Toys abound at big box stores and online sites, yet good customer service, passion for the products, quality, and a child-centered environment are often harder to find. If you’re the kind of parent that’s looking for something a little different when it comes to holiday shopping this year, check out these toy stores. You’ll find great stuff while giving the gift of support to local, independent businesses.
9579 S. University Blvd., Suite 170, Highlands Ranch
Wonderland Toys values community, and offers activities and a play area for children while their parents shop. Through November and December, the store will host game nights every Friday, 5 to 6 p.m. Shoppers receive complimentary gift-wrapping, which is “one of the employees’ favorite parts of the job,” says Stephanie Woolley, marketing manager. On Neighborhood Toy Store Day, November 11, the store will showcase new toys available for the holiday season, along with activities, raffles, and treats. Stop in to find a large selection of fidget spinners and Jellycat stuffed toys.
Staff Picks For…
Hands-on/Creative Play: Plus-Plus by Fruugo. Hundreds of building bricks in one simple shape for the creation of mosaics or 3D designs.
Family Game: SLAPZI by Carma Games. A simple-to-learn and fast-to-play card game where the clue is a word and the answer is an image.
Staying Active: OgoDisks by OgoSport. Hand-held trampolines for two players on which you bounce, throw, and catch a ball.
$25 or less: Lollipopter by Beyond123. A colorful, uniquely-shaped toy that transforms into different designs with a quick twist of your hand.
1122 E. 17th Ave., Denver
Talulah Jones owner Robin Lohre takes great care in selecting toys that are produced using environmentally friendly processes and materials. All the toys in this certified green store are “imagination powered and do not require batteries,” says Lohre. The store carries a large selection of Plan Toys, a company known for sustainable manufacturing and materials, including kiln-dried rather than chemically dried wood. It sells a wide selection of Maileg toys—little mice in matchboxes—in addition to clothing and books. Lohre says the store tends to not focus on special events and promotions, but rather on offering quality products at reasonable prices.
“If we get a good deal on something, then our customers get a good deal,” Lohre says. “It’s a unique experience here. We have customers that have been coming for years, and they look for their favorite salesperson and they know they’ll have success.”
Staff Picks For…
Hands-on/Creative Play: Folkmanis puppets. Sturdy, soft puppets that look like stuffed animals.
Family Game: TableTopics by Ultra PRO International. A question game available in many different themes, designed to inspire interesting conversations.
Staying Active: The Original Rody Horse by Rody Toy. A blow up bouncy horse that encourages balance and exercise among young children.
$25 or less: Pop to Play Castles by Djeco. Cardboard structures that you assemble, in medieval or princess themes.
15530 W. 64th Ave., Arvada
This year on Small Business Saturday, November 25, kids can visit with Santa at Jake’s Toy Box. Jake’s was the first retailer in Colorado with an NAO—an interactive, programmable robot. Visitors to the store can see the largest public display in the state of a G-scale train, operating daily, as well as a Zoltar fortune telling machine.
“Jake’s is the reason to make the drive,” says Dan Driver, vice president. “Regardless of age or ability, all will find educational puzzles, games, and toys within this magical environment.” Driver and his wife Jill’s inspiration for owning a toy store came from their four-year-old son, Jake, who passed away from a genetic disease in 2009.
Staff Picks For…
Hands-on/Creative Play: My Dream Horse by Breyer. A paint-your-own horse kit with model horses, paint, and brushes.
Family Game: Traveling Animals by Traveling Animals Inc. The strategic wildlife education game in which you compete to save animals across the globe (an Evergreen, Colorado company).
Staying Active: Sno-Striker by Ideal/Alex Brands (for outdoor use). A blaster for launching snowballs. Twangled by MindWare (for indoor use). A game where you step over and under colored, stretchy bands, to tangle and untangle yourself.
$25 or less: Thinking Putty by Crazy Aaron’s Puttyworld. Containers of putty that won’t dry out in many unique colors and styles.
6155 S. Main St., Aurora (Southlands Shopping Center)
7721 Wadsworth Blvd., Suite B, Arvada
Beyond the Blackboard began as an educational supply store geared toward teachers. “Everything we do remains rooted in the education and development of children,” says Carah Killian, district manager.
In addition to an array of do-it-yourself kits, games, and puzzles, they have an ever-expanding selection for kids with special needs. Both locations offer kids workshops related to a variety of topics, including cooking, art, and science throughout the year. Gift-wrapping is free, and everything is 20 percent off for Neighborhood Toy Store Day, November 11.
Staff Picks For…
Hands-on/Creative Play: Calico Critters by EPOCH Everlasting Play. Miniature animal figures for imaginative play for age three and up. Empower Poster Kit by Craft-tastic. A decoupage art kit with materials designed to help kids age seven and up create posters that represent their special qualities.
Family Game: I Got This! by Fat Brain Toys. The game where you earn points by completing active challenges.
Staying Active: PlasmaCar by PlaSmart Inc. A kid-powered vehicle where you wiggle the wheel to make it go.
$25 or less: Bubble Gum Factory by Scientific Explorer. A science kit with materials and instructions to make chewing gum.
2526 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver (University Hills)
200 Quebec St., Denver (Lowry Town Center)
9315 Dorchester St., Highlands Ranch
7830 W. Alameda Ave., Lakewood
On Neighborhood Toy Store Day, November 11, discover hands-on demonstrations of new games and activities, as well as giveaway toys for kids. “The holidays are a very special time at Timbuk Toys, and we love to make shopping fun and easy with free gift wrapping and lots of great toy advice,” says Sallie Kashiwa, owner and president. Other times of the year, music loving kids newborn to age six can sing, dance, and play at the store’s award-winning Songs for Seeds classes, Mondays and Tuesdays at University Hills (multiple times available, see website for current schedule).
Staff Picks For…
Hands-on/Creative Play: Mad Mattr Brick Maker by Relevant Play. A kit to create bricks and build structures using Mad Mattr molding dough (a Colorado company).
Family Game: Clue Harry Potter by USAopoly. The classic game of Clue redesigned with a Harry Potter theme.
Staying Active: Ninjaline by B4Adventure. An obstacle course kit for your backyard, with accessories to customize it (a Denver company).
$25 or less: Magformers Rainbow 14 piece set by Magformers. The starter set of magnetic triangle and square shapes for engineering 3D creations.
2525 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
14644 Orchard Pkwy., Suite 1000, Westminster (Orchard Town Center)
180 E. Flatiron Circle Dr., Broomfield (Flatiron Marketplace)
Grandrabbit’s in Boulder celebrates its 40th birthday this year, and is well known locally and in other states. “Our community is really important to us and we make kids a priority in our business decisions,” says founder Lynne Milot. One way she does this is through the Bunny Bucks program, in which 5 percent of purchases can benefit a local school of the customer’s choice. Their loyalty program works with the Bunny Bucks program, in addition to earning points for dollars spent. For Neighborhood Toy Store Day, November 11, stores will offer double loyalty points, prizes, holiday product demonstrations, and game tournaments (offerings may vary by location).
Staff Picks For…
Hands-on/Creative Play: Singing Machine by Alliance Entertainment. A karaoke machine with new high-tech options.
Family Game: Braintopia by Asmodee. A game that tests your mental speed, where you try to solve fast-paced challenges and puzzles before your opponent.
Staying Active: Micro Maxi Deluxe Scooter by Micro Kickboard. A Swiss-designed easily-maneuverable scooter.
$25 or less: The Amazing Star Cube by California Creations. A geometric puzzle you manipulate and transform.
Denver International Airport, Concourse B
Parents who travel frequently will appreciate the location of this store—inside Denver International Airport in Concourse B, Mezzanine level. Take the airport train from any concourse to easily visit Kazoo & Company before or after a flight. It carries quality items not often found in mass market stores, and about 80 percent of the stock retails for $20 or less.
“Airport shopping, including a little bribery to get the parents through a long travel day, shouldn’t break the bank,” says Amanda Waters, Kazoo & Company store owner. Classic toys are their focus, such as Spirograph sets, invisible ink activity books, and Rubik’s cubes, with no electronic items. “Parents can revisit their own childhood and encourage creative play,” says Waters.
Staff Picks for…
Hands-on/creative play: TOOBS by Safari Ltd. Hand-painted miniatures in dozens of assortments from farm life to knights to ocean creatures, in convenient storage tubes.
Family game: TENZI by Carma Games. A fast-paced dice game that’s convenient for travel.
Toy for staying active: Beamo by Toysmith. A soft, flexible flying disk for outdoor play.
$25 or less: Animal Poppers by Hog Wild. Squeezable animals that shoot foam balls for safe “battles” between kids.