Meet the 2021 Toy Hall of Fame Nominees

The National Toy Hall of Fame nominations are in and we have some opinions on this year’s crop. The Strong National Museum of Play is home to both the Hall of Fame for Video Games and Toys and this year’s inductees for the toys include some heavy hitters. From Cabbage Patch Kids to Piñatas‘, Battleship to …sand? We’re going to take a look at which toys deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame and which should be put out in the next Garage Sale.

You Call This A Toy?

I grew up poor, so I had to have quite the imagination to get by some summers. I’ve played make-believe with tons of junk, but there’s still a line we have to draw at some point on what is a toy and what isn’t. To that point, I’m sorry Sand, but you’re just not it. I know you’re going to argue about how the Toy Hall of Fame let in Blanket and Cardboard Box and even STICK, but to be honest, they should’ve been tossed out too. There’s not even a debate here, put the sand back on the ground where it belongs.

What about the Popcorn Popper? Toddlers love those things! But that’s where it stops…parents all over and their non-kid having friends, hate those things. It’s just wheels and a headache waiting to happen and whoever came up with it should probably be charged with some kind of disturbing the peace. Toys should be fun for everyone, not something you want to smash into pieces when the kids go to bed.

I love billiards, my dad was a semi-professional player and passed his love of the game on to me. But, the tiny little set you get as kids? It’s only good for one thing and that’s throwing them at your siblings, which you shouldn’t ever do because it’s mean and dangerous.

This last one for the “throw it out” pile may be contentious because I do agree that a certain aspect of why the Fire Engine is in here does deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. The Tonka Truck was inducted into the hall of fame in 2001. That’s as close as you’re going to get to cover all your bases on toy trucks. Plus, look at this picture? This is something my grandpa used to play with that I dug up in the backyard.

Pull It Out of the Closet Once A Year

Entries into this category aren’t something I can argue against, but they need to get in line and let other more deserving toys get their chance in the spotlight first. The ones that came before, that inspired toys for years to come.

The board game is a hard category to navigate, in recent years thanks to stuff like Dungeons and Dragons, I feel like this genre of game has had a resurgence. It’s a big deal in the digital age when kids refuse to take their eyes off a screen or away from a controller.

Settlers of Catan, Mahjong, and Risk are all fun games, they take a lot of smarts and know-how, but they also take all weekend to set up and tear down. We want fun now, have you ever tried to gauge the attention span of a kid? Even a Teenager? No one has time to learn these games let alone set them up. Maybe if you found a video game version of them, we could talk, but they hardly deserve a spot over some of the other more influential nominee’s this year.

Piñatas are the other non-board game ‘toy’ in this middle category, but let’s be honest, calling it a toy is a stretch. It’s absolutely more deserving than Stick or Sand, but Piñatas regardless of what their rich history says of them have been more or less relegated to birthday parties where children just smack and smash ‘em to get the candy inside. Where’s the ‘play’ happening exactly?

The Real Fun Started Here

It all comes back to dolls and action figures for me. That’s where the real toys are separated from the stuff that gets left at the bottom of the box. Cabbage Patch Kids, Masters of the Universe, and American Girl are brands parents and kids alike will recognize and actually want to play with.

He-Man and She-Ra have even seen a huge resurgence in popularity among both parents and their kids with the Netflix Animated series dedicated to them. A self-proclaimed nerd and comic book aficionado Kevin Smith helped with the He-Man Animated series and has proclaimed his love for the property even at the ripe young age of 51 years.

The Strong National Museum of Play seeks four areas of criteria for their inductees, Icon-Status, Longevity, Discovery, and Innovation. It’s going to be hard to argue that these three toys don’t hit on all four of those in spades.

When was the last time Sand did anything innovative?


Feature Image Provided by the Strong National History Museum

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About The Author

Robbie Landis Host of the CheckpointXP National Show, Other Identity comic book podcast and a Dungeon Master. Robbie Landis has been playing games since Yoshi's Cookie Factory was released on the NES. He enjoys RPGs, APEX Legends and World of Warcraft.

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