You know what I'm talking about, right? One day you're marveling at the beautiful red, orange and yellow leaves falling from the trees... and, bam! The next, it's Black Friday and you're standing in line at 3am for the newest must-have video game.
Instead, this year as you begin making lists, checking them twice, and planning your shopping strategies from now through the holidays, forget about the lines and crowds at all of the typical big box stores, it's time to experience the benefits and quality found at your neighborhood toy stores.
Do you know and love your neighborhood toy stores? You should! They help provide economic stability, foster a sense of community, offer a diverse high-quality product selection and better customer service, and more. You could say they just have that certain woohoo factor!
However, if the idea of skipping the usual holiday madness in favor for shopping local makes you think, Then how am I going to know what to get? then have no fear, ASTRA is here.
The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is a non-profit association dedicated to promoting creative and open ended playtime for children. ASTRA brings together specialty toy manufacturers, independent toy stores and toy buyers to help encourage "smart" play and local toy shopping.
And, to help make toy shopping even easier, ASTRA has created the new "Best Toys for Kids 2013" list for parents to find out the year's best new toys. Winning toys were selected by a pool of 650 experts based on (1) a toy's ability to promote open-ended/creative play, (2) a toy's innovative design features and (3) a toy's exceptional safety standards.
This year, the list includes 21 toys for kids of all ages that deliver exceptional value and expand a child's imagination. These are toys that invite discovery and exploration, toys that get kids moving, toys that build creativity, toys that fascinate babies, and even toys that delight hard-to-shop-for pre-teens.
While you can find a full list of this year's winners (and find a local toy store near you in which to purchase them) at YourNeighborhoodToyStore.org, we were fortunate to be able to check out three of the winners in person... and it didn't take long to see why all three were chosen!
Rainbow Fairy Wings with Glitter by Douglas Cuddle Toy
A winner in the Pretend (Fantasy Play) Category, the Rainbow Fairy Wings with Glitter provide children with a magical dress-up experience where their imagination can run free. These colorful fairy wings are made from fabric and feature an intricate swirl design sprinkled with shimmering glitter.
I love that, as opposed to many typical wing toys that have thin mesh stretched over sharp metal, these wings use criss-cross back straps and finger loops on the end for easy wearing. If a child needs to sit down at school (or just take a break from being a fairy for a little bit), she won't have a problem doing so at all.
Recommended for ages 3 and up, the Rainbow Fairy Wings with Glitter have a span of approximately 20" x 44" and a suggested retail price of $17.99.
Potholder PRO by Harrisville Designs
A winner in the Creative Arts Play Category of ASTRA's Best Toys for Kids 2013 list, the Potholder PRO contains a sturdy 10.25" x 10.25" metal loom, two hooks (one metal for loop weaving and one plastic for finishing), illustrated instructions with tons of designs, and enough cotton loops to make two large, multicolored potholders.
What child wouldn't be extremely proud to use their creative skills to weave a potholder that is not only beautiful but practical as well? You can even go beyond making potholders by weaving and sewing completed projects together to create trivets, tote bags, floor mats, placemats and more!
Recommended for ages 3 and up, the Potholder PRO has a suggested retail price of $29.99.
Cargo and Passenger Aircraft by PLAYMOBIL
A winner in the Pretend (Role Play) Category, the Cargo and Passenger Aircraft allows children to take their play experience to the skies and soaring to new heights.
Each set includes five figures, a plane equipped with a sink and toilet, a cargo container, an air traffic control tower with equipment, and other accessories. As children get ready for take-off, they can fold up the front of the aircraft to load in cargo, as well as rearranging the seating for up to five passengers by removing the roof of the plane.
For aspiring pilots, two figures can even be seated in the cockpit through the hinged roof to wait for the "all-clear" from the air traffic control tower before taxiing down the runway for take-off! All together, this set provides an incredible way for children to go on all sorts of air adventures and explorations with something extremely well-made and of superior quality.
Recommended for ages 3 and up, the Cargo and Passenger Aircraft has a suggested retail price of $109.99.
But as well as making your shopping easier by creating a list of the best toys, ASTRA is also celebrating the fun of shopping for toys at the local toy store with their I Heart My Neighborhood Toy Store Sweepstakes.
On now through November 8, 2013, ASTRA has put together two easy-entry sweepstakes (Rafflecopter) where random entrants will win a variety of incredible prizes!
- A grand prize vacation package to select all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels in Mexico and the Dominican Republic courtesy of Thomas & Friends.
- Featured prizes including gift baskets or gift certificates from Kidozi, Early Years, Calico Critters and Playmobil (retail value $250 each).
- A gift basket of assorted Best Toys for Kids winning products from ASTRA (retail value $250).
I received products courtesy of ASTRA for this review; all thoughts and opinions are my own.