Shopping for Toys at the Neighborhood Toy Store - Divine Lifestyle
Just For Fun & Shopping

Shopping for Toys at the Neighborhood Toy Store

Drx stock photoYears ago my sister introduced me to Learning Express. I had never heard of it before and had definitely been inside a store before. However, once I stepped foot into the store, the vibe and energy of the place transformed it for me into something similar to Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. The same is true with my children.

The people who worked there knew everything about the toys they sold and they were passionate about them. There were even high school kids who worked there who were able to make suggestions that were perfect for my children.

My neighborhood toy store is truly a magical place.  We shop there frequently and we love it. We actually go at least once a week and we always spend at least 30-45 minutes at the store but sometimes more. They hand pick their stock and many of the toys are highly recommended plus award winning as well. You really cannot find a bad toy.

ASTRA (the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) wants everyone to shop local and visit the independent toy stores in your community this year.

Colorful crayons over white background


1. Economic stability

I am a big fan of supporting our local economy. My father did this all the time when I was growing up and he really stressed the value of supporting local businesses. He developed relationships like no one I have ever met.

2. Community development

Shopping local puts money back into the community. Neighborhoods get stronger and this makes everything better for the residents who live there plus they have a vested interest in the success of these local businesses.

3. Reduced environmental impact

One of the things I love about shopping locally is the reduced environmental impact. We spend less gas which means less output from our cars into the environment.

<4. A diverse product selection

As I mentioned above, the fabulous mix of toys available are hand picked and the best things around. Even better is that we can't usually find them anywhere else which makes shopping there so much fun!

5. Better customer service

Almost every time we shop our local toy store, the owner is there. We know her by name and she always recognizes my children when we shop there. She is committed to making certain her customers are happy and in fact, she has even ordered specialty items for me on occasion. She hosts a lot of events and has a great loyalty program.



The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is a non-profit association dedicated to promoting creative and open ended playtime for children. ASTRA brings together specialty toy manufactures, independent toy stores and toy buyers to help encourage “smart” play and selling local toys.

ASTRA members include independent toy and children’s product retailers, specialty toy manufacturers and industry affiliates.

I Love My Neighborhood Toy Store 2


To celebrate the fun of shopping for toys at the local toy store, ASTRA is kicking off the “I Heart My Neighborhood Toy Store” campaign where now through November 8, 2013 log onto and enter to win their sweepstakes. You will have the chance to win the following:

A Grand Prize Vacation Package! Thomas & Friends™ invites you on the family vacation of a lifetime at select all inclusive Hard Rock Hotels in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Six individual winners will be selected to win one of the following featured prizes:

  • One gift basket of Kidoozie products from International Playthings valued at $250
  • One gift basket of Calico Critter products from International Playthings valued at $250
  • One gift basket of earlyears products from International Playthings valued at $250
  • Gift certificates for Playmobil products. Two winners will receive a $250 Playmobil gift certificate each to be redeemed at an ASTRA-affiliated retailer
  • One gift basket of assorted Best Toys for Kids winning product from ASTRA valued at $250

To check out the full list of this year’s winners and find a local toy store near you, visit

ASTRA Best Toys 2013


ASTRA has announced the winners of the annual Best Toys for Kids 2013 awards to help make toy shopping even easier by providing parents with a go-to list of the year’s best new toys.

Winning toys were selected by a pool of 650 experts based on (1) a toy’s ability to promote open-ended/creative play, (2) a toy’s innovative design features and (3) a toy’s exceptional safety standards.

This year, the list includes 21 toys for kids of all ages. Picks include the Green Toys Seaplane (age 1+), the Potholder Pro (age 3+), Curiosity Kits (age 6+), Super Magnetic Tidal Wave Thinking Putty (age 8+), the Laser Maze (age 8+) and many more.


RingStix Lite by RingStix-System Enterprises LLC – $14.99

This game is a simple and innovative variation of everyone’s favorite outdoor past time: the game of catch! Each game contains four stix, each different colors. Play with multiple players or even solo. 6+ years,

Y’all Ball by Joint Merchant – 3+ years, $39.99

Incredibly bouncy, super soft, hand washable and safe, this ball comes in different sizes for open-ended fun!

CLASSIC PLAY (0-7 years)

Skwish Classic by Manhattan Toy – 6 months-1 year, $15.99

This classic, innovative wooden rattle provides hours of infant entertainment by introducing the concept of cause and effect while encouraging grasping and reaching skills. Features a water-based, non-toxic paint finish.

Spirograph CollageCLASSIC PLAY (8 years +)

Original Spirograph® Deluxe Kit by Kahootz Toys – 8+ years, $29.99

This classic design kit features all the iconic wheels and rings of the original drawing toy re-engineered and updated for today. The new Spiro-Putty holds the Spirograph® pieces securely on the paper so that you can create intricately beautiful designs with no holes in the paper! Features a high quality, durable carrying case with snap-in storage and built-in drawing surfaces.


Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Mega Stunt Set by MindWare – 6+ years, $79.99

Experiment to see what kind of zany, zigzagging action is possible with this innovative marble run! Ingenious pieces interlock in endless configurations, while double-exit cubes keep you guessing which way the marbles will go. Includes 108 cubes, two Cascade Stilts, two Coaster Tubes, one Marble Vortex, one Pivot Trampoline, two Universal Connectors, 30 steel marbles and color instructions.

Squigz by Fat Brain Toy Co. – 3+ years, $24.99

This imaginative construction set uses “suction construction” and a little creativity for hours of building fun. Play pieces stick to virtually any flat surface and leave behind no residue. Made from high-grade silicone, features eight intriguing shapes! .


Potholder PRO by Harrisville Designs – 3+ years, $29.99

Make larger, more practical, beautiful potholders! Kit includes sturdy metal loom, two hooks, illustrated instructions and enough cotton loops to make two eight-and-a-quarter-inch multicolored potholders in eight beautiful colors.

X-treme Sticker Maker Set by Faber-Castell USA Inc. – 6+ years, $24.99

A favorite among crafters, this high quality sticker maker set is versatile and super easy to use. It includes 40 feet of sticker tape, more than 80 sticker designs with features such as velvet and glitter, and a sticker book and markers.

EARLY PLAY (0-3 years)

Green Toys Seaplane by Green Toys Inc. – 1+ years, $19.99

This buoyant yellow and green floatplane, made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic milk jugs, features a spinning propeller and chunky, oversized pontoons perfect for coasting into any port. Specially designed to float when taken into the bathtub or pool. No BPA, phthalates, PVC or external coatings. Packaged with recycled and recyclable materials and printed with soy inks.

Tattoo Xylo Roller by Juratoys US Corp (JANOD) – 18+ months, $39.99

The Xylo roller is music in motion! A fabulous wooden pull toy, painted in bright, vivid colors, allows children to play the xylophone on the go. Use the included mallet and you are ready to jam! The roller’s two sticks store conveniently in the front.

GAME PLAY (3-7 years)

Bunny Peek A Boo by Smart Toys and Games, Inc. – 2-5 years, $24.99

The sturdy wooden blocks and fun rabbit characters allow children to develop spatial perception skills and “pull a rabbit out of the box” with this 3D puzzle. The four large bunny blocks can be combined in many different ways for endless hours of play. Sixty challenges prepare children for more difficult single player logic games.

Zingo! Sight Words by ThinkFun, Inc. – 3-7 years, $19.99

A fun and interactive word game that brings fast-paced excitement and learning to the classic game of Bingo! Players learn to quickly recognize and read sight words.

all the marbles 2GAME PLAY (8+ years)

Laser Maze by ThinkFun, Inc. – 8+ years, $29.99

Lights and mirrors may make it feel like magic, but it’s really science and a good dose of brain power that direct the laser beam through this series of mind challenging mazes. Get ready for a satisfying mental workout as you flex your strategic thinking muscles and ignite the light both on the grid and in your mind.

Timeline Diversity by Asmodee Editions – 8+ years, $14.99

Put your knowledge of historical events into action with this innovative trivia game! Each card has a different historical event and on the opposite side its associated date. Players take turns trying to order their cards in the correct timeline; the first player to get rid of all their cards wins.


Curiosity Kits® Pulsar Powerballs by The Orb Factory – 6+ years, $14.99

Create five Pulsar Powerballs™ that bounce and soar to amazing heights. Includes one large and one small mold, two Pulsar Powerballs™ lights, eight bags of colorful crystals and illustrated instructions.

Super Magnetic Tidal Wave Thinking Putty by Crazy Aaron’s Puttyworld – 8+ years, $14.99

When Super Magnetic Thinking Putty is stretched, molded, or shaped, the putty has no magnetic charge and behaves like any other putty. However, in the presence of a magnet, the putty’s magnetic forces kick in! Each metal tin is hand packed with putty and a new large ceramic magnet for endless hours of Thinking Putty fun and creativity!

PRETEND (Doll Play)

Calico Critters Supermarket by International Playthings – 3+ years, $69.99

Connect to real life experiences and take your Calico Critters to the grocery store with this new play set. With more than 100 pieces including fruits, vegetables, bread, fish, canned food, drinks, cookies, ice cream, shopping cart, check-out counter with cash register, display stands, and much more! .

PRETEND (Fantasy Play)

Rainbow Fairy Wings with Glitter by Douglas Cuddle Toy – 3+ years, $17.99

These fanciful fairy wings are beautifully hand-painted in an intricate design with a rainbow of colors. They are made of the soft, silky fabric and encourage imaginations to run wild!

PRETEND (Role Play)

Cargo and Passenger Aircraft by PLAYMOBIL – 3+ years, $109.99

Take to the skies with the Cargo and Passenger Aircraft play set! Set includes five figures, a plane equipped with a sink and toilet, cargo container, an air traffic control tower with equipment, and other accessories.


Air-Stream Machines by Thames & Kosmos – 8+ years, $69.99

Junior scientists can explore and experiment with air pressure and air flow with this new science kit. Construct a batting machine, build a basketball launcher and more. The set includes 59 building pieces and a full-color, 32-page experiment manual.

Snap Circuits SOUND by ELENCO Electronics – 8+years, $84.99

This easy-to-assemble electronic circuit board kit invites kids to build over 185 exciting sound projects including a voice changer. Connect to your smart phone and analyze sound with apps and much more!

For more information on the winning toys and to find a neighborhood toy store near you, please visit

Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Mega Stunt Set by MindWare Collage


We were sent the Original Spirograph® Deluxe Kit by Kahootz Toys which was a total blast from my childhood past. I LOVED the Spirograph as a kid and actually my husband did as well. Now our 8-year-old daughter is obsessed with it and loves it as well.

We caught her making them the other night under her covers with a flashlight. She really loves the Spirograph this much!

The patterns are fun and cool to play around with because you never really get the same pattern twice.

My son got the Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Mega Stunt Set by MindWare and he has had HOURS of fun with it. He has set it up many different ways and has even taken videos of all of his marbles going down his creations.

I Love My Neighborhood Toy Store

VISIT YOURNEIGHBORHOODTOYSTORE.ORG is an online resource for parents interested in learning more about the best toys on the market and where to find them

The website is a one-stop resource that connects parents with local toy stores, specialty toy makers and industry experts. Its mission? To help parents discover the “woohoo factor” – or the delight, the joy and the excitement – of finding and playing with today’s best toys!

The website content includes:

  • Feature articles with expert advice on toys and play for children of all ages
  • Up-to-date information on creative and educational play and toy trends
  • Handy toy store locator with information on where to find the best toys in your neighborhood (Don’t forget: local, independent toy stores support the community and tend to offer many high-quality, specialty products not typically found at a big box store!)
  • Calendar of local toy-related events
  • Information on the benefits of shopping local
  • Toy buying guide by age, including a section for children with disabilities


Check out the ASTRA Website

Like ASTRA on Facebook

Tweet with ASTRA on Twitter with the hashtags: #toystoreday #IHeart

As a blogger ambassador for ASTRA, we received toys and compensation for this post however all experiences and opinions expressed in this post are my own.


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27 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. I love buying local but it can be really challenging in my small town. I get what I can here and order online for the rest.

    Love the picture of the Spirograph – brings back so many memories!

  2. Great classic toys, I think they should definitely be on our radar more often than they are!

  3. Kristen

    I agree with shopping locally…you get more interesting stuff and better service. We love our local toy store.

  4. Love local toy stores! They always have the nice award winning toys that we like. Thanks for all the toy ideas!

  5. I love buying local – it is so nice to have community stores. Love all these classic toys but really like spirograph. I remember having so much fun with it when I was young and have passed the love on to my children.

  6. Lucky your for having a neighborhood toy store. We don’t have one in this little town. I am sure if they would put one in,.. people would go crazy shopping there.

  7. Jenny

    We love buying local when we can! Not only toys, but produce too!! I think Learning Express is a chain though since I’ve seen them all over?!

  8. I no longer have a Learning Express toy store nearby, but used to love stopping in there. It’s so nice to have neighborhood stores.

  9. What a great list of toys. My little one is now grown up, but that doesn’t stop me from visiting toy stores. We love to play games and I am always on the lookout for a new one.

    My town has a wonderful shopping area in the old section and I could spend all day shopping there.

  10. That’s a great list of toys with every age category represented. I’m looking for toys for my older kids so will take a look at the recommendations. Thanks for the list.

  11. I love to shop local whenever I can – it feels good to support the smaller stores! And I agree, the service is always so much better.

  12. I love shopping small. SO many great “gems” to be found in small stores that you cant find anywhere else.

  13. I love buying local, I live in a small village and without our support those locals will go under. Thanks for the toy list there are a lot of toys there I like.

  14. I wish we had a local store like this that I could shop from! We only have big mass retail stores to shop from. And I can’t find these unique and classic toys for my kids! But I want them!

  15. I always try to buy local no matter what I am buying. Presently I don’t have anyone to buy toys for–but a new baby girl is going to be born in February (to my niece)–so give me a couple of years and I will be back in the toy stores. These look looe great games and toys.

  16. Great post! I too love to buy local, so this was close to my heart. You have a lovely family.

  17. I’m a big supporter of local goods. These look like great toys and games 🙂

  18. Oh I love the Spirograph! I had that when I was a kid and we had so much fun with it! I absolutely agree when it comes to buying local!

  19. What a fun list of toys! My daughter loved the ones she got from ASTRA this year!

  20. Great list of toys, just in time as I make my Christmas list!

  21. Tiffany

    Great list of suggestions. And I agree about why you should shop local. We have a local toy store out here as well. 🙂

  22. What a great list! I totally had a spirograph as a kid, but haven’t seen one since – I thought they stopped making them! I think I need to scout around my neighborhood now!

  23. Wow, all of those toys sound awesome! Especially the first one.

  24. Elizabeth Towns

    I love your list. My kids and I recently visited a toy store in our city that recently opened and there are so many unique toys there! We spend at least an hour every time we visit. That’s why I know my kids appreciate toys that are cerebral and I am so excited about it. I am definitely bookmarking this post.

  25. Porda

    Thanks for the post. The list mentioned in the blog is just amazing. Kids love to play with them mostly.

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