Sidewalk chalk, Baby Nancy and Jenga join National Toy Hall of Fame
Sidewalk chalk, Baby Nancy and Jenga were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame on Nov. 5.
The three Class of 2020 entries were chosen from a field of 12 finalists that also included bingo, Breyer Horses, Lite-Brite, Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony, Risk, Sorry!, Tamagotchi and Yahtzee.
“There are few limits to what kids can do with chalk,” noted chief curator Christopher Bensch, who spoke during the ceremony at The Strong National Museum of Play, where the National Toy Hall of Fame is housed. “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.”
The second inductee, Baby Nancy, a doll with a dark complexion and textured hair, was produced in Shindana Toys, a community-owned company that launched in 1968 to make toys reflecting “Black pride, Black talent and most of all, Black enterprise,” according to the Hall of Fame.
The doll was released in Los Angeles that same year and by Thanksgiving became the city’s best-selling Black doll. Before Christmas, Baby Nancy dolls were being sold nationwide. In 1969, Shindana gave the doll an Afro, “challenging white beauty norms and making her the first toy with authentic Black hair,” the museum stated. “The popularity of Baby Nancy exposed a long-standing demand for ethnically correct Black dolls that the mainstream market had failed to deliver previously.”
Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer said that although Shindana Toys ceased operations in 1983, "Baby Nancy still stands as a landmark doll that made commercial and cultural breakthroughs.”
The third inductee, Jenga, was created by England’s Leslie Scott and based on wooden blocks from her childhood in Africa. In the game, players remove one block at a time from a tower and try to avoid toppling it as it becomes progressively less stable.
Said curator Nicolas Ricketts, “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.”
The inductees — chosen each year since 1998 by a committee of national experts, including toy collectors, professors and psychologists — stand the test of time, are widely recognized and encourage learning, creativity and discovery through play over generations, the museum has said.
Including Thursday’s three inductees, 75 toys comprise the growing Hall of Fame collection.