(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, and I received samples of many of the toys featured. 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.)
I know, I know, Halloween was just last week, but already you’re seeing commercials for Christmas. It seems to creep up on us faster every year, am I right? Well, I have a new M.O. for tackling the holidays this year.
Something that always frustrates me around the holidays is the mad rush for gifts; it really kind of kills it for me. I don’t mind decorating and cooking so much, but the malls. Fighting for parking spots. Big box stores advertising toys and products that aren’t in stock or are on back order. Unhelpful sales people. Long lines.
So I am doing things a little differently this year. I already started my shopping because my goal is to have it ALL done before December 1st. No I haven’t totally lost my ish. I want to actually ENJOY the holidays again. That’s what they’re all about: spending time with family and friends, taking the time to SLOW DOWN and savor all of our blessings. It’s become a lost concept in our society- but I am doing my best to bring it back for my family.
This Saturday, Nov. 8th is the 5th Annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day and it’s coming in the nick of time my friends. I love supporting small businesses throughout the year, but now is the time to really show them some love, because they show you love every time you walk in the door.
So what IS Neighborhood Toy Store Day? Neighborhood Toy Store Day introduces families to the fun of shopping locally and celebrates each local toy store’s commitment to the community. Participating stores will host local in-store events for families such as face painting, magic shows, craft projects, live performances and special discounts. You can find a local event near you, by visiting www.yourneighborhoodtoystore.org. Shopping at the local toy store isn’t just fun; shopping locally fosters a sense of community and provides the following benefits:
– Economic stability by providing local jobs and tax dollars.
– Reduced environmental impact due to less travel, traffic and carbon usage for consumers.
– A diverse product selection.
For more information on the benefits of shopping locally, visit http://www.yourneighborhoodtoystore.org/shop-local.asp Or read my previous posts about “Why I Heart My Neighborhood Toy Store” and about “Shopping Local: Why Where You Buy Is As Important As What You Buy” and about “Celebrating the 4th Annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day” and MANY more.
I support my neighborhood toy store throughout the year– and not just at the holidays. Independent stores carry unique toys that you can’t always find at big box stores, and the employees always have great recommendations for products that are educational and that encourage creative play. Plus, many local toy stores offer free gift wrap, which is great for a working mom in a hurry.
Since I live in the Philadelphia suburbs, I’m blessed with many great neighborhood toy stores. A visit to Pun’s Toys is always a pleasure for my children, and I remember shopping there when I was young. Now that I’m a mom, I love how helpful the owners are. They even assemble toys and wrap toys for parents, which is a personal touch I appreciate.
Here’s a little peek at some of the gifts on my list, which I had a chance to test! These toys were all awarded the ASTRA Best Toys for Kids Award for 2014 and can be found at a variety of local toy stores near you. The “Best Toys for Kids” winners were selected by a pool of 700+ experts. Over the years, I’ve purchased many of the winners and learned that this is a list I can trust because the toys truly encourage active and creative play.
Teeter Popper by Fat Brain Toy Co.
Arouse curiosity, stimulate the senses and engage the imagination with the new Teeter Popper! This unique toy improves core strength, balance, coordination and gross-motor skills all in one. Play with Teeter Popper by rocking it, rolling it, sitting in it, or standing on it for endless fun. 3+ years, $36.99 (I’ll confess that several of the grown-us in my office loved playing with this.)
Sands Alive! Deluxe Set by Play Visions Inc.
Mold, squish and shape this moldable indoor sand compound for a unique playtime experience. Similar to cookie dough, yet fluffy like a cloud, the Sands Alive kit comes with four pounds of moldable sand, a sand tray, 12 geometric shape molds, three sculpting tools, and one smooth roller. Organic, anti-bacterial, and water soluble, Sands Alive will never dry out. 3+years, $79.99 (I really found this toy relaxing, and I actually played with it during a long and extremely boring conference call. My kids loved it too!)
Mini Micro Classic kickboard scooter by Micro Kickboard
With three-wheel kickboard design and a low-to-the-ground deck, this scooter is stable enough for young children to enjoy. A unique lean-to-steer mechanism allows children to shift their body weight to curve left or right. 3-5 years, $79.99 (My 3 year old really enjoyed playing with this scooter, and it did seem higher quality and more stable than previous scooters we’d reviewed.)
Remote Control Machines DLX by Thames & Kosmos
Build and control your very own motorized machines while enhancing engineering knowledge, creative thinking skills and hand-eye coordination. The new kit includes three motors, a remote control unit, a battery holder, 155 building pieces and a 128-page instruction book. 8+ years, $124.99 (My husband really liked this toy, and he spent several happy hours assembling the machines with my oldest.)
Grow ‘N Glow Terrarium by Creativity for Kids
Create your very own habitat inside a plastic mason-style jar with this new terrarium kit. Set includes jar, decorative lid, potting mix, organic chia and wheat grass seeds, garden figurines, decorative sand, river stones, a plant mister and glow-in-the-dark stickers. 6+ years, $14.99 (This toy is an ideal birthday gift, and I actually purchased a few extra for last-minute birthday parties for my older son’s first-grade friends.)
pipSquigz by Fat Brain Toy Co.
Playful colors, fun sounds and fresh tactile experiences make this suction toy inviting for babies. Designed for little hands to pull, shake and push, the easy-to-clean, dishwasher safe toy promotes physical and cognitive play by blending touch, auditory processing, visual stimulation and kinesthetic learning all in one. 6+ months, $19.99
This board game teaches preschoolers the fundamental skills of programming and coding while making silly turtle noises. Before you know it, little ones will be writing computer games rather than just playing them! 4+ years, $24.99 (Both of my boys loved this game. While my 3.5 year old is still learning how to play it, my 6 year old quickly mastered the game and played ever more complex levels. This game was a hit at our house. My husband is a computer programmer, and he agreed that it was a great way to teach fundamentals and to get our oldest interested in programming)
Test your perception and reasoning skills with this gravity-powered logic maze! Arrange the colorful towers in a variety of ways to construct a path that carries your marble to its target. Includes 60 challenges. 8+ years, $29.99 (This maze was popular with my son and with the grown-ups in my office. It’s challenging enough to interest everyone without being too frustrating for a younger child. Playing is a great “mental break” during a stressful day.)
Snap Circuits Motion by ELENCO
Discover the science of energy through physics and electronics with this all-new construction kit. Includes an easy-to-assemble circuit board that invites you to build over 165 projects, including a motion detector and mini car! 8+ years, $84.99 (We are big fans of Snap Circuits, and we’ve tried many of their educational kits. We’ve only had a chance to try 10 of the projects so far, but I think this toy will be a favorite for many months to come.)
What local toy stores will you be shopping on Saturday? Let me know in the comments section below! Together we can support local toy stores, knock out our gift lists AND take back the holiday season!