How toys are inducted into the HOF


Kim Brooks
Babbling Brooks Column
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

It’s been a couple of years, but I’ve written my column before about the National Toy Hall of Fame. This year, the “new” toys will be inducted into the HOF in November. 

Twelve finalists have been announced: Care Bears, coloring books, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Jenga, Magic the Gathering, Masters of the Universe, Matchbox Cars, My Little Pony, Nerf Blaster, Risk, the smartphone, and the top. Only three will be inducted… 

“These 12 toys present the wide scope of play – from the simple, traditional spinning top that has been played with since pre-history to the ultra-modern smartphone which has dramatically changed how people of all ages play and connect,” said Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections. “Whether old or new, or imaginative or physical, all 12 of these toy finalists share an undeniable ability to inspire people to learn, create, and discover through play.” 

Criteria for induction into the Toy HOF: 

• Icon status – the toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered 

• Longevity – the toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations 

• Discovery – the toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play 

• Innovation – the toy profoundly changed play or toy design 

To date, 68 toys have inducted into the Toy HOF. You can visit www.toyhalloffame.org for the complete listing. A couple of the surprises for me were the cardboard box, a blanket, the rubber duck, and a stick. I question the “icon status” and “innovation” of these so-called “toys.” 

In terms of this year’s finalists, I think most could easily qualify based on the criteria. 

Care Bears have been around since 1981. They’re iconic stuffed animals. They’ve been made into movies. Fun fact: The Care Bears were originally created to be featured on greeting cards. It wasn’t until 1983 that they were turned into stuffed animals. 

The history of the coloring book dates back to the 1880s, even though crayons weren’t produced until 1930s. While coloring books were ideally for children, adult coloring books in the past five years or so have spurred an older generation to get back into the classic hobby. 

Anything produced by Fisher-Price is a classic. The company started in 1930 when the founders took wooden toys to the American International Toy Fair in New York. They were an instant hit! It wasn’t until the ‘50s that the company started making its toys out plastic. The Corn Popper was first revealed in 1957. (I think many of us can agree that the Corn Popper is one of their more annoying toys due to its loud sound effects.) It was designed to help children learn to walk. (The sound alone would hinder my walking as a child.) 

Who doesn’t like Jenga? You don’t want to be the one to make the tower of wooden blocks tumble to the ground; you’ll never live it down. 

Matchbox cars were actually produced well before their popular competitor Hot Wheels. Matchbox cars came onto the toy scene in the mid-1940s. Hot Wheels didn’t appear until the late-1960s. Today, both brands are owned by the toy company Mattel. 

As a kid, I loved collecting toy cars; I didn’t care which brand they came from… 

Nerf made its debut in 1969 with the famous “Nerf ball.” It was dubbed “the world’s first indoor ball.” Ha! The Nerf Blaster, a toy gun, emerged in the late 1980s. Nerf products today are as popular as they were when I was a kid. The bigger your Nerf gun, the cooler you were on the block. Things never change… 

The one finalist I take issue with is the smartphone. Yes, a cell phone. I get smartphones have changed the way kids today play games electronically, but shouldn’t we encourage kids to physically play, and play with others, rather than sit around tinkering on a smartphone? I don’t see where a smartphone has seen multi-generational use; it’s doesn’t really have much longevity. And I don’t consider the smartphone to be an icon; sometimes we need less phone usage and more in-person contact.

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