With Chanukah sneaking up a bit early this year, I’ve been browsing possible toy options to add to our collection. If you’re just looking for toys (and it isn’t a general trip to the store), here are some places you may want to shop:
Specialty Toy Stores
If you’re on the hunt for developmental toys, shopping at specialty toy stores is a great experience. At a specialty toy stores, someone is there who has some knowledge in age-appropriate development and, if you are interested in some shopping guidance, they can not only recommend within a budget, but recommend a toy within a gender or interest context as well.
We are fortunate in San Antonio to have several toy stores specializing in activities, games, and toys that promote development and stimulate brain-building. Learning Express, Toy Werks, and Toy Zone are stores our family shops. Because of convenience, friendliness, and expertise, my personal favorite developmental toy store is Toy Zone. Located in the Alon Center near Wurzbach and NW Military, the store offers fantastic toys for any budget with exceptional customer service.
Toy Zone owner, Ruben Lopez, built the business 30 years ago around the belief that stimulating toys, those engineered to promote development, offer and encourage role playing, creativity, and questioning. The toys sold at stores like this are durable and last for multiple children. We know the brands—Playmobil, Alex, Lego/Duplo, Calico Critters, Melissa and Doug products—they are generally worth their price. The little wooden rectangular bench, for example, that the child hammers thin red, green, blue, and yellow pegs into, we bought for Ilana when she was about 2. At first, she just liked rolling or throwing around the pegs, then she was all about hammering them down, she moved into pushing them through from various heights, and now, she pretends she is using “tools” to “fix” something. We love toys that keep Ilana’s interest, allowing for imaginative play that morphs into whatever she is interested in at the time.
You can find toys for children ages newborn-12 years. Toys targeting imagination, science, math, architecture, and creativity are available. The most expensive toys (though there are a handful of toys in the $300 arena) near the $100.00 mark, but there are many items that cost $10.00 or less. I love the tubes of little plastic animals; they have sets such as animal babies, zoo animals, scuba diving, farm animals, etc. These tubes are about $10.00, and you get 10-15 figurines for the price. The tube I bought for Ilana when she was around 18 months—the animals are all still in like-new condition. She still plays with them almost daily.
Toy Shopping on a Budget—Great Buys are Found at Resale Shops
For mommas looking for infant gear and affordable toys or for someone who likes the chance of finding a high-end item for half-off, my advice is to head to a resale shop. Until Ilana was about a year old, I thought every toy had to be new (I have since wised-up…oh, the money I could have saved!); if I could go back, I would have purchased more than just clothes from a resale shop like Kid-to-Kid.
Kristen and Ken own three Kid-to-Kid resale stores in San Antonio. Aside from the discounted price compared to purchasing the item new, Kid-to-Kid strives to stock only complete and working toys for newborn ages and up. To me, the fun thing about resale stores (yes, the price is great) is that the merchandise changes daily. You never know what you will find. My most rewarding resale shop find: a Kettler tricycle for $65.
A Few Helpful Shopping Bits:
- Both Kohl’s and Stein Mart have decent selections of Melissa and Doug Toys for a hefty markdown
- Kid-To-Kid offers a 10% discount to any homeschooling parent or foster parent; additionally, earn a stamp on their frequent shopper card for every $10 spent or $10 in merchandise “sold” to the store
- Toy Zone has three major sales per year, the next one coming up very soon, sometime the week of Thanksgiving; Toy Zone also participates in Partners’ Card week
On my outing for this post, I did get Ilana a little something for her Chanukah from Toy Zone, but this year, I took advantage of the fact that my three year old is into Hello Kitty and hit that Dollar nook at Target for 90% of her gifts.
What are some of your favorite toy stores in San Antonio?