Genius of Play Ambassadors Spotlight: TinkerTini’s Trina McFarland

tinekrtini-mcfarlandJanuary 26, 2021 | In just two years, Trina McFarland has scaled her full-service inventor relations agency, TinkerTini, to manage a growing global network of 500+ members, bring multiple inventor concepts to market, and launch a first-of-its-kind innovation platform for internal and external innovation programs that connect inventors with toy and game manufacturers and licensors. Toy News Tuesday editors chatted with McFarland about how, as a Play Ambassador for The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative, she incorporates play into her own routine.

Q1: How did you get your start in the toy industry and what you are doing now?

McFarland: I started at Disney Toys in 2004 and transitioned into an inventor relations role fairly quickly. This was my calling, and it’s what I’ve been doing for many years for Jakks Pacific, Fisher-Price, Mattel, and now my own company TinkerTini.

Q2: What are some of your favorite toy and/or play memories?

McFarland: I was an only child with a very young, single mom doing her best to educate herself and provide for us. I had a lot of free time on my hands as a kid, and I recall liking flashlights and shadow puppets. I carried my TOMY Sweet Sea Mermaid Doll and Sea Wees around for a few years (back before mermaids were an evergreen item in the industry), and I remember getting my first Barbie Dreamhouse and how magnificently huge it was and so badly wanting to crawl into it in some capacity.

I also remember a lot of tub play with dolls and my mom, and I’m still a firm believer tub playtime is sacred, especially for working parents. For many, this is when parents and children reconnect and talk about their days. Play is always a platform to connect and share in abstract ways that feel safe for kids to express more complex feelings or experiences. We need to say “Yes!” to more tub toys and age them up already!

Q3: Why was it important to you to become a Genius of Play Ambassador and what does play mean to you?

McFarland: Play is the secret to life for kids and grownups—learning, development, stress relief, and friendship. We should all make an effort to honor our inner child and need to play for our entire lives. We’ll live more fulfilling ones, if we do.

Q4: 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?

McFarland: Play is my work. So is fun. But it is also a job. Personally, I play with sound bowls and look for new ways to focus, relax my mind, and find little slivers of peace during my busy days as a business owner, mom, and inventor advocate. Sometimes, I sing loudly in the car in the driveway to absurdly aggressive music with the windows rolled up. Sometimes I poke at my friends in ridiculous ways to make them smile. Play is a state of mind. And play is contagious. It’s the one thing we want to catch and spread. Can we have a Play Pandemic in 2021?

Q5: How do you think we, as a society, can better incorporate play into our lives?

McFarland: Like everything, practice. All grownups need to train their mind to move from gravity to levity with ease. Life demands both our parent and child sides, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes separately. The best way to practice this is to make the space for some fun and playtime. Then invite someone else to play with you, whether it’s a funny exchange, a funny picture, or a joke. Cultivate trusting, authentic friendships and safe spaces to play with your peers. Project playfulness and most importantly, don’t be a judgmental jerk. Acceptance, openness, and safety are the foundations of creating safe spaces to play. Grownups need more safety and permission than children to play and be silly sometimes.

This interview is the first in 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.

Trina McFarland is the founder & general manager of TinkerTini, a full-service inventor relations firm that specializes in launching, scaling, and managing open innovation initiatives. To learn more about TinkerTini or become one of their registered inventors visit or email