Tom Murdough: “Green time and less screen time”

A successful toy, in my opinion, is one that allows the child to direct the play experience and not the other way around. No need for flashing lights, sounds etc. A great toy should enhance a child’s imagination. Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Tom Murdough, Founder and CEO of Simplay3 and 2020 Inductee of the […]

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A successful toy, in my opinion, is one that allows the child to direct the play experience and not the other way around. No need for flashing lights, sounds etc. A great toy should enhance a child’s imagination.

Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Tom Murdough, Founder and CEO of Simplay3 and 2020 Inductee of the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

With a career spanning more than 50 years that includes the launch of three separate companies, Tom Murdough has transformed the world of outdoor play and kids’ ride-ons. As the founder of Little Tikes™, Step2™ and Simplay3™, he brought groundbreaking ideas to the toy industry with landmark innovations. Products like the Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox and Cozy Coupe, the Step2 Up and Down Roller Coaster and LifeStyle Kitchen, and most recently, the Simplay3 Young Explorers Adventure Climber and Carry & Go Track Table are just a few of the hundreds of original concepts that his teams have successfully brought to market.

Tom Murdough credits his determination to succeed in both times spent training at Quantico and being a member of the 1st Marine Division from 1961–1964. Murdough got a taste for the toy world when he was Vice President of Sales for Wonder Products. On February 21, 2020, Tom Murdough was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame for creating products that challenged industry standards and developing iconic toys loved by kids young and old. Being inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame is reserved for those who have an unimpeachable record of integrity and respect in the industry.

Murdough is currently the CEO of The Simplay3 Company in Streetsboro, OH where he has a hand in shaping the next generation of play.

Thank you so much for joining us Tom. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There was no one story”…but in being exposed to the Rotational Molding process, I learned that there was a voidin the market for larger, rotational molded products, especially in the toy industry — while being competitive at the same time.

I also learned the importance of people, as the process is highly labor-intensive. In the treatment of people, the “Do It Right” philosophy applies …in every respect!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My teams at all three companies have been critically important to the ultimate success at each. Team members like Wayne Stock was a genius in leading our manufacturing efforts. Key designers like Jim Mariol, Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, John Hradisky, Step2 LifeStyle Kitchen and Keary Knerem, Simplay3 Carry & Go Track Table have created iconic category stand-outs.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our goal has been to create and supply high quality, American-made preschool playthings that support basic, open-ended play patterns. We believe in stimulating children’s imaginations and muscles by allowing them to direct the play and stay active both in body and mind.

Can you tell us about the technological innovations in toys or games that you are working on?

Actually, we believe that our products are important and different because they offer children a way to be engaged and engage with others without technology. Simplay3 has many technological advances in our manufacturing process, but we want children to use their imagination to create the play and learning experience. Also, our low-tech play allows children and parents/grandparents to interact with one another developing stronger learning and relationships.

How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?

Under my tenure at each company, we adhered to the belief that play products should be open-ended and not technology-based. Our items are very basic in nature and are brought to life by a child’s imagination and their muscle not by batteries, lights and sounds.

You, of course, know that games and toys are not simply entertainment, but they can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company? How do you think you are helping people or society?

Our items offer more “green time and less screen time.” We offer alternatives to passive electronic devices and get kids up and active both indoors and out. They can build with blocks at a desk, paint a picture on their easel, ride a bike, climb on an activity gym, pretend and role play in their very own playhouse or cook a meal for their favorite furry friends. This is extremely important for every generation to experience.

I know that this question may be outside of your core expertise, but I’m sure you will be able to share some important insight. In your opinion, how is the US doing with regard to engaging young people, and particularly girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

Since we are a proponent of open-ended, imaginative play we have been engaging preschool children to build their bodies and minds through active play opportunities for 50 years.

How would you define a “successful” game or toy? Can you share an example of a game or toy that you hold up as an aspiration?

A successful toy, in my opinion, is one that allows the child to direct the play experience and not the other way around. No need for flashing lights, sounds etc. A great toy should enhance a child’s imagination.

What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create Successful Games or Toys” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

The successful toy should be:

1. Safe

2. Extremely durable

3. Have a high perceived consumer value

4. Stimulate a child’s imagination and physical activity

5. Be designed to easily ship economically. (Today’s retail climate makes this a necessity in the creative process of a successful toy.)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have always been a proponent of supporting the American Worker and American Companies. I would like to see more American toy brands to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The Golden Rule — treating others as you want to be treated — has always directed my personal and professional life. This simple adage has applications to every aspect of life, I believe.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow Simplay3 at, FacebookInstagramYouTubePinterest, and Twitter.

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