Genius of Play Ambassadors Spotlight: PlanToys’ Rudy Valenta
February 9, 2021 | For Rudy Valenta, who handles national sales and marketing at PlanToys, the toy industry is in his blood and incorporating play into daily life, both as a child and now as an adult, has always been the norm. To help spread awareness about the many proven benefits of play, Valenta recently became a Play Ambassador for The Genius of Play. Toy News Tuesday editors chatted with Valenta about what play means to him – and why it was important to become an ambassador for this cause.
Q: How did you get your start in the toy industry and what you are doing now?
Valenta: I got my start in the toy industry unexpectedly. My parents started a toy company called Valtech and created Magna-Tiles back in 1997. Growing up, I would help them with the business on the weekend and during my summers. I didn’t go to university with the intent of working for them and instead, after graduation, I went on to work at the Board of Trade in Chicago.
Shortly after though, my mom drew me back into the industry when she asked me to help with operations and marketing at Valtech. From that point on, I have been in the toy industry, learning and growing every day. Since then, I have worked for a few companies, both stateside and internationally, focusing on growth and marketing. Currently, I am on team PlanToys, spreading the word on sustainable manufacturing and showing how we can teach children through play.
Q: Why was it important to you to become a Genius of Play Ambassador and what does play mean to you?
Valenta: Being a Genius of Play Ambassador is important to me because there is so much more to play than what meets the eye. I want to make sure everyone knows the importance of play and its value − how play is used to learn, communicate, and teach foundational skills at a young age. Play to me means enjoying whatever it is you are doing every day, whether you are a child playing with toys or you are older and play while learning or doing your job. There is always play and fun to be had no matter what you do.
Q: 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?
Valenta: With working from home, social distancing, and staying safe these days – play is more important than ever for our overall wellbeing. At work, I like to keep PlanToys products on my desk for a quick five-minute mental refresh. My favorites are our PlanMinis for a short two-minute game of our mini balancing cactus or 3D puzzle. Doodling is great option, too. Outside of work, I love playing board games – either virtually or with my pod.
Q: How do you think we, as a society, can better incorporate play into our lives?
Valenta: I believe we can incorporate more play into our lives by reminding ourselves that play is not just for kids and neither are toys. Don’t forget to browse the toy and game aisles for yourself. There is something for everyone. Treat yourself!
Q: What is your favorite toy and/or play memory?
Valenta: My current favorite toy is the board game Wingspan. It is educational, involves strategy, and you can play with just two players or up to five. Game time only lasts about an hour, so it is not a super big commitment. It is so much fun.
This interview is part of an ongoing series that spotlights the members of The Genius of Play Ambassadors program. Play ambassadors serve as play thought leaders within their own professional networks and act as key supporters and spokespersons for ongoing Genius of Play initiatives.
Rudy Valenta handles national sales and marketing for PlanToys, an eco-friendly toy company that has prioritized sustainability and child development since its launch in the early 1980s. To learn more about PlanToys and its 2021 lineup, visit plantoys.com.