Thursday, November 08, 2012

American Specialty Toys Retail AssociationOn November 10, 2012, retailers belonging to the American Specialty Toy & Retail Association (ASTRA) will be celebrating their 3rd Annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day. The event is a reminder of the role that local toy stores play in our communities today. 

After you read this article about the personal impact specialty retail stores have played in my own life, I hope that you will recognize their importance in our communities. Please join us at Spontuneous Games in supporting our neighborhood toy stores!

Educational Value in Play

Many of us might not realize the importance toys and games play in our children's cognitive development. Sure, playing is fun for kids, but it's also very educational. Kids love to play, and a majority of the toys and games found in our local toy stores do an excellent job of fostering educational growth by disguising lessons as fun. 

Thinking back to some of my favorite toys and games as a kid, most of them contained educational components that helped build a foundation for the years to come. Neighborhood Toy Store Day is an excellent opportunity for us all to thank our local specialty toy stores for providing quality toys and games that help develop the minds of our future.

The Influence of Toys and Games

My Grandmother was always known for bringing home cool toys and games that one would never find in a Walmart or Target. Things like computerized chess, chemistry sets, electronic circuit board kits, construction block kits and a variety of other unique learning games were always a surprise to me. I had never seen them while roaming the aisles of the big box stores. They could only be found in specialty toy stores. They are the types of toys and games that foster creativity, teach lessons and expand a child's mind.

Ironically, my own career path is closely tied to the toys and games I played as a child. As a farm and ranch kid from Montana, The Farming Game was a household favorite. I loved the challenge of borrowing money from the bank and trying to buy land, raise crops and build a herd of cattle. Of course, I always lobbied to be the banker in the game too.  

I'd later major in Agricultural Business, return to the farm, borrow money to purchase a small herd, sell them and move on to pursue a career in banking. A few years later, after the idea for Spontuneous was born, I called the 800 number on the side of The Farming Game box and asked the inventor for advice on how to create a board game of my own.

Why I Support Neighborhood Toy Stores

Now that I'm in the business and have frequented many specialty toy stores, I realize just how important they are. Whether it's shopping for younger cousins or my friends' kids, I know that these are the types of stores where I can find something new and unique that kids will love. I also know that their parents will appreciate something that stimulates their child's brain. 

My favorite aspect of shopping at specialty toy stores is that I can actually test many of the toys and games before purchasing, which rekindles the memories of being a kid! Yet another reason to celebrate Neighborhood Toy Store Day!

Although I grew up playing with specialty toys and games, I don't recall spending much time in the stores themselves. Probably because we lived 60 miles from the nearest one. I wish I had, though. They always seem to have fun activities going on for kids, something I surely would have enjoyed. 

Still, every time I visit one now, it's truly an experience. Mainly because the customer service is unlike anywhere else. Employees are well trained to know how each of their toys and games are played, and are able to make personalized recommendations for the people I'm shopping for.

Visit a Neighborhood Toy Store

In a world where big box stores tend to dominate, in terms of where the majority of our dollars and time shopping is spent, I encourage you to think outside the box stores this holiday season and explore the specialty stores. This Saturday, November 10th, help us strengthen our communities by supporting National Neighborhood Toy Store Day. 

Feel free to use our store locator to find a store near you. I'm confident you'll thoroughly enjoy the experience!

Thanks for reading; have fun!

~Rob Ridgeway, Spontuneous Games

Featured stores: Knowledge Nook in Longview, TX (photo courtesy of and Kaleidoscope Toys in Round Rock, TX (photo courtesy of