Toy Hall of Famers: Dollhouses, Hot Wheels, Blankets

The three take their places at The Strong, a children's and cultural history museum, alongside 46 other classics ranging from the bicycle, kite and teddy bear.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Is Linus jumping for joy?

The blanket, an all-purpose plaything and a comfort for generations of thumb-suckers like Charlie Brown's best friend in the "Peanuts" comic strip, landed Thursday in the National Toy Hall of Fame along with Hot Wheels and the dollhouse.

The three take their places at The Strong, a children's and cultural history museum in upstate New York, alongside 46 other classics ranging from the bicycle, kite and teddy bear to Barbie, Jack-in-the-Box and Mr. Potato Head.

Curators said the blanket was a special addition in the spirit of two earlier inductees, the cardboard box and the stick. They praised its ability to serve either as recreational raw material or an accessory transformed in myriad ways by a child's daydreams.

"Every now and again we like to shake things up, remind folks there's play experiences that happen purely creatively ... rather than coming with rules, a path, a backstory you feel constrained into," said Christopher Bensch, the Rochester museum's chief curator.

"Blankets have been keeping people warm for centuries, but they've also been heating up kids' imaginations," serving as magic carpets and superhero capes, a peek-a-boo veil, a chair-draped fortress or "an island of safety surrounded by sea monsters."

For Linus, the comfort imparted by his precious blue blanket blends with its "play function" as a lasso, a whip, a Snoopy towrope and, in later adventures, "when he talks about turning his blanket into a sports coat when he grows up," Bensch said.

Longevity is a key criterion for getting into the 13-year-old hall, which was acquired in 2002 from A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village in Salem, Ore. Each toy must be widely recognized, foster learning, creativity or discovery through play, and endure in popularity over generations.

Trying to create a toy that would be as big a success with boys as Barbie was with girls, Elliot Handler hit upon an idea for miniature die-cast vehicles with sleek designs. Hot Wheels were introduced in 1968 and the brand became a big hit.

Handler, who died in July at age 95, grew Mattel Inc. into the nation's largest toy maker along with his wife, Ruth, who created the Barbie doll in 1959.

The dollhouse evolved from 16th-century "baby houses," wooden cabinets in which wealthy European women displayed their collections of miniature furnishings.

German toy makers produced variations for youngsters to furnish with tiny chairs, tables, beds, tapestries and floor coverings and, by the 19th century, mass-production methods enabled dollhouses to grow in popularity.

"The dollhouse has gone on to hold a special place in the hearts of children everywhere," said Patricia Hogan, the museum's curator of toys and dolls. "From the most elaborately crafted mansions to the simplest home-made structures, the dollhouse gives kids an ideal environment for creative play, from furnishing and refurnishing rooms, making up stories and collaborating with friends and siblings."

More than a few heavyweight nominees fell short in 2011, including the puppet, the pogo stick and Rubik's Cube.