, and cotton candy as essential elements of those summer destinations. Despite their familiarity today, the Ferris wheel first impressed riders and onlookers as a dazzling new mechanical wonder more than 100 years ago.

Line Up for a Game, Comrades!

Line Up for a Game, Comrades!

Board games and serious politics usually don’t mix. But in 2011, a Polish government think tank known as The Institute of National Remembrance created an interesting board game called Kolejka that The Strong recently acquired for its collections. The Institute researches crimes committed by the Nazi and Communist parties in Poland and makes that information…