Toy test drive

Tara
Tara Bradbury
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Published on December 17, 2013

Gingersnap owner Janet Murphy prides herself on encouraging children to play with the shop’s toys.
— Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

Published on December 17, 2013

Dwayne Legge, marketing and communications manager for The Magic Bean Toy Shoppe and Boutique, in the Water Street location.
— Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

Published on December 17, 2013

Hape wooden car and family, Flowerchild
Tester: Ethan, 3

Published on December 17, 2013

Calico Critters Supermarket
and figures, Gingersnap
Tester: Malachy, 4

Published on December 17, 2013

Sassafras Santa’s Elves
Magic Cookie Kit, Magic Bean
Tester: Kylie, 4

Published on December 17, 2013

Bear Factory bear,
The Magic Bean
Tester: Carolina, 5

Published on December 18, 2013

Green Toys Ferry Boat, available at The Magic Bean. Testers: Eoghan, 6, and Culainn, 4. — Photo by Blair Bradbury

Published on December 18, 2013

Calico Critters tiny supermarket, with family of hedgehogs, available at Gingersnap.

Published on December 18, 2013

Alex Shaving in the Tub set, from The Magic Bean. Tester: Ethan, 3.

Published on December 18, 2013

Professor Wacky Goes Gross from The Magic Bean. Testers: Liam and Lindsay, 8.

Published on December 18, 2013

Playmobil 1,2,3 fire station, available at Gingersnap. Tester: Carson, 18 months

Published on December 18, 2013

My Natural Good Earth Fairy doll from Flowerchild. Tester: Kylie, 4

Published on December 18, 2013

Hape wooden car and family, available at Flowerchild.

Kid testers try out this Christmas's hottest toys from local stores

The countdown to Christmas is on, and you’re still stuck on finding that perfect gift for the little one in your life?
Three locally-owned toy stores have got you covered.

All located in the downtown area, Flowerchild, Gingersnap and The Magic Bean are all toy and hobby shops for children, but are unique in their products and approach.

 

The eco-conscious:

Flowerchild, 116 Duckworth St.

Flowerchild has been open for about 3 1/2 years, and has a policy of not selling any toy that requires batteries. Specializing in children from newborn to age six, the shop prides itself on its eco-friendly products, including an extensive range of wooden toys from brand Hape and sweet fairy dolls made from organic cotton with plant dyes.

“There is definitely an eco-conscious and wariness (among consumers) towards plastics, but really it’s people looking for heirloom-quality stuff that’s going to last,” explains store manager Abigail Snook.

Among Flowerchild’s current features is a stocking stuffer table full of wooden toys.

In bright colours and no licensed characters, they look like the work of Santa’s elves and include puppets and yo-yos and spin tops.

 

The classic:

Gingersnap, 202 Water St.

Gingersnap owner Janet Murphy’s goal is to be the kind of store where children press their noses up against the glass, peeking in at the exciting things inside. Hers is a touchy-feely store, where children are encouraged to explore and play with her products.

“I tell parents it’s OK with us if it’s OK with them,” she says.

“Playing and touching things is how you know if you like them or not.”

Open for the past five years, Gingersnap has an old-timey feel, and Murphy specializes in quality toys that might make parents feel nostalgic. Case in point: Calico Critters, which were originally released as Sylvanian Families in the 1980s (and are still called by the original name outside North America). The line includes a world of tiny animals, including houses — with working lights — shops, playgrounds and more.

“I think it has a wholesome, full-on appeal to all children, and it’s not a ‘girl toy’ or a ‘boy toy,’ it’s just a toy,” Murphy says.

“I love hearing children in the store playing with the little set we have on display, saying, ‘Now, Mommy says go to bed,” and they’re tucking the teeny, tiny blanket over the teeny, tiny bunny rabbits. It’s beautiful.”

 

The educational and fun:

The Magic Bean Toy Shoppe

 and Boutique, 286 Water St.

and 333 Freshwater Rd.

The Magic Bean is owned by Roslyn and Gary Bennett, who have a background in early childhood education and are big on products that stimulate children’s imaginations and development.

“We find people are really getting back to buying products where they interact with their kids,” says Dwayne Legge, marketing and communications manager for the stores.

“They’re simple, not overly complicated toys, but a lot of fun. Whether the kids know it or not, they’re learning. Melissa and Doug wooden toys and Alex tub toys are popular items, Legge says.

The Magic Bean is also the only place in town to feature a stuff-your-own-bear station, where children can pick out the “shell” of a toy, stuff it to their liking, and add accessories.

“Parents can come in and get good products at good prices and can walk away feeling confident and good about it,” Legge says.

 

The Telegram’s team of toy testers put a range of products from Flowerchild, Gingersnap

and The Magic Bean to the test. Here are their recommendations:

Hape wooden car and family, Flowerchild

Tester: Ethan, 3

Mom Nichole says: Ethan loves the car and family. The car is a very solid build, and the doors have an elastic attached to keep from closing on tiny fingers. The playset can be enjoyed by various ages from baby up. My five-year-old daughter has even been playing with the set, pretending different family members are driving.

 

Plan Toys wooden tool set

with belt, Gingersnap

Tester: Culainn, 4

Mom Erin says: Looking at the tool belt in the box, I figured Culainn wouldn’t like it as the tools didn’t ‘do’ anything. It turned out to be his favourite. He liked the weight of the wooden tools, unlike his plastic ones he already has. They felt real to him, because they were heavy, like Poppy’s. Since Culainn got this toy, he has informed me that he has now fixed all the tables in the house, and helped make some toys for Santa.

 

Corelle Mini baby doll,

Gingersnap

Tester: Anna, 2

Mom Jusytna says: This tiny bald-headed doll was instantly named Baby. Everyone commended that the Baby's head smelled like marshmallows and over the next few days, my daughter took the doll everywhere she went and took great pleasure in constantly taking off and putting back on its über-soft onesie.

 

Calico Critters Supermarket

and figures, Gingersnap

Tester: Malachy, 4

Mom Tara says: These toys are incredible. The supermarket is so detailed, right down to the writing on the tiny bottle of ketchup and the little pots of yogurt. It took a while for us to set it up, putting the little stickers on everything and folding the tiny boxes, but it was worth it: Malachy has been having a lot of fun. We have already bought more figures and he’s looking forward to buying the Calico Critters toy shop next.

 

Professor Wacky Goes Gross,

The Magic Bean

Testers: Lindsay and Liam, 8 1/2

Mom Bonnie says: For parents who are patient and tolerable, it is a great gift. Yes, you need to clear an area and supervise, but the fun and discovery that comes from it is worth your time and effort. The children have been conducting experiments for three days and there are test tubes and subject containers all over the house, but they are having a blast. Thumbs up!

 

Sassafras Santa’s Elves

Magic Cookie Kit, Magic Bean

Tester: Kylie, 4

Grandmother Marion says: We loved making these cookies! Kylie likes baking, and although she’s a few months shy of the recommended age of five, children will need an adult’s help with this, so it was fine. We were excited to see if the dough would turn green and it did! The cookies tasted good, too, and the rhyme that comes with the set was cute. We really enjoyed this.

 

Djeco Pirates Discovery Puzzle, Gingersnap:

Tester: Maddox, 5

Mom Laura says: This 100-piece puzzle was a bit daunting for Maddox when we first opened the box, but the fun quickly started once he and I both realized that it was a search-and-find puzzle for us to do together! He loved announcing the silly little pictures on each puzzle piece and frequently checked the accompanying map to discover where the piece belonged. We would recommend this puzzle as a fun addition to any family games night!

 

Playmobil 1,2,3 spaceship

and astronaut, Gingersnap

Tester: Malachy, 4

Mom Tara says: This set is recommended for ages 18 months and up, and it was still perfect for a four-year-old. The perfect size to fit in a purse to take on the road, and it’s ergonomic for little hands. Malachy told me, “I like it because I can open and close it by myself.”

 

Playmobil 1, 2, 3 fire station,

Gingersnap

Tester: Carson, 18 months

Mom Heather says: As soon as Carson saw this, he could hardly wait for me to open the box. Once all the pieces were opened, he started putting some of the pieces into the fire station and then the men into the fire truck. I showed him that the fire station closed and he could store the pieces inside it, so he spent a good while opening and closing it and putting the toys in and taking them out. I like that the pieces are easy for him to grasp and hold and not too small. The fact that the fire station closes up for storage of the pieces is convenient, too. Carson got a little frustrated that he couldn’t get the fire truck to fit in the fire station when folded up and got upset that he couldn’t lock and unlock the fire station easily. The product is well made, enjoyable and something Carson will play with again.

See ‘THIS’, page B4

My Natural Good Earth Fairy, Flowerchild

Tester: Kylie, 4

Mom Nichole says: The doll is soft and very pretty. Kylie has been carrying her around to different family members houses to show her their Christmas trees.

 

Green Toys Ferry Boat,

The Magic Bean

Tester: Eoghan, 6

Mom Erin says: This was my six-year-old’s favourite toy. It’s hard to find bath toys that aren’t too babyish for him, and this one was a hit. He also played with it out of water, but enjoyed it more in the bathtub. It has a ramp that folds out to load the two cars on the ferry. A great toy.

 

A Beautiful Place co-op ecology game, Flowerchild

Testers: Eoghan, 6, and Culainn, 4

Mom Erin says: This is a wonderful game that my kids really enjoyed. The goal is to collect and use good deeds to remove the polluted puzzle pieces from on top of the beautiful picture before the clouds all fill up with pollution. You can work together and combine the good deeds in order to remove a puzzle piece, and there are ways to make the game harder for older players. I liked that there were plenty of opportunities for us to talk about pollution, and things that we can do that are helpful to the environment.

 

Folkmanis Puppets Raccoon

Stage Puppet, The Magic Bean

Tester: Malachy, 4

Mom Tara says: We love this puppet. It is incredibly lifelike, you can move his hands or his mouth, and he comes with a story to act out. A great imagination toy.

 

Bear Factory bear,

The Magic Bean

Tester: Carolina, 5

Mom Justyna says: Having flown in the middle of the night after a short work trip, I was greeted in the early morning by the sound of my five-year-old's footsteps running into my bedroom and the announcement, “I found something very unusual downstairs!”

This something was a house made out of cardboard, containing a polar bear, or at least its white furry coat. We headed to Magic Bean and went upstairs, where a giant gumball-like machine full of white fluff  was set up.

The clerk then got my daughter to help stuff her new bear until the desired level of squishiness was achieved. We then proceeded downstairs where another clerk filled out an adoption certificate for “Ballerina.”

 

Our testers gave two thumbs up to other items, too:

• Playmobil knight and light-up dragon, Gingersnap

• Babushka dolls and watercolour painting set, Flowerchild

• Cobble Hill Create Your Own Puzzle, The Magic Bean

• Melissa and Doug Puppet Time Theatre, The Magic Bean

• Edible Sweet Art, The Magic Bean

• Slingshot Elf, Gingersnap

• Alex Shaving in the Tub set, The Magic Bean

 

 

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Magic Bean, Beautiful Place co-op, Melissa and Doug Puppet Time Theatre

Geographic location: North America

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