The World Series of Shopping: The Black Friday Game Plan

The World Series of Shopping: The Black Friday Game Plan

Assembled paper toy, The Thanksgiving Dinner, 1895, published by The Boston Sunday Globe, courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.In many families across America, preparing and then devouring the Thanksgiving Day dinner is followed by a quiet evening watching football or a Charlie Brown television special or simply sleeping off the tranquilizing effects of the largest meal you will eat all year. In my family though, the hours after the meal are not for relaxing—they are for strategizing.

At some point on Thanksgiving Day, my dad is sent out to purchase a newspaper. As soon as the pie plates are cleared, my mom, siblings, me, and now my teenaged niece and nephews, place the paper on the living room floor and sit cross-legged in a circle around it. We look like we are about to perform a ritual, and in a way I suppose we are. Mom unfolds the paper, tossing aside the grey newsprint portion and revealing a stack of glossy, colorful advertising circulars. We pass the circulars around the circle one by one, each person flipping through the ads and using black felt-tipped pens to mark items of interest. After cross-referencing and identifying the best deals, the fliers are arranged in a strategic order that was long ago dubbed the “game plan.” We might catch a few hours of sleep prior to rising before the sun. Then we pile into the car, armed with our game plan and mugs of hot tea or cocoa, and join the throng of cars heading up the highway to the shopping centers.

You CAN Solve the Rubik’s Cube

You CAN Solve the Rubik’s Cube

Initially known as the Magic Cube, today’s Rubik’s Cube—a six-sided puzzler that has challenged several generations—holds the title of best-selling toy of all time. Along with bubbles and little green army men, Rubik’s Cube is one of the 2014 inductees to The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame. I first tackled the cube in the…

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Screen-Play: 123-45 Sesame Street

Screen-Play: 123-45 Sesame Street

Well, paint me blue and call me Grover—Sesame Street premiered 45 years ago today, on November 10, 1969. With more than 4,300 episodes to date, it is one of the longest-running shows in television history. My colleague Scott Eberle has written about the series’ cultural and educational impact. And as The Strong inducts three new…

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Little Green Army Men Join Forces with the National Toy Hall of Fame

Little Green Army Men Join Forces with the National Toy Hall of Fame

Little green army men marched right into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong on November 6, 2014. The tiny figures, along with Rubik’s Cube and bubbles, took their place of honor among the other 53 classic toys that evidence the iconic status, longevity, and play value necessary for induction. The green army…

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

Autumn is upon us, replete with all things paranormal and pumpkin spice. Hollywood once again offers us an opportunity to be terrified for the cost of a movie ticket and large popcorn. Annabelle (2014) isn’t the first “playful” villain that has captured our collective attention: for a half a century, scary toys have come alive…

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“I’m Sorry, the Card Says ‘Moops’”: Play in Seinfeld

“I’m Sorry, the Card Says ‘Moops’”:  Play in Seinfeld

Seinfeld is not, as people often claim, a “show about nothing.” It is a television show about four narcissists whose seemingly petty dialogue and ripple-effect exploits produced a significant impact on the modern pop culture landscape. I confess―I’m a Seinfeld devotee. In fact, I recently completed my own personal “Summer of George,” where I re-watched…

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Cabbage Patch Kids: A 1983 Phenomenon

Cabbage Patch Kids: A 1983 Phenomenon

As a child who preferred playing outside with sticks and leaves, only a handful of dolls ever really captured my attention. In fact, I only recall true fondness for four dolls: Baby Tenderlove, Raggedy Ann, Darci cover girl, and my Cabbage Patch Kid—Kendall Walter Winner. In 1983, at the age of 13, I wasn’t interested…

Screen-Play: Television Characters Ruin Game Night, Too

Screen-Play: Television Characters Ruin Game Night, Too

My friends and I embrace game nights: snacks, beverages, stuffed mascots, inspirational posters. Some people don’t, probably because not everyone can handle it when (not if) their true colors emerge in the throes of battle. Similarly, television series use games as plot devices to place characters in opposition to each other, draw out the best…

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Of Monsters and Airplanes: The Enduring Joy of Paper Toys

Of Monsters and Airplanes: The Enduring Joy of Paper Toys

What comes to mind when you hear the term “paper toys”? Whatever you envision, chances are the idea of paper toys in our digital era doesn’t evoke quite the same level of enthusiasm as some other playthings do. Paper toys seem quiet and simple, perhaps even old-fashioned. But paper toys such as paper dolls, which…

Let Me Teach You the Game of My People: Card Games, Identity, and Finding Home Again

Let Me Teach You the Game of My People: Card Games, Identity, and Finding Home Again

What is your game? There seem to be an infinite number of games to play with one simple deck of playing cards. What game did you learn, perched on your parents’ or grandparents’ knees? What game brings you feelings of home and belonging? My family’s game was Rummy. After we had mastered Go Fish, we…