National Toy Hall of Fame welcomes American Girl dolls, Risk, sand as 2021 inductees

Toys & Games

There were a total of 12 finalists for this year’s National Toy Hall of Fame, including Masters of the Universe, Cabbage Patch Kids and The Settlers of Catan.

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National Toy Hall of Fame inductees 2021

Earlier today, the Strong National Museum of Play announced the 2021 inductees into its Toy Hall of Fame: American Girl dolls, Risk and sand. 

Like other toys that have been memorialized in the museum, American Girl dolls, Risk and sand have a special distinction this year. Christopher Bensch, chief curator of the Strong, tells Rochester’s News 8 reporter Dan Gross that all three toys share “imaginative qualities.” According to Bensch, the toys have risen to icon status for how they foster creativity and lend themselves to dynamic play. 

What you need to know about the National Toy Hall of Fame

What is the Strong National Museum of Play?

The Strong National Museum of Play is located in Rochester, N.Y. The museum invites visitors to explore exhibits celebrating toys, children’s literature, video games and classic board games. 

What is the National Toy Hall of Fame?

The National Toy Hall of Fame was established by the Strong in 1998 to recognize and celebrate toys that are inspirational and iconic. The toys are nominated by the general public — including kids — and finalists are selected by the Strong’s team of educators, historians and toy industry experts. In 2021, the Strong received over 55,000 toy nominations, according to Dan Gross

GUND Philbin Teddy Bear

Any toy is eligible for nomination, provided it meets the following criteria: icon status, longevity, discovery and innovation. Some of the winners in previous years include the teddy bear in 1998, Tonka trucks in 2001 and sidewalk chalk in 2020. Once toys are inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Strong unveils a new exhibit presenting their newly acquired icon status. 

What is special about this year’s National Toy Hall of Fame inductees?

American Girl dolls, Risk and sand have made special contributions to the world of imaginative play. All three toys are considered accessible in unique ways, such as American Girl dolls that represent women and present historical context. The toys are largely considered to be dynamic and memorable with high sentimental value. 

What you need to know about this year’s National Toy Hall of Fame inductees

American Girl dolls

American Girl dolls, which debuted in 1986 in the full-color Pleasant Company catalog, originally featured 18-inch historical dolls of young girls portrayed in the American Girl books. The dolls invite kids to role-play, use their imagination and find new ways to explore history. 

Each American Girl’s story is set in a different historical period, such as Samantha Parkington, who grew up in 1904. The American Girl doll collection has expanded into a diverse range of dolls with books and accessories, including 14.5-inch WellieWishers and 18-inch Truly Me dolls. The American Girl brand continues to grow, with stores in the United States and Canada. 


Risk debuted in its original iteration in 1957, though it was later purchased by Parker Brothers and relaunched in 1986. A game of strategy and decision-making, it’s considered one of the most engaging and addictive board games ever made. 

Risk, now a Hasbro game, invites players to conquer one another’s territories by building and moving armies into favorable — or enviable — positions. Players can betray one another or form alliances, and dice and cards only introduce more complicated situations as games progress. There are now several editions of Risk available, including Star Wars- and Game of Thrones-themed games.


Sand, while it may seem like an unusual choice, earns a spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame for its accessibility. Not only is it a substance found in countless places ranging from sandboxes to beaches, but it can also be manipulated in countless ways for imaginative play.

There’s no shortage of sand toys on the market, including plenty of low- and high-tech options. Sand castle-building accessories, such as shovels, buckets and rakes, are among the most popular. Kinetic sand has become a popular sensory toy in recent years. Sand is considered a perfect “space” for kids to enjoy open-ended play, outdoor games, RC cars or STEM learning.

Top 6 toys to celebrate 2021’s National Toy Hall of Fame inductees

American Girl WellieWishers Kendall Doll

American Girl WellieWishers Kendall Doll

Kendall is presented as a creative, artistic character with big dreams and a big heart. Her doll wears a finely detailed outfit featuring rubber Wellie boots and a fancy tulle skirt. 

Sold by Amazon


“Joss” by Erin Falligant 

“Joss” by Erin Falligant 

Joss was American Girl’s 2019 Girl of the Year. This first book of her series explains Joss’ life as a young girl with a hearing aid who is about to compete in a surfing video contest in her hometown.

Sold by Amazon


Risk 60th Anniversary Edition

Risk 60th Anniversary Edition

The 60th anniversary edition of the iconic game includes premium game pieces and packaging. The collectable edition features a throwback board and offers five ways to play the game. 

Sold by Amazon


Risk Junior

Risk Junior

Ideal for ages 5 and older, this introductory Risk game from Hasbro teaches basic strategy to young players as they compete to control islands on the board. 

Sold by Amazon


Kinetic Sand Construction Site Folding Sandbox Playset

Kinetic Sand Construction Site Folding Sandbox Playset

This kinetic sand kit comes with construction-themed accessories so kids can flex their building skills with tiny molded bricks. It comes with a working crane and wrecking ball with realistic details.

Sold by Amazon


Create A Castle Sandcastle Kit

Create A Castle Sandcastle Kit

The six-piece sandcastle kit includes everything kids need to create the castle of their dreams. The kit can be used on its own or in conjunction with other Create A Castle sets. 

Sold by Amazon


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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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