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People of Play Announce the Winners of the 18th Annual Young Inventor Challenge

People of Play Young Inventor Challenge 17th Annual 18th

Catastrophe of Hairballs, Hike the Spike, and Blanket Kingdom were among the top place finishers at People of Play’s 18th Annual Young Inventor Challenge (YIC) held in 2023 on November 4th at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair.


The YIC is a yearly competition where students between the ages of 6 and 18 have the opportunity to create an original play product and pitch it to professional toy and game inventors for a chance to win big prizes. Past winners have seen their entries licensed, manufactured, and sold in both specialty toy stores and in major retailers including Target and Amazon. Leading up to the Young Inventor Challenge in November, regional events are hosted at independent toy stores, day camps, and summer school programs to inspire and engage kids to create toys and games to be judged in the annual competition.


“The Young Inventor Challenge has a mission to inspire the next generation of innovators, but I find the kids are the inspiration. It is a joy to be a part of their journey from start to finish and watch their creativity unfold!”, said Young Inventor Challenge Director, Ahren Hoffman.


The Young Inventor Challenge has assembled over 10,000 kids globally since its inception to compete. The 18th annual competition sponsored by Mattel, Crazy Aaron’s, Boogie Board, The Toy Association, Fun in Motion Toys, Spielwarenmesse, Reyn Guyer Creative Group, Goliath, and The Playmakers included 106 ‘kidpreneurs’. The 78 unique YIC projects were submitted for judging in the virtual showcase and reviewed online by over 50 professional inventors and executives from many well-known companies around the world.


“The highlight of my trade show circuit is the Young Inventor Challenge. The creativity of these kids is unreal. The entire toy industry rallies around and encourages them. It’s awesome to see,” shares Tim Walsh, board chair and judge of the Young Inventor Challenge.


Each year, Young Inventor Challenge competitors have the option to pitch their project in-person. This is not a requirement for participation, but an exciting opportunity for kids to present and watch the award ceremony live! In 2023, the YIC had 44 projects pitched at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair and 4 of the 8 winners were presented with trophies on stage. Winners spanned multiple states including Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, and Massachusetts.


Below is the official list of winners of the 18th Annual Young Inventor Challenge:


Best Game – Sponsored by Mattel

Senior Winner: Endless by Keegan Franck (8th grade) of Belmont, MA

Junior Winner: Catastrophe of Hairballs by Carol Pack (4th grade) of Palos Heights, IL


Most Creative– Sponsored by Crazy Aaron’s

Senior Winner: Pirates of the Spinning Sea by Analise Potsander (7th grade) of Goshen, IN

Junior Winner: Hike the Spike by Shaurya Shah (4th grade) of Chicago, IL


Most Authentic – Sponsored by Boogie Board

Senior Winner: Blanket Kingdom by Wolf Danzer (7th grade) of Superior, CO

Junior Winner: Zombie Zania by Shea Curran (4th grade) of Palos Heights, IL


Best Pitch – Sponsored by The Toy Association

Senior Winner: Delivering Presents by Claire Schmitt (7th grade) of Evansville, IN

Junior Winner: Makeover by Marley McCall (4th grade) of Palos Heights, IL


The 19th Annual Young Inventor Challenge registration is set to open this summer. Interested participants are encouraged to check out the resources and rules at for inspiration. Caregivers, teachers, and other adults can sign up to be notified when registration is live!


Explore photos of 2023 winners and past published toys and games to experience the excitement of the Young Inventor Challenge.