Care Bears didn’t make the cut; neither did Transformers or Uno. But it’s a good day for Little People — first produced by Fisher-Price in 1959 — as the Toy Hall of Fame announces its 2016 class of inductees.
Also getting the nod: Dungeons & Dragons, which was praised for creating a system of imaginative play that has entranced both kids and adults; and the humble swing, which in the past 100 years has grown from its ancient roots to become a playground favorite.
The nomination process for the Toy Hall of Fame is open to the public — but to get in, a toy has to be approved by “historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity, and discovery through their lives and careers,” according to its host, The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.
The list of 12 finalists for this year’s honors had included bubble wrap, Care Bears, Clue, the coloring book, Nerf ball, pinball, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Transformers and Uno.
When it emerged in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons was groundbreaking, says curator Nic Ricketts of The Strong. In addition to its own merits, the game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson established a pattern for how similar role-playing games might work — both on table-tops and, eventually, on computers and other devices.
As Ricketts says, the game’s mechanics “lent themselves to computer applications, and it had a direct impact on hugely successful electronic games like World of Warcraft.”
The swing, which has been seen in artifacts from ancient Greece and other historic sources, was chosen for the combination of joy and physical learning that it embodies.
“Though the equipment has evolved with the centuries, the pleasure children and adults find in swinging has hardly changed at all,” curator Patricia Hogan says. “Swinging requires physical exertion, muscle coordination, and a rudimentary instinct for, if not understanding of, kinetic energy, inertia, and gravity. It’s the perfect vehicle for outdoor play.”
Of Little People, Chris Bensch, The Strong’s vice president for collections, says:
“Little People have been a fixture—albeit a small one—in many American playrooms for more than 50 years. More than two billion Little People have been sold since 1959, and they have helped generations of small children imagine big adventures in play sets representing farms, schools, airports, and other fascinating places in their worlds.”