Genius of Play Ambassador Spotlight: Laurie Leahey, Senior Editor at aNb Media/TTPM

July 27, 2021 | Laurie Leahey has seen firsthand what a powerful tool play can be for child development, not only in her role as the senior editor and lead reviewer of TTPM, the toy review website produced by aNb Media, but also as a mom to a very active five-year-old. Toy News Tuesday editors spoke with Leahey about how she is constantly on the hunt for new play ideas and why becoming a Play Ambassador for The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative was a natural extension for her.

TNT: How did you get your start in the toy industry and what you are doing now?

LL: I started in the toy industry in 2006, straight out of college. I applied to a magazine job with aNb Media, writing articles for its trade publications Toys & Family Entertainment and Royaltie$. As the magazine landscape changed, the company started a consumer website, TTPM, and I started writing toy reviews. Now I write and film toy reviews for the TTPM website and YouTube channel, and occasionally appear as a toy expert on TV stations across the country.

TNT: Why was it important to you to become a Genius of Play Ambassador and what does play mean to you?

LL: Being a Genius of Play Ambassador is a way for me to get more involved in the toy industry and help spread the word about the importance of play. It seemed a natural extension of what I was already sharing on my social media channels — the toys I'm reviewing for work, the toys my daughter likes, and the different activities and crafts we do at home. I see firsthand that play is how my daughter learns; it's a way for her to express herself, try out new things, and exert some independence. I'm excited to share Genius of Play’s resources with my friends and followers, as well as pick up some new tips to try at home with my five-year-old.

TNT: Play benefits our emotional and physical wellbeing at any age, so what steps have you taken to make play a part of your daily routine both in and outside of work?  

LL: Ever since the pandemic began, I've been primarily working from home, so that means I'm at home with a five-year-old all day. We get to play together in terms of her helping me review toys for work. It's so interesting to see how a child reacts to a toy versus how I, as an adult, react to it. But when play is not related to work, I just let my daughter guide me. I'm there to play along — even if it is the same game or play scenario over and over again — and just watch the worlds and characters she creates. When the weather is nice, we like to play outside, and she'll have races on her motorcycle ride-on in the driveway. She's also obsessed with unboxing toys and wants me to film her doing her own unboxings like her favorite YouTubers.

TNT: What is your favorite toy and/or play memory?

LL: My favorite toy as a kid was Barbie. I had A LOT of Barbies. I'm not sure I played with my Barbies the way other little girls did — or at least in the traditional sense of fashion and hair play. I'm pretty sure I had the longest running Barbie soap opera. 

TNT: How do you think we as a society can better incorporate play into our lives?

LL: I think we have to remember that "play" can be anything. There isn't one right way to do it. As adults, whatever brings us joy and challenges us creatively can be play. For me, scrapbooking is my "playtime." But for someone else, it could be putting together a puzzle or going outside for a workout. Just remember to take the time to do it.

Laurie Leahey is the senior editor at TTPM/aNb Media, where she reviews the latest and greatest toys for the site. Laurie has also appeared on-air in top national broadcast segments, demonstrating the best in play. You can also find her on Instagram at @cookscrapcraft.

This interview is part of an ongoing series that spotlights the members of The Genius of Play Ambassadors program, who serve as play thought leaders within their own professional networks as well as key supporters and spokespersons for ongoing Genius of Play initiatives.