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Gadgets & Gizmos Aplenty: Toy Stores in Arkansas


It’s the most MAGICAL time of the year. And nothing gets my inner childhood memories flowing like walking into my local toy store: the sights, the sounds, the joy! I’m entirely convinced this just might be where Santa shops.

I sat down recently to interview the owners of Kindness & Joy Toys, my local toy shop in Fayetteville, which serves many purposes for my family.

It is a local store in our community. But it is also a space that has built a special community for my son and me. There, we find a place for weekly meetups with friends at Friday morning Storytime. They hosted a creative, silly scientist party when he turned five. And their Play Lab is where we met some of our first friends for his new kindergarten class.

Yes, we got to try many of their board games and STEM experiment equipment. We tested out a few bouncy toys during Playtime. We discovered Chunkies, pastel crayons, and paint pens while we decorated our crafty Christmas ornaments and Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Still, each week, we were able to meet over and over again with other moms and kiddos in a community that supports each other through childhood stages.

“Neither of us grew up with a lot. But our parents always found a time to make Christmas special. We can remember specific toys from our childhood and the joy we felt opening those gifts on Christmas morning. We want everything here to be about the kindness of the giver and the joy of the recipient.”

Joy – that’s exactly what toy stores bring for Arkansas children.”

Many of these locations see repeat customers who know each other by name. They share vacation tips. Watch children go from babies to kindergarten and on to tween stages. They see skills and hobbies develop over time, and interests change as peers and social media influence buying decisions.

How can families interact with a children’s toy store?

A simple answer is, “Come in and play.” But it is more than that. Take advantage of the free classes like story time or toy demo days. Kindness & Joy also offers preschool playdates and toddler time. They are a destination for personalized birthday party experiences and during Christmas, they take their birthday buckets to the next level with an online and in-person wish list experience. An afterschool art club is popular with school-aged children, where they learn new artistic skills and techniques in a small group setting with other creative kiddos.

What are some unique things about the toy industry?

There are a handful of toys that are indeed heirloom pieces. Wooden toys and classic early development stage items are not worn-out like older kid toys and can be passed on to younger siblings or friends. Dolls are always popular, and balls for all sports are always a safe bet. But trying to find items for tweens is hard.

Older kids are getting out of the play mode, but they still feel nostalgic for how they spend their free time. Like many niche retail areas, you never know what item will take off, and when you get to market, it’s always a guess.

“Going into 2020, one of our reps mentioned this pop-it thing they guessed would be popular.” April shared. “We snagged a few in different colors and were open to testing their shape ideas. We had no idea how the pop-it would take off and replace the fidget spinner. Sometimes, it’s the most simple thing that catches on.”

Also, local toy stores try to pay attention to their customers, local interests, and what the big box stores sell. “We want unique items you can’t find in a regular retail space. We want to be a destination for our repeat customers and try to respect their requests.”

Many people also don’t know how much data goes into decisions. Store owners may watch national trends, but the local reports they can run about popularity, the waves of buying days, and how items sell year over year are fascinating phenomena for people who love to study sociology and marketing trends.

Who do you see coming in your store besides children and parents?

Grandparents are another big group making visits to local toy stores in Arkansas. But you may be surprised that neighbors and employers find these locations great resources to help them care for friends and employees. Many stores, like Kindness & Joy, have fun nights for staff where they take out new toys or games and have a play night all on their own. It’s much easier for them to tell customers about great toys after they’ve had a chance to play with them!

  • Teachers love toy stores for learning books and STEM activities.
  • Co-workers buying gifts for cubicle buddies’ children show they listen when people share about their families and activities they’ve been participating in.
  • Puzzles are a great way to gather families, especially during the holidays. Many people will set up a card table with a puzzle and just sit for a while and work on the activity with screen-free time and sharing stories and experiences.
  • Mental health is an integral part of corporate environments and often, people will pop in to get fidget activities or adult coloring books for board rooms, break rooms and lobby spaces.

While toy stores typically focus on children, the imaginative space can also be an excellent place for adults. Don’t forget senior adults, neighbors and teacher gifts.

What are some popular gift items this year?

What are unique stocking stuffer ideas to consider?

Toy Stores in Arkansas

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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One response to “Gadgets & Gizmos Aplenty: Toy Stores in Arkansas”

  1. […] of our favorite activities is attending storytime at our local library and children’s toy store. We always find this a low-key outing and a great way to build community with other moms and […]

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