Playtime isn’t supposed to be serious business, but occasionally the world turns a serious eye toward playtime. Such was the case this morning, when the National Toy Hall of Fame announced its 2015 inductees: the puppet, the game of Twister, and the Super Soaker.
The three winners beat out a group of formidable finalists including Battleship, American Girl dolls, the spinning top, the coloring book, Wiffle Ball, Jenga, PLAYMOBIL, the scooter, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The winners were chosen by a panel of expert judges.
The puppet is one of the most classic toys in the history of humankind. It first appeared thousands of years ago, and exists in some form in nearly every culture.
Twister, on the other hand, started as a shoe polish promotion in 1964 when inventor Reyn Guyer had the idea of a game on a colored mat with people as the playing pieces. It was initially called “Pretzel,” but Milton Bradley Co. tweaked the name before almost nixing the game entirely. In 1966, Sears Roebuck refused to include Twister in its catalog, deeming it too racy—it was derided as "sex in a box." Milton Bradley canceled production, but thankfully, the game was already slotted for inclusion in a segment on The Tonight Show. A game between Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor resurrected Twister and more than 3 million copies were sold the following year.
Super Soakers came onto the scene in 1990 and were the brainchild of Dr. Lonnie Johnson, a mechanical and nuclear engineer who was at work designing a pressurized heat pump for NASA’s Galileo Mission to Jupiter. He replaced Freon with water vapor, and while toying around with the design at home, hooked up the nozzle to a bathroom faucet. The eureka moment led to the first high-powered water gun, made from PVC pipe and an empty soda bottle.
Anyone can nominate a toy for the National Toy Hall of Fame, but inductees must meet a particular set of criteria: Icon-status, longevity, discovery (it fosters learning and creativity), and most importantly, innovation. Before you start prepping your nominations for next year, head over to The Strong Museum’s website to see the complete list of inductees.