Now that school’s out for summer (and hopefully the fidget spinners that plagued classrooms and buses will be put away), it is the perfect time for stocking up on a few extra goodies to keep the kids entertained. Opt for toys that foster creativity and open-ended enjoyment, rather than something that will be over within ten minutes. (And thus have them back on your heels with the time old refrain, “I’m bored.”) A good plan of action is to come up with recreational choices that get them away from the screens and move them outdoors—and if they promote movement as well; even better. Remember classics like badminton and bocce ball? These are still fun. Scooters and bikes are of course mandatory. And consider a new twist on a classic that the whole family can enjoy—Frisbee golf sets.
While Indigo Baby in the DeVargas Center has built a solid reputation for natural and organic products for pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, its selection of toys is quite substantial—with many having an eco-friendly twist. The store carries an impressive assortment of Green Toys, made of 100% recycled materials that are also 100% safe and non toxic, surpassing many U.S. and international standards. The bright colors and interactive play mode guarantee hours of delight; themes include seaplanes, dump trucks, school buses, fire departments, tea sets, build-a-bouquets, and more (priced $15 to $50). Another top seller that is also native to New Mexico is the handmade, wooden toy line North Star (from nearby Questa). These simple toys stimulate creative, imaginative play. “These are just amazing and are quite popular,” says owner Katie Hyde. Styles include train sets, boats, rolly toys, race cars, and dinosaur rollers (priced $8-$32).
A unique shopping experience is the Harrell House of Natural Oddities and Bug Museum also located in the DeVargas Center. The store part of the location is stocked full with toys and games devoted to science and exploration such as gyroscopes ($8.99), bug viewers ($5), trilobites ($5), and gadgets galore. A mammoth selection of Safari Ltd. hand-painted models of dinosaurs, dragons, unicorns, and sea creatures (priced $5.97-$22) will satisfy any fantasy play, while an odd “real” bug necklace featuring a scorpion ($6.99) will delight the fashion-forward child. And if icky, sticky, slimy, and crawly are in your repertoire (or your child’s or grandchild’s), then head on to the back—and enjoy the bug museum. With 2,400 mounted insects and 150 live specimens, it lives up to its hype (NM rates are just $6 admission/$4 for 12 and under). Owner Wade Harrell says, “Kids love to touch and hold our friendly live bugs.” And the squeals of delight as a group of children touched a live tarantula certainly seconded that notion.
Moon Rabbit Toys (112 W. San Francisco St., Suite 202) has been offering toys, games, and altogether fun activities in the Plaza Mercado just off the Plaza for almost 12 years. I love that this is the kind of environment that encourages exploration—with many samples clearly marked “demo.” The selection tends to slant toward handmade and fair trade and made in the U.S. is still a strong selling point here—as are reasonable prices. A new catch-and-release toy that my fellow shoppers and I tried out was Squap Paddles by Simba; I’d categorize it as a newfangled take on Kadima with a smidge of Velcro catch. What is nice about this toy is that you can also challenge yourself to play it alone (priced at $30). Of course, the quintessential Santa Fe toy is the Lunastix version of “juggling sticks,” which is the perfect accompaniment to Music on the Hill this summer, priced from $30 to $50, depending on the size. According to owner Shana Hack, one of the store’s best sellers is Aaron’s Think Putty (priced $3-$16). She also notes that they love to help match people with a game or toy that best suits them. “We can find the perfect game for anyone!” The store also has a secret stash of the Original Super Balloon (priced at $3), which has recently been discontinued. Go grab one now before they are gone like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.