Getting gifts for children can be a magical adventure in toyland, with thousands of games, puzzles, dolls and toys to choose from. But it can also be a huge headache if you don’t know what to get, or if you want to give something a little more special than the latest plastic action hero. Whatever the age, local toy stores like PlayFair Toys and Grand Rabbit’s Toy Shoppe can help you pick the right toy for tots and teens alike.
Shopping for the under-3 set, toddlers and infants, can be a bit tricky since they can’t always tell you what they want. Rather than trying to guess what the little guy or girl would want, however, Lisa Gerwig of PlayFair Toys says there’s an easy way to pick a winner: choose something you’d want to play with.
“If it attracts your attention, it will attract their attention,” Gerwig says. Bright colors, an interesting design, whatever draws your eye will likely draw theirs as well.
She has a few specific tips as well. “[Toddlers] like action-reaction type toys,” she says. The best ones give feedback, like making a sound when the child pushes a button, and allow for open-ended play, so no objective-oriented games just yet.
And while it’s never too early for “educational” toys, Gerwig says, it’s important to keep in mind what toddlers are ready to take in.
“What they’re really learning to do between the ages of 1 and 3 is interact,” she says, which makes toys like Stack Flap N Tumble a good choice. The child puts a ball in the top and, after some tumbling and clattering, it pops out of the bottom of the toy.
“It’s kind of a surprise for them,” Gerwig says.
Other possibilities include “talking” puzzles, shape-sorting toys and, of course, good old-fashioned blocks for stacking up and knocking down, the original open-ended play.
For the very young, Danielle Lebens, also of PlayFair, recommends soft toys like the Ugly Dolls (www.shop.uglydolls.com) and Zombie Zoo dolls (www.zombie-zoo.com).
“They’re really great for babies [because] there’s nothing they can chew off or choke on,” Lebens says.
Family game night is great for older kids, Gerwig says, and recommends games like Blokus and Patchwork, which was created by Boulder game company Knightweaver Games.
“Because of their design, the 5-year-old has just as much chance of winning as the adult,” Gerwig says.
For the older kids, PlayFair carries a huge selection of science kits, like the Snaps Circuit electronics kit, which recently introduced a “green energy” line that should prove popular in Boulder. Steve Spangler’s Big Bag of Science are another popular line, Gerwig says. Test Tube Adventures, which allow kids to make their own rubber balls or blow super-strong “touchable” bubbles, are her favorite.
Some toys, like Wedgits, are marketed for children, but provide just as much challenge for adults. Wedgits is a multi-dimensional building set made of brightly colored geometric blocks, and comes in a softer version for pre-school children and the standard plastic version for the older crowd.
And while much of the store proves you can have fun without electronics, Gerwig says HexBugs have been a big seller. The robot bugs, which range in size from about 1.5 to 2.5 inches, behave like real bugs, and the larger version reacts to touch and sounds.
PlayFair Toys (www.playfairtoys.com) is located at 2550 Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder.
Grand Rabbit’s Toy Shoppe (www.grtoys.com), specializes in hand-chosen, educational and fun toys for gifts, and is located at 2525 Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder, 300 Center Drive in Superior and 180 E. Flatirons Circle Drive in Broomfield.
For an eclectic selection of toys with an emphasis on kites, planes and other flying devices, check out Into the Wind (www.intothewind.com) on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.