Monday, February 4th, 2013
Andre Cassagnes, the French electrician who invented the famous Etch A Sketch toy more than 50 years ago, has died at age 86. His obituary from CNN.com:
Cassagnes created what would become the Etch A Sketch in his garage in 1950. The drawing toy was made up of a joystick, glass and aluminum powder.
Initially dubbed the Telecran, the toy was renamed L’Ecran Magique, or ‘The Magic Screen,’ and made its debut at a toy fair in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1959.
Fascinated by the invention, American Henry Winzeler, founder and president of The Ohio Art Company, licensed L’Ecran Magique for $25,000 and introduced it as Etch A Sketch in the United States in 1960.
Winzeler connected Cassagnes with Jerry Burger, an engineer at the company, so they could collaborate to improve the toy’s drawing capability.
Among the changes made to the Etch A Sketch in 1960 was replacing the joystick with two white knobs in the left and right corners of the screen. The idea was to make the toy look like the hot new adult toy of the time: a television.
It quickly became the most popular selling toy during the Christmas season that year, according to the manufacturer. Since then, the company has sold more than 150 million of them.
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
Toy balls that are meant to absorb water and grow to 400 times their normal size have been voluntarily recalled after the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) identified the toys as hazards for children who may swallow them before they come into contact with water. CNN reports:
The CPSC said the marble-size toy can be swallowed, and once inside the stomach, it can expand and cause blockage in the small intestine. The toys do not show up on an x-ray and require surgery to be removed, according to the commission.
Nearly 95,000 Water Balz (round shape), Growing Skulls (skull shape), H2O Orbs “Despicable Me” (round shape) and Fabulous Flowers (flower shape) toys were sold in stores in the United States and Canada from 2010 to November 2012.
An 8-month-old Texas girl reportedly ingested a Water Balz last year and underwent surgery to remove the toy. The packaging states the toy “Grows to the Size of a Racquetball!”
Image: Water Balz, via http://www.cpsc.gov
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
After more than 40,000 people signed a 13-year-old’s petition urging the toy company Hasbro to make a gender-neutral version of its iconic “Easy Bake Oven,” the company has agreed to give the product a makeover next year. As the Associated Press reports:
McKenna Pope was prompted to start the petition after shopping for an Easy-Bake as a Christmas present for her 4-year-old brother, Gavyn Boscio, and finding them only in purple and pink.
Hasbro invited McKenna and her family to its Pawtucket, R.I., headquarters to meet with its Easy-Bake team, and on Monday, they drove to Rhode Island from New Jersey. During the meeting, Hasbro executives showed off a prototype of their newest Easy-Bake: one that’s black, silver and blue.
Hasbro has been working on the new color scheme and design for about 18 months, and decided to invite McKenna to see it and offer her thoughts, said John Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief marketing officer.
McKenna said the company is doing everything she asked, including putting boys in the ads.
‘‘I think that they really met most or even all of what I wanted them to do, and they really amazed me,’’ she said, adding that Gavyn thought the new design was ‘‘awesome.’’
Frascotti pointed out that the classic toy has had about a dozen different color schemes, from yellow to green to teal to silver, since first being introduced in 1963. The most recent iteration, introduced in 2011, is mostly purple with pink accents.
He said it’s sold well since then, and that prompted the company to look for a way to update it and to broaden the consumer base by doing it in different colors.
‘‘It’s actually a product that’s played with by both boys and girls,’’ he said. ‘‘We will continue to offer the existing product too because it’s so popular.’’
Friday, November 23rd, 2012
The U.S. Public Interest Research Organization has released its 27th annual “Trouble in Toyland” survey, which has found on store shelves a number of toys that are known to be dangerous or made of toxic materials. The offending toys include those that pose choking or laceration hazards, contain toxic chemicals like lead and BPA that are associated with health risks, or exceed recommended limits for safe noise levels around young ears.
Parents are urged to carefully read all printed warnings on toys they are planning to purchase this holiday season, and to review the report to educate themselves on the warning signs of a dangerous toy.
CNN.com has more:
Over the years, the organization said, its reports have led to more than 150 recalls and other regulatory actions.
This year’s list “includes a potentially dangerous magnet toy, a bowling game that is a choking hazard and a key chain rattle that may be harmful to little ears,” it said.
Researchers visited national toy stores, malls and dollar stores in September, October and November this year to look for potential toxic, choking, strangulation and noise hazards.
“We should be able to trust that the toys we buy are safe. However, until that’s the case, parents need to watch out for common hazards when shopping for toys,” said Nasima Hossain, public health advocate for Public Interest Research Group, in a release detailing the report.
The Toy Industry Association, which represents more than 500 manufacturers in the United States, said, “Safety is our top priority all year,” and a spokesman called the group’s survey “another of its needlessly frightening reports.”
Image: Child in toy store, via Shutterstock
Monday, April 16th, 2012
Over the next few days, you’ll notice some different types of posts here at PNN. Your intrepid blogger will be attending the Sandbox Summit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to hear what psychologists, educators, and entrepreneurs have to say about this question: What is the relationship between technology and play?
The Summit’s website describes its mission: “Play is how kids learn. Technology is an enticement. By creating a forum for conversation around play and technology, Sandbox Summit strives to ensure that the next generation of players becomes active innovators, rather than passive users, of technology.”
Stay tuned for what I anticipate will be fascinating insights, research, and ideas from the experts at the Summit, as well as some tidbits and sneak peaks of the newest, coolest techno toys around.
Ready to play? I sure am!
Image: Play button, via Shutterstock.