There is one place where my preschooler can race plasma cars, try on four different princess gowns, flip pretend burgers on a wooden grill, practice new moves with the entire Groovy Girls collection, learn a new pattern on her rainbow loom, and lose herself completely in a the miniature world of Calico Critters... all in one afternoon.
Our Neighborhood Toy Store.
Local kids head to the toy store to play games, spend their allowance (most items in the store are under $15, contrary to popular belief that local stores are more expensive), buy a gift for a friend, or create with the latest craft kit. Neighbors drop off canned goods for the local childrens center food drive, design a rainbow loom bracelet for a child in need, or consult the staff on a perfect present for a six-year-old niece that loves magic tricks and science experiments.
If I have one complaint about my neighborhood toy store, its impossible to just run into the store for a quick errand. Theres always a new amazing toy find (something you wont find in any Target or Toys-R-Us), catch up conversations (How is L liking preschool? Did the new math game work?), or the latest community service project to learn about.
Thats also why I love it. They know me. They know my family. They know my older child hates scary monsters and the color brown -- and flips for anything in the shape of a horse. They know my younger child has special medical issues and purposefully look for (and let me know about) toys that will support his development.
Unlike Big Box shops, our local toy store is an anchor thread in the fabric that makes up our community. Staff members live in our community. The owners have a vested interest in seeing our community -- schools, parks, businesses -- thrive and provide opportunities for linking neighbors economically and socially. The store gives back to our community in a multitude of ways. It provides a living for employees who live and work in our community, champions the causes of local non-profits and school groups, and works in partnership with other locally-owned businesses.
An added bonus? They wrap. Beautifully. Quickly. You can stop and get a gift en route to the birthday party without spending an extra $10 on the right-sized bag and tissue paper.
According to my four-year-old, shed much rather spend a few hours at Miss Claudias store than go to the playground.
"Because, Mom, you get to play with everything!
Thats reason enough to love the store, right?
Heather W. Walsh: Heather has been working in emerging technologies her entire career. Specializing in how learners interact through technology, Heather has developed more than 1000 educational interactive video programs and projects, many of which have earned national and international acclaim. An expert in social media strategy, interactive video design and emerging technology trends, Heathers unique approach to pedagogy and professional development has impacted more than 1 million learners nationwide. She is the editor-in-chief of (cool) progeny, an award-winning Baltimore-based blog for families.