Palm Beach Post
By Allison Ross
Parents looking to rein in holiday spending on Wiis and other high-tech gadgets for their kids this year: take heart.
The stick – possibly the world’s oldest toy – was added Nov. 27 to the National Toy Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Barbie, Slinky, teddy bears, Mr. Potato Head and Play-Doh.
“The good thing about a stick is it’s limitless,” said Patricia Hogan, a curator for the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., which houses the Hall of Fame. “Today, it’s a magic wand. Tomorrow, it’s a fishing pole.”
Wellington mom Kim Toohey said she isn’t surprised the stick was finally getting its due.
“I have three boys, and they played with sticks more than anything else we bought them,” she said. “It’s right up there with the box and the pots and pans.”
This isn’t just kid stuff. The second-largest children’s museum in the United States, and the only one dedicated specifically to the study of play, the Strong Museum is chartered by the New York Board of Regents and publishes a scholarly journal through the University of Illinois.
But outside of academia, it’s best known for housing the Toy Hall of Fame, which each year chooses a select few playthings for posterity.
Criteria include fueling imagination, according to the museum’s Hogan. The toy should also be part of the lives of many kids, preferably over several generations.
“The Hall of Fame is not suggesting you go out in the woods and wrap up a stick for a Christmas present,” said toy historian Tim Walsh. “But play can be found anywhere. Kids have lost some creativity in this high-tech generation.”
Jim Arpe, owner of Learning Express Toys of Palm Beach Gardens, laughed when told the humble branch had been honored in the Hall of Fame – but said it should be taken seriously.
“Kids will play and do a lot of different things that toy designers didn’t design a toy to do,” Arpe said. A stick, which can be anything from a light saber to a snowman’s arm, “is encouraging imaginative, unstructured play.”
Walsh said he is a big fan of the equally unassuming cardboard box – the only other toy not created by a toy manufacturer inducted into the Hall of Fame. That was in 2005. “Being a parent myself, we’ve all bought the $300 robotic toy and the kid just wants to play with the box it came in,” he said.
Shopping with her mother at the Wellington Mall, 8-year-old Alexis Pollak said the top thing on her wish list for Santa this year is a $250 motor scooter.
Alexis’ mother, Jennifer, said, “That motor scooter, it’s much more expensive than, say, a hula hoop or skates or stuff I got growing up. Now, we all go out and spend hundreds of dollars on toys that then just sit in our garage.”
Not always, though: Only slightly further down on Alexis’ wish list is a much simpler item: a yo-yo.
Of course, the stick probably won’t be showing up on your children’s Christmas or Hanukkah gotta-get lists. But it’s certainly much easier to find than that elusive Wii Fit this holiday season. “Inducting the stick shows fun can be had with the simplest things,” Walsh said. “You don’t need expensive, fancy electronic items.”