Picture1In my entire life, I have intentionally gone shopping on Black Friday once.  My mom and I did the whole thing – we got up early, we hit all the stores with the biggest sales, we ate lunch at ten am, and were on the point of collapse before noon.  While the experience provided some interesting sociological insights into my fellow humans, it wasn’t something that an introvert like me desires to repeat on a yearly basis.

It seems, then, that I might be more suited to Cyber Monday.  After all, there’s nothing like shopping from the comfort of my couch while wearing PJs and sipping warm apple cider.  Plus, the packages come right to the front door, so basically no effort is expended from the beginning of the process until the end.  But there’s something a little sad about the whole e-tail situation.  Just because I don’t like huge crowds doesn’t mean I am adverse to all human contact.  Plus, the World Wide Web is just so…wide…that where do I even begin?  Unless I know exactly what I am looking for, shopping online isn’t really for me either.

So, what then?  Well, it seems that Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was created especially for me – and you, if you know what’s good for you.  Since becoming a mom, it’s gotten even more fun, because many of the best small businesses that I have found are toy stores.

There are lots of reasons to support small businesses, but let me tell you why I favor independent toy stores in particular.

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You can’t beat the selection

In your typical big box store, the toys are forced to share space with, well, just about everything.  If you are lucky, you’ll get a good representative sample: a few board games, some outdoor playthings, a handful of baby and toddler goodies.   Even at Toys R Us, where the toys are literally stacked to the ceiling, the variety is not really there.  A few big name brands dominate the shelves.  At an independent toy store, you never know what treasures you might find.  Some stores are jam-packed with a little bit (or a lot) of everything, while others offer a well-chosen and artfully displayed selection of old favorites and new surprises.  Either way, finding a unique gift perfectly suited to the child in your life is no problem.

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Word of the Day: Curation

Curation is the sorting and organizing of artifacts, as in a museum.  In a good independent toy store, the artifacts, or in this case the fun stuff, are organized so that despite the wide variety, browsing is not too overwhelming.  Items are “curated” through the creation of appealing displays as well as sorting throughout the store by type of toy or age group.   In my experience, staff at these stores are particularly knowledgeable as to what children enjoy, and are invaluable in the selection of the perfect gift.

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Often times, independent toy stores are kid-friendly

At Franklin’s, our local toy store, there is plenty to keep the kids busy while parents get their shopping done.  My son is partial to the train table, while my daughter prefers scooting after one of the many wind-up toys on display.  There are bins overstuffed with various vehicles and tons of jumping, wiggling, or spinning temptations.  Shopping atFranklin’s is a stress-free experience because there is enough to keep any kid busy while the grown-ups look around.  I have even heard of stores that have story time.

So, fellow parents, here’s the plan: this year, skip the Black Friday sales, give your turkey an extra day to digest, and, on Saturday, November 30, head to your nearest independent toy store for Small Business Saturday.  If you go with list in hand, you may even be able to get your Christmas shopping done before December.  But that’s probably just wishful thinking.

(Blogger’s note: All pictures for this post were taken at Franklin’s General Store in Hyattsville, MD, five minutes outside of Washington,DC.  On Saturday, November 20, they will be offering a 20% discount on all items, storewide.  I did not receive any compensation fromFranklin’s in writing this post.  I’m just a big fan!)

Lisa Runge

Lisa Runge

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Lisa Runge was born in Illinois, but after 6+ years in DC, she considers herself a Washingtonian. A mom of two and wife of one, she enjoys spending her days devising new ways to spark her children’s creativity while keeping them from “storing” all of their toys on the floor. Her parenting style is most kindly described as “open-ended”, with a dash of Montessori thrown in for good measure. She aspires to one day sleep through the night, but otherwise thinks her life is pretty awesome (99.3 percent of the time). For more of Lisa, check out her personal blog at diaryofanearlynewmom.blogspot.com.