When my kids were little and my (now 12-year-old) son was in preschool and time seemed much more abundant than it does now, I spent many a morning hanging out in town with my daughter in her stroller, meeting friends for coffee, wandering in and out of shops browsing and poking around.
Our preschool was located in one of those towns that hadn’t totally surrendered to the unfortunate trend of homogenous store and restaurant chains. There were actually quite a few family-owned specialty shops to enjoy, and one of those was a neighborhood toy store.
I used to love to wander in there just to poke around, and I would make it a point to shop there when my kids had birthday parties to attend and I wanted a gift that was unique and special.
The staff knew every item in the shop and could recommend something for me based on the age and interests of the child I was buying for. Plus it was such a fun place to visit. It was cozy and inviting, and I would make small talk with the sales clerks (who were often the store owners) while they hand-wrapped toys that were gifts. Not only could I get presents that were unique and special, but I felt good about supporting local family run businesses.
I miss shopping at that toy store. They always had such great things that I’d never have discovered on my own, and you just can’t get that same level of service and that personal touch at most big store chains.
With all the big box stores and online retailers, it is easy to get caught up in the convenience and neglect the family owned businesses that have been the foundation of our local communities for so many years. I find myself guilty of that more often than I’d like to admit, but sometimes I yearn for more of an experience. I want to buy unique things that not everyone has, and I want that personal touch that you only get at smaller shops.
YourNeighborhoodToyStore.org is a fabulous resource for finding local toy stores and specialty toy makers. They just launched this month, and their extensive toy buying guide will point you to the best toys on the market and where to buy them. Not only that, but they have a calendar of events and tons of great articles with advice on toys and how to play with your children at various ages.
In a day of video games and rushing from one sports practice to the next, it’s easy to neglect free play with good, old-fashioned toys. As an ASTRA (The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) ambassador, I received a Kickin’ Putt by BeginAgain Toys.
It’s sort of like like soccer-meets-golf, and while it’s recommended for ages 3 and up, my husband and 12-year-old son seemed to be having quite the time playing with it outside last Sunday afternoon. It kept them occupied for at least an hour. I love that the kickin’ golf balls are made in the USA from wheat starch plastic, and the flying scoring disc is made of natural rubber. Even the packaging is made of recyclable materials, and I love the retro design.
These are the types of toys that you will find at a neighborhood toy stores.
Not that you can’t also find them online, but when you shop your locally owned retailer, they probably won’t be competing with all the crappy plastic junk and video games. Plus, it’s just a much more pleasant shopping experience. These days I usually only shop specialty toy stores when I’m on vacation or discovering a quaint village somewhere in our travels, but I plan to make it a higher priority to seek out family owned stores in our area. Thankfully, YourNeighborhoodToyStore.org makes them easy to find!
As a blogger ambassador for ASTRA, I received the Kickin’ Putt and was compensated for this post however all experiences and opinions expressed in this post are my own.