toying with the holidays

While children and their parents have been spending much more time together at home in 2020, Debi Pierson, owner of Toodleydoo Toys in Franklin, has noticed an upward trend in families seeking more activities that don’t involve sitting in front of a screen and expects that trend to continue.

“We definitely saw a resurgence of people playing at home,” Pierson says of the spring and summer months. “In addition, because we saw so many people playing at home, we even saw parents who normally might be more permissive about screen time being less permissive because there was so much free time. We saw a big uptick in games, crafts, science, and for a minute, I thought we were only going to be a puzzle store because that is the only thing anyone called about.”

Just in case this fall and winter are anything like last spring and summer, she shared a few words of advice for families during an August interview as she was working on her store’s holiday inventory: “You should have what you want, not what you can get. We are definitely going to be encouraging people to be thoughtful, shop early and give gifts that will create the kind of environment that you want to spend time with your family in this winter.”

Here, some of her recommendations.

  • Timely: Unbored Time Capsule Kit: $30.
    Recommended ages: 8 and up. Although not specific to the year 2020, to take stock of this year, or at least provide some closure to what has been an unprecedented time for most families, Pierson recommended this kit. Stickers, labels, envelopes, prompts and time stamps allow everyone to share their thoughts and hopes for that moment in time, to be sealed, stored and discovered later.
  • Play: Big Cooker Reverso: $210. Recommended ages: 3-8.
    To encourage creativity, this retro-looking kitchen on one side and European-style washing machine on the other includes lights and sound effects.
  • Build:
    • Janod Stacking Stones: $30. Recommended ages: 2-6.
      One set includes 20 small wooden stones of different colors, shapes and sizes for endless possibilities of sculptures.
    • Djeco Zig & Go: $28-$55. Recommended ages: 7 and up.
      New this year, this building set is similar to the classic dominoes but with extra bells and whistles.
  • STEM Play:
    • My 1st Engineering Farm Tractor: $40. Recommended ages: 3-5.
      With this set, kids can first build an electric screwdriver and use it to build a tractor with multiple parts and uses.
    • KC3 Keypad Coding Robot: $45. Recommended ages: 8 and up.
      Engineer a robot into three different configurations that involve beginner-level coding skills. More advanced techniques can be applied for the robot to take on more difficult tasks.
  • Crafts: Pottery Wheel for Beginners: $80. Recommended ages: 7 and up.
    Anyone can use this motorized pottery wheel with detailed instructions, air-dry clay and paints to decorate the finished product.
  • Puzzles: Toodleydoo Toys has options beyond the classic, square-sided designs: puzzles in the shapes of animals and mythical creatures, puzzles with multiple designs to be viewed with different-colored glasses and round puzzles offer challenges to all ages.

Still not sure? Pierson is also happy to offer custom suggestions, and the store’s website is broken down into items based on ages and interests.

─ By Rebecca Berfanger