Small toy retailers hold a special place in my heart because I know that local toy stores support local communities with quality products for kids. My sons still enjoy the train table in our store nearby and now we shop for quality games to meet the growing intelligence of my boys.
Our local store owner is a great source of advice but I have also been writing about ASTRA (the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) from my early blogging years when I first encouraged readers to checkout their awesome suggestions for quality toys for all ages and to read about each year’s winning toy selection in their Best Toys for Kids line-up, broken down by age group and type of play.
Last year, I also wrote about ASTRA and the importance of shopping local on Babble in my article “Where You Buy Is As Important as What You Buy.” In the article I share how being on my local school board gave me a greater understanding of the impact of using my dollars locally rather than rushing to buy online where so many people have headed.
This year, I was recently sent some of the products from this year’s best toys selection of 21 toys for kids of all ages. Winning toys are selected by a pool of 650 experts based on a toy’s ability to promote open-ended/creative play, a toy’s innovative design features and a toy’s exceptional safety standards.
The toys I received to try are as follows:
Snap Circuit SOUND by ELENCO Electronics ($84.99 MSRP; Ages 8 & up) The best part about having a geeky husband and enjoying a big of geekdom myself is that toy kits like Snap Circuits sound so totally fun (like, can I be a kid again, please?) and we are excited to help our boys stretch their mental abilities with a toy that helps them understand how things come together to produce a result, especially like this kit that creates sound. Pieces snap together to show how electricity flows through the circuits to create lights and sounds.
Zingo! Sight Words by Thinkfun ($19.99 MSRP; 3-7 yrs old) I never thought Bingo could be reinvented and then came Zingo!, a fun interactive word game that has helped both my boys quickly recognize and read sight words from an early age.
Q-BA-Maze 2.0 Mega Stunt Set by Mindware ($79.99 MSRP; 6+ yrs old) This zany, zigzagging innovative marble run keeps you guessing with endless configurations, 108 cubes, two cascade stilts, two coaster tubes, one marble vortex, one pivot trampoline, two universal connectors and 30 steel marbles. Color instructions make the whole process easier for my kindergarten age son.
Right now, you can also enter two fun sweepstakes on the ASTRA website in this year’s I Heart My Neighborhood Toy Store campaign. Now through November 8, 2013, log onto www.yourneighborhoodtoystore.org and enter to win the following sweepstakes:
1. A Grand Prize Vacation Package – sponsored by Thomas & Friends and including a stay at a Hard Rock Hotel in Mexico or the Dominican Republic.
2. Featured Prizes – Enter to win one of several high-value gift baskets by companies including Kidozi, Calico Critter, Early Years, Playmobil and assorted Best Toys for Kids winning product.
And, keep reading for news of this year’s upcoming Neighborhood Toy Store Day on Saturday, November 9, 2013
Disclosure: I was a part of the team that helped ASTRA create Neighborhood Toy Store Day in 2010, and I have worked with them as a consultant since 2009. However, my opinions are not influenced by my work with ASTRA. I’ve donated numerous hours to shop local campaigns after seeing the importance of local business while serving on the School Board and Park & Recreation Boards in my township.