Like books stores, we are lucky to have several independently owned toy stores in town, too. Some are geared towards older kids, while others are specifically geared toward babies and toddlers. All but one are locally owned. Most give back to the community. Each of these toy stores has its own unique personality.
Creative Kidstuff’s toys are generally geared toward learning and creativity. The locations I have visited have a small play area where children can occupy themselves while parents shop. Most locations also offer family friendly events throughout the year. This is the store for parents who want to raise curious, creative kids.
Since I first published this article, Peapods owners Millie Adelsheim and Dan Marshall, have closed Peapods and opened a new toy store in the same location. As their own family has started to grow, so have their interests. Where Peapods was geared to babies, Mischief is geared toward older children. You can read more about them in Gianna’s article here. This is the toy store for the family with multiple aged children. They cater to all ages.
Pacifier has locations in Minneapolis North Loop neighborhood, St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood, on France Avenue in Edina, and in the Minneapolis City Center. With their expanded North Loop location, pacifier is now offering classes, meat-ups and events. Pacifier chooses toys by their coolness factor. This is the place to go for snarky t-shirts and things that your 20-year-old hipster niece would love. This is your store if you want your kids to eat sushi and dress like rock stars.
Lakeshore Learning is the one non-locally owned store in this list, but the company is still pretty small and independent. They offer weekly free craft activities and the stores have play areas where kids can play while parents shop. Lakeshore Learning will have quite a bit of overlap with Creative Kidstuff, but it seems geared towards teaching through play as opposed to learning through play. This gives it a subtly different atmosphere. I go to Lakeshore when I’ve identified something I need to work on with my kids and need some tools for teaching it.
Kiddywampus is in Hopkins. It has a laid-back, creative attitude. My favorite part of our visit was one little display doll that was obviously well-loved by the littlest shoppers. In fact my own toddler wouldn’t part with it. Amy, the owner of Kiddywampus, told me the doll gets dirty and washed regularly. I love the fact that they stock toys that can withstand real play. Kiddywampus is an interactive toy store and art studio. They offer drop in art activities in the studio ($8/hour), but it’s not a bad idea to book ahead. This would be the place to go if you want to inspire creativity in your children.
Everybody loves Choo Choo Bob’s, and even if you have never been there, you can guess that it is all about trains. The back of the store is a huge play area full of trains and tracks. In the front, there is a beautiful model train display that kids just love to watch for hours. Go here for sure if you are raising little boys — but the girls will love it, too.
Totally Kids Furniture has both toys and children’s furniture. It’s very close to the Mall of America and appears to offer the widest variety of toys, including toys that are just toys with no particularly educational agenda. This would be a good place to visit with the grandparents on your kid’s birthday.