People who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s might not like learning the toys they used to play with are now considered vintage – but vintage they are. And you know what? You can purchase them the old-fashioned way, too.
Many North Shore stores stock fan favorites Trivial Pursuit, Pac-Man, and original versions of old-school Clue and Monopoly games as well as the season’s newly trendy toys. And not only do local shopkeepers provide expert advice – they also do the giftwrapping.
According to The Toy Insider, top trends in 2017 include throw-back toys from the ‘80s and ‘90s as well as tech and STEM toys, LOL games, games that keep the whole family active and squishy collectibles.
At Lad & Lassie in Wilmette, owners and sisters Mimi Evans and Zee Barry use their years of experience to selectively stock the store with an assortment of goodies for kids, particularly those in the tween years.
This year kids are mad for all things soft and squishy, especially mini squishy collectibles that come in many shapes and colors. Lad & Lassie carries a broad array of squishies that have proven to be extremely popular with the tween set. For kids who want to make their own squishy material, The Wild Child in Glencoe carries slime kits, as well as an entire bath tub full of assorted squishies.
It’s not just mini squishies that are popular: Things small and collectible are all the rage this year. The Wild Child in Glencoe expects to be getting a shipment of the popular Fingerlings in December and already has a waiting list of customers lined up to buy the toys. Fingerlings are collectible baby monkeys that cling to your fingers wherever you go. The Village Toy Shop in Winnetka carries a variety of Pusheen toys, based on a cartoon cat that’s been popular on social media, which are also fun to collect.
And for kids who love vintage, there are tons of throwback toys to choose at all of the local stores. Lad & Lassie carries old-school games like Twister and a 1980s and 1990s trivia games. The Village Toy Shop stocks a large assortment of lava and glitter lamps as well as original versions of popular games like Clue and Monopoly. Kids can’t get enough of the mini vintage arcade games they sell at The Wild Child, including games like Pac Man and Frogger.
If you’ve got a child interested in STEM, it’s worth a visit to downtown Lake Forest where two new stores, Sage Explorers and Maker Research Labs, specialize in educational toys and kits. Both are located on Bank Lane near Market Square.
Lad & Lassie also has a STEM-toy focus, with kits from Elenco that have the tools to build a motion detector, FM radio or a strobe light. For the younger set, Lad & Lassie sells “pre-stem” for toddlers that allows them to mix and match tops to complete a circuit.
Science kits are very popular at The Village Toy Shop, which sells science kits to grow crystals, forensic lab kits and engineering kits. The Children’s Gift Shop in Northfield has science kits geared specifically toward girls by Yellow Scope, as well as clever t-shirts with the saying “Think Like a Girl.”
To get the whole family active, The Children’s Gift Shop sells slacker lines, which are zip lines that keeps everyone moving. They also stock Guerrilla Gym that will keep the everyone fit in the winter, with indoor climbing ropes, swings and ladders.
While organizations like The Toy Insider track national trends, it’s hard to miss that there are a few trends right here on the North Shore. Toys with magic sequins that can be rubbed to change colors and create patterns can be found at all of the toy stores. Lad & Lassie sells an assortment of soft and fuzzy onesies for tweens in fun prints such as unicorns. In fact, anything with a unicorn or narwhal is super popular. Squishables — soft pillows in shapes of animals and comfort food — are on trend this year as well and The Wild Child sells many different types.
And if you are looking for something a bit more classic, The Village Toy Shop stocks an entire wall of Lego kits, as well as plenty of Melissa & Doug imaginary play toys, Brio train sets and Playmobil.
Markie Gekas, who owns The Children’s Gift Shop, helps customers pick out toys that are developmentally appropriate and open ended, encouraging creativity and years of fun. “It’s really about the importance of play,” said Gekas.
But more than just following the trends, North Shore toy stores offer an experience you’ll never find online. All of the stores offer free giftwrapping and their expert advice on what toys are perfect for your child.
“Anything we can do for the customer we try to do,” said Liz Berwanger, owner of The Village Toy Shop.
And like Santa himself, The Village Toy Shop will even deliver. How’s that for service?
- Lad & Lassie, 1115 Central Avenue, Wilmette
- The Village Toy Shop, 807 Elm Street, Winnetka
- The Wild Child, 657 Vernon Avenue, Glencoe
- The Children’s Gift Shop, 310 Happ Road, Northfield
- Sage Explorers, 644 N Bank Lane, Lake Forest
- Maker Research Labs, 653 Bank Lane, Lake Forest
- Beanstalk Toys & Books, 654 Central Avenue, Highland Park. 847-432-8300