When I was young my mom used to take me to the most magical place on earth, a place where being a kid was king and everything was just my size. Whether I was playing in the elaborately decorated playhouse, playing postman, or entertaining my inner chef and whipping up breakfast to rows of dolls, my mom and I would spend hours exploring together before we would drive back to meet my older siblings at school. These memories are some of the highlights of my younger years and quite possibly the best memories I have of me and my mom together.
This magical place was our local toy store, the one situated almost exactly at the halfway point between my house and my aunt’s house. I remember numerous days when my mother, sister, and I would meet my aunt and young cousins at this toy store and us kids would play for hours while the grownups talked. Just thinking of the time spent here makes me happy and it has me absolutely determined to create memories such as these with my children.
Unfortunately for me, this toy store of my youth closed years ago and I can never revisit it with my daughter to see if it still holds all the magic I remember. It’s especially sad to me at Christmastime when I remember the toy store being even more magical than it normally was with the Christmas Village all set up and Santa was there to hug. I can vividly remember standing outside the big picture window of the toy shop with my face pressed against the cool glass trying to catch a glimpse of Santa before we entered the store to tell him what we wanted for Christmas. More than anything, I was hoping to carry on this tradition with my children and bring them to this toy store to meet Santa each year.
While I can’t bring them to the special toy store my mom took us to growing up, we are incredibly lucky to have numerous great toy stores around us where we can continue on the tradition. Ever since my daughter was born, we have enjoyed browsing the local toy stores near us numerous times a year, including spending her 2nd birthday at the one nearest our house. While this is an awesomely fun way to spend the afternoon as a family and get to play with a wide variety of toys together, it also has some really great benefits I would have never thought of before I had children.
One such benefit of visiting local toy stores is the fact that I can see what truly interests her. With just about every toy, gift and game around her, it’s great to stand back and watch what she gravitates to. By doing this I have absolutely solidified that the “pink aisle” of Corolle dolls and accessories is where she would prefer to spend most of her time, but I also found out that she is a train set enthusiast at heart, that she loves classic stuffed animals more than cartoonish versions, as well as noting that she really, really needed her own set of “fix it tools”.
ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) knows all too well how important all these neighborhood toy stores are and the benefits of shopping where a friendly clerk calls you by name, which is why they are hosting a NATIONAL event called Neighborhood Toy Store Day on November 13th in toy stores all across the country.
Neighborhood Toy Store Day is designed to celebrate all the benefits of shopping local (expert advice, shopping for specialty toys not found at larger chain stores, special events, local toys and gifts, all the wonderful memories you create, and being able to play with different ages of toys to see what is best for your child… need I go on?) as well as spotlighting the fact that these toy stores are a dying breed. Since I love all my local stores and know what it’s like to lose the toy store you grow up shopping at, this is something that really hits home for me.
For the event, toy stores across the country will all host their own special celebration for their local shoppers. Some stores will have clowns, contests, giveaways, and more to kick off the holiday shopping season, including one crazy store that even has a live reindeer coming with elves to hand out candy and prizes. You can find out what stores near you are participating so you can join in on all the fun at www.neighborhoodtoystoreday.com or you can call your local store and ask them what they have in store.
You can find more information about Neighborhood Toy Store Day at http://www.neighborhoodtoystoreday.com/ or at http://www.astratoy.org/
Now your turn: What kinds of memories do you have of your local toy store? Is going to toy stores together a tradition in your family?
I was not compensated in any way or otherwise enticed to write this post, this is just something I feel strongly about and something that I am looking forward to doing with my family this weekend to celebrate!