With only 20 shopping days left until Christmas, parents have only a short time to decide whether to get the expensive robotic Elmo Live or a lower priced, kid-powered eco toy made of recycled plastic. University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College Professor Jan Phillips can help explain what that choice means in terms of family relationships. Her research helps explain that how we buy, give, receive, use and even dispose of toys says a lot about how we celebrate, define, manipulate, and idealize family relationships.
This year, Phillips received the first ITRA-BTHA Prize for Outstanding Toy Research by The International Toy Research Association (ITRA), in conjunction with the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA). She accepted the award at the World Congress of the International Toy Research Association in Nafplion, Greece, where she presented a talk on her research.
Phillips uses writing projects in which students identify their favorite toy, how they acquired it, what it permitted them to do, and what role toys played in their social lives. In reading the assignments, she learned how toys give children a sense of control, comfort, and an outlet for empowerment.
To read more about Phillips’ research, see
To arrange an interview with Phillips, contact Bob Caswell or Judie O’Malley at 207-780-4200, or Dan Philbrick at 207-753-6575.
The University of Southern Maine (USM) offers its 10,000 plus students more than 115 areas of undergraduate and graduate study. USM’s location in southern Maine, a region cited as one of the most liveable in the country, offers a range of educational, cultural and recreational opportunities.