by MATTHEW POULSON & SARAH FOWLES
This year, play and shopping local are more important than ever.
Throughout 2020, children have shown us their amazing resilience and ability to adapt to challenging circumstances. It is play and its inherent lesson of flexibility that allows them to do that.
Play has the power to heal…for children AND adults. Play powers genuine human connection and is a great stress reliever. It allows us to express ourselves, to take risks in safe ways, and to solve problems that are, well, solvable.
Proof of this is what we call the “Great Puzzle Craze” of Spring 2020. When faced with weeks and maybe months indoors during the early part of the pandemic, adults bought puzzles. Puzzle manufacturers barely kept up.
We were not surprised. Puzzling is a type of cognitive play: it provides an enjoyable escape, challenges our minds to work things out, and allows us to achieve a goal. The Great Puzzle Craze shows that adults intuitively seek out the benefits of play when life gets rough.
This holiday season, bring more play into your life!
We are Matt & Sarah, co-owners of Ruckus & Glee. We encourage you to shop for toys this year with the idea of play as something that connects and heals. We also encourage you to shop your local toy retailers, who can provide you with individualized suggestions, unique offerings, and sometimes even free wrapping!
Local Wauwatosa toy retailers are doing everything they can to make shopping safe for you this year. In addition to offering safe in-store shopping, they often offer online ordering, curbside pickup, local delivery, and shipping.
Local stores need YOU to keep supporting them through this pandemic if they are to survive. Please shop local!
Here are some toys suggestions to get you started:
Buildzi from Carma Games: If you liked Tetris, you’ll LOVE Buildzi. This is a 3-D block building game that is fast to learn and high energy. From the makers of Tenzi, Buildzi has many variations and even allows players to make up their own ways to play. No reading required to play. Ages 6+, 2-4 players.
Hues & Cues from USopoly: 2020 has been an amazing year for new game concepts that we think will turn into new classics. Hues & Cues is one such game concept. This is a vibrant guessing game where the game board displays 480 color hues, and players are challenged to make connections between colors and words without pointing to the color hue. For example, a certain shade of red might make you say the word “apple” — maybe the other players will find the shade of red immediately, maybe they will have a different idea! Ages 8+, 3-10 players.
Dragon’s Breath from Haba: A perfect game for early elementary students, players are challenged to collect the most sparkling gems from the melting column of ice using their visual discernment and counting skills. Game play can be adjusted for younger versus older players. Ages 5-10, 2-4 players.
Tips for Local Toy Shopping This Season:
- Don’t wait until the last moment if you have something specific in mind. This year, savvy shoppers are planning ahead. They know the pandemic has caused supply chain disruptions, which could mean that what is available now might not be available next month. If you have something specific in mind, snag it soon.
- Be flexible. As noted above, supply disruptions may cause “hot items” to be in short supply. There is a world of other great toys out there, and if the item you want is out, a store clerk can often point you to another toy with similar play value.
- Research your shopping options. In addition to safe in-store shopping, many local toy retailers offer online shopping, curbside pickup, local delivery, shipping, and private shopping. Store clerks at local stores are often willing to provide assistance over the phone and through Facebook to customers that prefer to “shop from a distance” this holiday season.
- Be kind and patient. Even in a “normal” year, holiday shopping can cause some shoppers to lose their cool. Retailers have to be more deliberate this year as their staff work extra hard to keep customers and coworkers safe, and to maintain good service. Staying cool this shopping season will require a bit of extra kindness, and an extra helping of patience.
- Be safe. Local stores typically follow COVID-19 safety protocols recommended by state and federal authorities. As a result, most stores have capacity restrictions and require customers to wear masks.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Paper Crafts: We’ve seen lots of interest in paper crafts, including origami. One cool new paper craft is Lantern Lands from Bright Stripes which results in stylish room decor! Assemble a unique 3-D paper lantern and decorate it with stickers and gems. Add an LED tea light for a colorful and enchanting nightlight. Ages 8+.
Wall Collage from Ann Williams: Tween and teens can show off their personal style and inspirations by creating an 8 square foot piece of wall art from over 1,000 pieces! Won’t harm your walls or doors! Ages 10+.
Painting Supplies: Kids of all ages like to paint, but parents of young kids are sometimes leery of the mess it can make. Introducing Easy Clean Painting from Djeco which allows the littles to paint through a screen that washes clean with water. Easy to use, easy to store, great for beginning artists. Ages 18 months+.
Peeka Development Mirror from Mobi: A perfect toy for baby’s tummy time! With its multi-position stand, babies can grasp the multi-textured handles for tactile stimulation and development of basic motor skills. Little ones can engage in early stages of cognitive development through observation of their own reflection which enhances focus and early communication skills. Ages 0+.
My First Rainbow from Dena: Based on the classic Steiner rainbow, this toy is a stacking puzzle, a building seat, a teether, and bath toy — all in one vibrant toy! Made from 100% food grade silicone. All ages.
Walking Toys. “Push and pull” toys inspire babies to get on their feet and become toddlers. We love the Quack & Flap from Quercetti that provides a sweet and goofy companion for your little’s first steps. As your little one pushes the duck forward, the wings and webbed legs move in a flapping motion that will create smiles all around. Ages 1-3.
Dolls. Dolls teach kindness, communication, and empathy to little boys and girls. We are charmed by My First Doll from Kaloo which is ultra-soft, perfectly sized, and machine-washable. She is bound to become your little’s close companion. Each doll has a long ribbon on the back of the doll to write your kiddo’s name and make each doll uniquely their own. Ages 0+.
Fun with Food! When our daughter was in preschool, she never tired of “cooking” us dinner and “baking” us cookies. Faux food toys are a hit with the preschool set. Check out a new concept from Hape called Silly Spaghetti which makes playing with food more fun than ever. Kids position the bendy, twisty spaghetti like a sculpture and then attach yummy ingredients like bacon and broccoli. Ages 3+.
Shaving Set from Juratoys: This wooden playset has everything your little one needs to look handsome (just like dad!) and play grownup. This set includes wooden scissors, a wooden razor, a shaving brush, comb, a mirror, and a doc kit to carry it all to business trips and sleepovers at grandma’s. Ages 3+.
Swingin’ Shoes from Fat Brain Toys: Ever want to play horseshoes in the house? Now you can! Players take turns throwing rubbery, flexible, safe-for-indoors horse shoes at a three level target that can be attached to the top of any doorframe. This awesome game promotes hand/eye coordination and concentration and makes a great gift for active indoor play. Ages 6+.
Hoopman from Jamberly Group: Bring the basketball court with you with this on-the-go basketball hoop and basketball for littles. Play it in the house, in the yard, at the park! It folds up easy and stores in a carrying case. No assembly required — that’s what we call a slam dunk. Ages 3-6.
Globes: In a world where any destination is findable with a click on a smartphone, it’s still valuable for kids to learn the scope and size of our planet’s countries, oceans, mountains, and rivers. The Day & Night Globe from Thames & Kosmos does that and more: turn it on in a dark room and it reveals the constellations! Ages 7+.
Science Kits: In our current hybrid and virtual learning environments, it takes a little help to maintain a kid’s innate fascination with science. That where a science kit helps! We like the new Space Weather Station kit from PlaySteam – it lets you simulate the real water cycle and grow a real plant, and it also includes several instruments for measuring weather. Ages 8+.
Shashibo from Fun In Motion Toys: The Shashibo is a cube you can solve or not! To solve it, you take the cube apart and then get it back into a cube. But most people prefer to shift the shape of the Shashibo into fantastic shapes and alluring designs, without the goal of getting it back into a cube. This is a terrific gift for the hard-to-please tween. Ages 8+.
GameCube from Mindscope: Looks can be deceiving! The GameCube looks like a Rubik’s-type cube, but it’s not! This cube offers 6 super-fast games packed into one cube with LED lights. Kids and adults of all ages can pick it up and start playing right away. And once you start playing the GameCube, it’s hard to stop! Ages 5+.
Miniature Toys: A stocking is the perfect place to gift a miniature toy that can be played with on Christmas Day and beyond. The World’s Smallest Toys by Super Impulse are just that — the smallest versions of real toys, like the smallest Magic 8 Ball, the smallest Nerf basketball set, the smallest Magic the Gathering game decks, and the smallest Elf on the Shelf! Ages 6+.
Pokémon: Pokémon is a trend that just keeps going! We’ve noticed more and more of our friends playing Pokémon Go as a fun way to be outside and socially distanced. New card sets are regularly released: check out the current Sword & Shield Darkness Ablaze sets to meet new Pokémon from the Galar region! Ages 6+.
Pens/Pencils: Provide the gift of possibility with a cute set of pens or pencils tucked in a stocking! Ooly is one of our favorite go-tos for sweet pen sets like the Yummy Yummy Scented Glitter Gel Pens. Ages 3+.
NEW TOY CONCEPT
Tonies: Tonies are a new toy concept from Europe that were just introduced in the United States this fall. Tonies are a kid-controlled screen-free audio system that combines storybooks and audiobooks. There are two core elements: the Toniebox, and the Tonies. The Toniebox is a durable but soft interactive cube. Kids can squeeze its ears to raise or lower the volume, tap the sides to change chapters, and tilt to fast-forward or rewind. The Tonies are hand-painted characters with stories to tell, worlds to explore, and songs to sing along with. Each collectible Tonie character magnetically attaches to the Toniebox, making it simple for little to change stories whenever they want.
Some Tonies tell well-loved stories, like The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and popular bedtime songs and lullabies. And some Tonies are Creative Tonies, which allow family members to record songs and stories that children can play and replay whenever they want. It’s a great way for littles to connect to grandparents!
This is a screen-free toy, but it does require a Wi-Fi connection for the initial setup of the Toniebox, when adding a new Tonie for the first time, or when loading new content to a Creative Tonie. Ages 3+.
Wauwatosa Toy Retailers
Barnes & Noble
Board Game Barrister*
The Lego Store*
Ruckus & Glee*
*sells exclusively toys and/or games