American Girl Dolls, Risk, sand make it to toy hall of fame

ROCHESTER, N.Y.  — The National Toy Hall of Fame adds three new toys this year: American Girl Dolls, the strategy board game Risk, and Sand.

The group chose the toys for their influence on the toy industry. They say Sand is perhaps the most universal and oldest toy in the world.

The Hall of Fame honored all three during a ceremony at the hall after winning over a panel of experts who voted for them from a group of 12 finalists.

(Scroll down for a full list of inductees)

Also in the running this year were four other competitive games: Battleship, The Settlers of Catan, Mahjong and billiards, as well as Cabbage Patch Kids, Masters of the Universe, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, the toy fire engine and the piñata.

Anyone can nominate a toy but to be considered, they must have withstood tests of time and memory, changed play or toy design and fostered learning, creativity or discovery.

American Girl Dolls, the 1986 creation of educator Pleasant Rowland, were recognized for their exploration of the country’s social and cultural history. The 18-inch historical dolls and accompanying books each offer insights into an era. For example, Molly McIntire is waiting for her father to return home from World War II.

The Truly Me contemporary doll line, with its diversity of skin tones, hair and gender, followed in 1995, letting children choose a doll that looks like them.

“Rowland’s formula for combining doll play with history lessons worked, in her words, like ‘chocolate cake with vitamins,’” curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer said. “In an era when some education experts claimed that school curriculums paid little attention to history, this toy may well have filled a void.”

Risk, based on the French game Le Conquete du Monde, was first published in the United States in 1959 and continues to influence other board games, hall officials said. It challenges players to control armies and conquer the world on a game board that is a map of continents.

“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,” curator Nicolas Ricketts said.

Sand was honored for its “opportunities for tactical, physical, cooperative, creative, and independent free play,” according to the hall of fame, which is housed inside The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

“Children recognize sand as a creative material suitable for pouring, scooping, sieving, raking, and measuring,” it said. “Wet sand is even better, ready for kids to construct, shape, and sculpt.”

“Although some playthings can only be found online or in certain stores, sand has a global reach that most toy manufacturers would envy,” chief curator Chirstopher Bensch said. “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.”

The class of 2021 joins 74 previous honorees.

  • Rubber Duck
  • The Game of Life
  • Playing Cards
  • Dominoes
  • Big Wheel
  • Atari 2600 Game System
  • Dollhouse
  • Blanket
  • Nintendo Game Boy
  • Hot Wheels
  • Star Wars Action Figures
  • Chess
  • Teddy Bear
  • Scrabble
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Jump Rope
  • Jack-in-the-Box
  • Jacks
  • Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Hula Hoop
  • Erector Set
  • Crayola Crayons
  • G.I. Joe
  • Easy-Bake Oven
  • Frisbee
  • Duncan Yo-Yo
  • Candy Land
  • Checkers
  • Cardboard Box
  • Bicycle
  • Raggedy Ann and Andy
  • Tonka Trucks
  • Kite
  • Bubbles
  • Barbie
  • Baby Doll
  • Etch A Sketch
  • Monopoly
  • Alphabet Blocks
  • Tinkertoy
  • Skateboard
  • Slinky
  • Stick
  • View-Master
  • Silly Putty
  • Roller Skates
  • Rocking Horse
  • Radio Flyer Wagon
  • Play-Doh
  • Marbles
  • Mr.  Potato Head
  • LEGO
  • Lionel Trains
  • Coloring Book
  • Matchbox Cars
  • Pinball
  • Magic 8 Ball
  • Uno
  • Clue
  • Paper Airplane
  • Wiffle Ball
  • Fisher-Price Little People
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Swing
  • Super Soaker
  • Puppet
  • Twister
  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Little Green Army Men
  • Baby Nancy
  • Jenga
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Magic: The Gathering

You can learn more about the Hall of Fame here, or, find out how to nominate a toy.