By Kate Masters
School finally ended for Northern Virginia this week, and summer if officially here. To help curb summer ennui, toy store owners from around the area give their suggestions on some of the season’s hottest toys.
The Purple Goose
2005 Mt. Vernon Ave.
Moms and dads are already dreaming of sun and sand, at least if sales at The Purple Goose are any indication. According to Linda Johnson, the owner of the Del Ray toy store, most of the summer’s hottest products are built for beach-time shenanigans, including the Green Toys tea set that customers are snapping off the shelves. The miniaturized kitchenware is made from 100 percent recycled plastic, making it durable, easy to dry, and perfect for teatime in the sand. Parents can also feel an eco-friendly thrill when they buy from the company—Green Toys manufactures its products in California from old milk cartons and uses recycled (and recyclable) cardboard packaging, saving enough energy per pound of recycling to power a TV set for three weeks.
With beach toys comes the need to protect little faces from the sun. The Purple Goose also sells Sparkle Screen by GlitterTots, a body glitter sunscreen that Johnson just started stocking in the store. The sparkly, rub-on sunblock was created by two Florida moms and boasts an all-natural ingredient list, free from BPA, paba, parabens, and other chemicals found in traditional sunscreen. Johnson says the balm is perfect for coaxing even the most stubborn sunblock resisters, and it looks like the trend is spreading—she’s already sold 40 bottles of the stuff in four days.
Doodlehopper 4 Kids
7521 Huntsman Blvd.
228 West Broad St.
Falls Church, 22046
Of all the summer menaces—sunburn, mosquitoes, 90 percent humidity—none are quite as spine-chilling as a bored preteen. Luckily, some of the most popular products at Doodlehopper 4 Kids seem custom-made for overactive kids, and most are designed for outdoor use, making them a perfect outlet for summertime energy.
According to Ali Robinson, the manager at the store’s Springfield location, the Faux Bow by Marky Sparky is one of the bestselling toys this season. Essentially a plastic longbow, the Faux Bow shoots slender foam arrows and can outdistance the best of its competitors with a range of up to 100 feet, an accomplishment supposedly due to a spinning finger grip that eliminates trigger resistance. Most importantly, the toy is sturdily made, built to withstand even the most ferocious young archer.
Robinson also recommends the Ready, Set, Pogo! Stick, an Alex-brand toy that won a Preferred Choice Award from Creative Child magazine. The stick can jump up to 24 inches, but its wide rubber foot also provides more stability than other brands, making it an ideal choice for jumpers who are still trying to find their sea legs. With a stiff spring that works better and better the more it’s used, the Ready, Set, Pogo! stick is a gift built to last—or to withstand multiple generations of energetic bouncers.
1220 N. Fillmore St.
After 30 years in business, Sue Pyatt—the longtime owner of Kinder Haus Toys—is the best bet in the area for toy recommendations. To coax kids outside this summer, she recommends the Stomp Rocket, another award winner from Creative Child Magazine. A foam launchpad that comes with a set of Styrofoam spaceships, kids send the rockets soaring by jumping down on the pad, creating a blast of air that launches them into the sky. The company offers products for every age group—while the Junior Stomp Rocket sends the missives a manageable 100 feet, the Ultra Stomp Rocket can launch the vessels over twice that distance and is only designed for ages 8 and up.
On hot, muggy days, keep the kids entertained indoors with GoldieBlox, building kits that were designed to get girls interested in engineering. Each set comes with a story featuring Goldie, the wunderkind inventor, and a buildable machine that Goldie invents to solve a household conundrum. Girls can spend hours constructing the kits, and the bright colors and funny, engaging stories are sure to appeal to their brothers, too.
Carousel Toy Shoppe
6661 Old Dominion Drive
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Laurie Pyatt commandeers Carousel Toy Shoppe, a cozy store in McLean that offers free balloons to its little visitors. According to Pyatt, froggy and butterfly hopscotch games by Melissa & Doug have been some of the shop’s most popular products—with their bright colors, foam pieces, and easy set-up, the games are perfect for kindergartners and first-graders, and offer enough durability for indoor or outdoor use. The games also offer a degree of independence to young players. The interlocking pieces are easy to snap together and the instructions are simple to understand, allowing kids to move into playtime with ease.
BE Good sandboxes have been another bestseller for the store. The individual boxes come in different themes and shapes and include matching accessories, so kids can play in the sand even if they’re hours from the shore. The themes range from a construction crew sandbox with miniature building tools to a Dalmatian-shaped box that comes with five plastic doggies, but Pyatt’s favorite is a ladybug set with bright blue sand. BE Good even offers executive sandbox desk toys so Mom and Dad can get in on the fun.