The 2021 National Toy Hall of Fame Inductees | Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York

He-Man and Skeletor have been defeated by play sand.

The Strong National Museum of Play welcomed a trio of inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame this week during a special ceremony. Mattel’s American Girl dolls, Hasbro‘s Risk, and play sand fought a valiant battle to defeat the Cabbage Patch Kids, Battleship, the Settlers of Catan, and the Masters of the Universe in a field of 12 finalists.

American Girl Dolls | Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York

American Girl Dolls

Created in 1986 by educator Pleasant Rowland, the 18-inch American Girl dolls — and their accompanying books — explore America’s social and cultural history. Each historical doll comes with a unique narrative that fits her era, such as Molly McIntire, who is waiting for her father to return home from World War II. American Girl released the Truly Me 18-inch contemporary doll line in 1995 (originally under the name American Girl Today) to help girls express their individuality and build confidence.

“Rowland’s formula for combining doll play with history lessons worked, in her words, like ‘chocolate cake with vitamins,'” says Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer. “In an era when some education experts claimed that school curriculums paid little attention to history, this toy may well have filled a void. It now offers a range of dolls and stories of girls growing up in America and promotes diversity in the world of dolls.”


Risk games throughout the years. | Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York

Risk

Based on the French game Le Conquete du Monde, Risk translates the hobby of wargaming with miniature figures into a mass-produced war and strategy board game. First published in the United States in 1959, Risk challenges players to control armies and conquer the world. The game’s innovative mechanics ignited renewed interest in strategy games in the 1970s and continue to influence the board game industry.

“Risk became one of the most popular board games of all time, inspiring a new corps of passionate gamers, and influencing other games which began the wargaming hobby — and by extension the Euro-games like The Settlers of Catan that many enjoy today,” says Curator Nicolas Ricketts.


Play sand. | Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York

Play Sand

Sand may be the most universal and oldest toy in the world. Educator Maria Montessori has argued that sand “is only one substance that the modern child is allowed to handle quite freely.” Children recognize sand as a creative material suitable for pouring, scooping, sieving, raking, and measuring. Wet sand is even better, ready for kids to construct, shape, and sculpt. Sand provides unique opportunities for tactical, physical, cooperative, creative, and independent free play.

“Although some playthings can only be found online or in certain stores, sand has a global reach that most toy manufacturers would envy,” says Chief Curator Christopher Bensch. “It’s been a vehicle for play since prehistory, and anyone who has spent the day at the beach can understand the allure of this toy.”

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This year’s inductees join the following 74 toys and games that have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame: alphabet blocks, Atari 2600 Game System, baby doll, Baby Nancy, ball, Barbie, bicycle, Big Wheel, blanket, bubbles, Candy Land, cardboard box, checkers, chess, Clue, coloring book, Crayola Crayons, dollhouse, dominoes, Duncan Yo-Yo, Dungeons & Dragons, Easy-Bake Oven, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Fisher-Price Little People, Frisbee, G.I. Joe, The Game of Life, Hot Wheels, Hula Hoop, jack-in-the-box, jacks, Jenga, jigsaw puzzle, jump rope, kite, LEGO, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, little green army men, Magic 8 Ball, Magic: The Gathering, marbles, Matchbox Cars, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Nintendo Game Boy, paper airplane, pinball, Play-Doh, playing cards, puppet, Radio Flyer Wagon, Raggedy Ann and Andy, rocking horse, roller skates, rubber duck, Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, sidewalk chalk, Silly Putty, skateboard, Slinky, Star Wars action figures, stick, Super Soaker, swing, teddy bear, Tinkertoy, Tonka Trucks, Twister, Uno, View-Master, and Wiffle Ball.

With this year’s induction, some repeat nominees are still awaiting their acceptance. The Fisher-Price Corn Popper has been vying for entry into the Hall of Fame since at least 2012 while Mattel’s Masters of the Universe have been slashing their Power Swords at the gates for five years.