I posted earlier this fall about the National Toy Hall of Fame nominees and today they announced the winners! This year’s inductees into the Toy Hall of Fame include: Sidewalk Chalk, Baby Nancy and JENGA! (all photos Courtesy of The Strong®, Rochester, New York)
About the Inductees
Here’s some info about the winners straight from the National Toy Hall of Fame Press release: (Because they can say it better than I can, but I’ll move the game to the front because YAY JENGA!!)
Englishwoman Leslie Scott created Jenga based on wooden blocks from her childhood in Africa. The word jenga is the imperative form of kujenga, the Swahili verb “to build.” The game challenges players to remove one block at a time from a tower without knocking it down. With its catchy name and edge-of-your-seat gameplay, Jenga has inspired both young and old to enjoy the towering, toppling results for decades.
Curator Nicolas Ricketts says, “Fans say that much of Jenga’s success lies in its simplicity and ability to be played by almost anyone. It is one of the rare games that’s equally fun for two people or a bigger crowd. It’s perfect for a game party with a group or something more intimate, but either way, it’s always sure to make instant memories.”
About Baby Nancy:
In 1968, Operation Bootstrap launched Shindana Toys, a community-owned company dedicated to making toys that “reflect Black pride, Black talent, and most of all, Black enterprise.” In its first year, Shindana produced Baby Nancy, a baby doll with a dark complexion and textured hair. By Thanksgiving 1968, she was the best-selling Black doll in Los Angeles, and before Christmas, she was selling nationwide. The following year, Shindana gave the baby doll an Afro, challenging white beauty norms and making her the first toy with authentic Black hair. The popularity of Baby Nancy exposed a long-standing demand for ethnically correct Black dolls that the mainstream market had failed to deliver previously.
Says Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer, “Although Shindana Toys ceased operations in 1983, Baby Nancy still stands as a landmark doll that made commercial and cultural breakthroughs.”
About Sidewalk Chalk:
Historians have every reason to believe that the earliest people played with chalk, and traces of Paleolithic cave art executed in chalk have been found throughout the world. Chalk’s use in playful pursuits relies on its physical properties. Chalk that was used on early boards was made of gypsum, the dihydrate form of calcium sulfate. Great masterpieces, clever doodles, informational expressions, educational lessons, and games like tic-tac-toe, hopscotch, and four square all dance together on the tip of a piece of chalk, waiting to be freed by a child’s whim.
Says Chief Curator Christopher Bensch, “There are few limits to what kids can do with chalk. Every sidewalk square, patio, and driveway holds the potential for a work of art, a winning game of strategy and cleverness, or a demonstration of physical agility, poise, and balance.”
My 2 Cents
These were selected by the masses and by the industry judges, but I’m going to give my 2 cents anyway.
I’m so glad that JENGA made it in! Leslie is a friend and probably one of the sweetest people I know and frankly you can see her game knocked off all over the place, because it’s SO DARN GOOD. (that doesn’t really excuse the knock-offs but companies don’t knock off crap.) JENGA is what all mass-market game inventors strive to make. Simplicity in the rules, but intense play with a payoff at the end and repeat play value that’s through the roof! It deserved to be in the Hall of Fame years ago.
Regarding the other two, sidewalk chalk is another that I don’t know how it took so long to make it into the Hall of Fame. My family used a lot of it during this pandemic-summer creating “art galleries” for the neighbors on our sidewalk, but I remember spending hours creating with sidewalk chalk as a child. It really is an evergreen classic. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Baby Nancy until her nomination. Admittedly, dolls aren’t quite my thing, but I did some research and I’m so impressed! This is a great year for her to enter the Hall of Fame (although really any year would be too). Overall, I think that the toy industry is still very white — whether you’re talking about the community itself, the properties, the toys, etc. We can do better at striving to be more inclusive and while recognizing Baby Nancy is a step in that direction, it’s a baby step (sorry for the pun). Frankly, we can all do better to be inclusive pretty much across the board. Toys and games are such a great way to get positive messages to kids, so it would be awesome if the toy industry really stepped up to help lead the way — but that sounds like another long winded post. In the end, I think these are three great choices and better luck next year to the other nominees: bingo, Breyer Horses, Lite-Brite, Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony, Risk, Sorry!, Tamagotchi, and Yahtzee.