Everybody was a winner at WACky Day, a Sunday celebration of young minds' creativity at the Westport Arts center.
A highlight of the afternoon was the announcement of the winning projects submitted by youngsters in the arts center's 2013 Toy Makers II Design Competition. The contest, sponsored by toymaker Melissa & Doug, challenged children to design a toy that could actually be created and marketed.
"There's nothing better that kids can be doing," said company co-owner Melissa Bernstein, who reviewed all 167 entries and chose her four favorites in the group of 6- to 8-year-olds and four in the 9- to 12-year-old group.
"You're building real-life skills," she said of the challenge. "These are problem-solving skills you use in life ... This is so good on so many levels."
The large number of entries, Bernstein said, demonstrated a "real need" for this kind of outlet for children.
She said it was a better use of a child's time than playing video games or watching television. "You're really using your brain."
In fact, one of the entries in the toy-design competition -- "The Big Helper" -- is a timer device that limits use of electronics by children.
"I so like the idea of an open-ended project," said Holly Maybruck of Westport, Sarah's mother. "I think that's what spurs children's creativity, not, `This is what you should make today.' They should use their own creative ideas."
Sarah, 12, who said she felt "good" and "happy" about finishing third in the toy competition, not only built a mock-up of the game, but designed a website to market it and also created a computer version.
"She worked really hard," her mother said.
Danielle Ogden, director of education for WAC, said kids were challenged to "think critically about how their toys would work in everyday life. Would you play with it? Would you come back to it? Would you siblings play with it?"
"I have dolls and Polly Pockets, and I love doll houses, so I created a doll house so you can design your own creation of a doll house," she said. "I needed to think of a way for the designs to fit in the doll house so they could be removal and re-attached."
Even though not all the entries could be winners, Bernstein emphasized that the winning selections simply reflect one person's opinion.
"Don't ever let one person's opinion bother you either way," she said.
"Every single one was really amazing and I'm so proud of everyone who submitted something," she said.
Winners of the 2013 Toy Makers II Design Competition are: