ROCHESTER, N.Y. (Sept. 30, 2015) – Twelve toys enter, but only two will become members of the National Toy Hall of Fame.
The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame announced 12 finalists for this year’s class. They are: American Girl dolls, Battleship, the coloring book, Jenga, PLAYMOBIL, the puppet, the scooter, Super Soaker, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the top, Twister and Wiffle Ball.
Past inductees have included Barbie, Monopoly, Star Wars action figures and Mr. Potato head. The Hall of Fame has had to parse through thousands of nominations received through mail and email. A national selection advisory committee will help determine the two finalists for induction before they’re revealed on Nov. 5.
The Hall of Fame currently includes 56 toys ranging from alphabet blocks to G.I. Joe, Hot Weels and little green army men.
You can vote for your favorite at the organization’s website. You’re allowed to vote once a day until Nov. 4, 2015.
Here’s a look at the finalists:
American Girl Dolls
Created in 1986 by educator and newscaster Pleasant Rowland, the 18-inch American Girl dolls (and their accompanying books) explore America’s social and cultural history. Each doll comes with a unique narrative that fits her time period, such as Molly McIntire, who is waiting for her father to return home from World War II. The Pleasant Company released the My American Girl line of dolls in 1995 (originally under the name American Girl Dolls of Today) and designed them to look like their owners.
Originally a pencil and paper game, Battleship’s inspiration began with similar two-person strategy games in the late 19th century. Various manufacturers printed paper versions beginning in the 1930s and Milton Bradley’s 1967 plastic adaptation became a hit. The game was among the first board games to be computerized in 1979, and today countless electronic versions exist.
Coloring books appeared in America as an outgrowth of European educational reforms, but McLoughlin Brothers, a New York printing company, is credited as the coloring book’s inventor. Though sometimes criticized for holding back true creativity, coloring books progressively inspired children throughout the later 20th century. Educators now use them to teach such essential and diverse subjects as history, geography, and even geometry.
Englishwoman Leslie Scott expanded on wooden blocks from her childhood in Africa, gave her game a catchy name, and inspired both young and old to enjoy the towering, toppling results. The word jenga is the imperative form of kujenga, the Swahili verb “to build.” The game debuted in 1983 and—according to Scott—has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.
A line of toys best known for its three-inch tall figures, PLAYMOBIL play sets include buildings, vehicles, animals, and other accessories. Since their introduction in 1974, PLAYMOBIL play sets have depicted topics familiar to kids such as dollhouses and schools and topics of novelty and fascination such as the Egyptians, Vikings, and pirates. Kids use PLAYMOBIL figures and sets to populate the stories they create in their make-believe play.
People the world over, in ancient times to the present day, have used puppets to act out folktales, epics of gods and demons, morality plays, and stories of fantasies and make-believe. Puppets have been used as instruments of public entertainment and instruction but also as children’s playthings that encourage imagination, manual dexterity, and performing arts.
First appearing as a homemade vehicle of two wheels, a wooden deck, and handlebars, the scooter began cruising American streets and sidewalks around the turn of the 20th century. Scooters continued to provide kids with easy, low-tech transportation for generations. Modern scooters made of lightweight materials and innovative technologies have transformed the mild-mannered two-wheeler into a vehicle of speed, dexterity, and durability suited for a variety of sporting events.
Water pistols have been part of summer play since the early 20th century. The small blasters, though, limited the amount of aqueous ammunition available, and the simple spring mechanism to squirt water at the opponent made for tame battles. Lonnie Johnson’s 1990 Super Soaker, with its large water tank and a pressurized-air delivery system, changed neighborhood water wars forever.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Toys
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book was originally self-published by two struggling artists to satirize comic book heroes and action figures in the early 1980s. However, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles found themselves transformed into comic book and play icons, transmedia pioneers, and an enduring popular cultural sensation known as “Turtlemania”—generating toys, television shows, movies, video games, and merchandise for more than 30 years.
Since ancient times, the spinning top has entertained children and adults in cultures worldwide. Greek pottery shows women playing with tops. Some medieval rulers kept their subjects from idleness by making them tend to the village top. Special eight-sided tops called teetotums supply the element of chance in board games. Modern kids play with this most classical toy, too, calculating the placement, centrifugal force, and velocity needed to execute the longest spin or to capture their competitors’ prized tops.
The innovative dexterity game Twister did not achieve immediate success when first introduced in 1966. However, someone at Milton Bradley forgot to call the public relations firm and cancel the game’s promotion when it was deemed a failure, and the PR firm plugged the game to television talk show host Johnny Carson. Carson played Twister on the air with the Eva Gabor and his studio audience screamed with laughter. Afterwards, stores couldn’t stock enough of the unique game to meet demand.
Since 1953, many children have started their baseball careers swinging at a Wiffle Ball, a perforated plastic orb designed for play among a few friends in the small backyards surrounded by the breakable windows of suburban America. Wiffle Ball’s inventors determined that a ball with eight oblong slots cut into one hemisphere worked best at grabbing the air and diverting the trajectory. Pitchers then could easily throw curves, sliders, or even difficult knuckle balls.