Monday, November 14

Great Christmas gifts for Grandma and Grandpa!

Definitely some of the most difficult people to buy for during the holiday season are Grandma and Grandpa. How many sweaters and kitchen gadgets can one have after all? A toy store might not be the first thing that comes to mind when shopping for the grandparents, but we might have some of the best choices! Here are our top 5 gifts for grandparents for the 2011 holiday and Christmas season:

1. Tilt (single player game) (the Staff's favorite for 2011!)
The goal is to slide the green sliders into the center hole without sliding in the blue sliders. Pick one of the 40 challenge cards and place the blockers and sliders according to the card. Then you tilt away until you've puzzled out how to slide the green sliders into the center hole without the blue sliders going in. A super fun game that is one of this staffs favorites!

2. Pathwords (single player game)
This is a single player game that starts out simple and becomes progressively more difficult. Players get a set of colored transparent shapes that they use to try on show the paths of the different words in the puzzle. All of the letters must be covered and be part of a word. This game is a fun twist on traditional word games.

3. Square Up (One OR Two player game)
Square Up will have your fingers and your brain racing simultaneously! To begin, shake the cube to find your pattern. Replicate the pattern in the inner 9 squares by sliding the tiles and slap down the frame first to win the game!

4. Forbidden Island (cooperative game for for 2 to 4 players ages 10 and up)
We picked this one for grandma or grandpa to play with the grandkids during the holidays!
Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!

5. Spot it! (a great game for grandparents and grandkids to play together)
This quick and easy to learn game is great for young and old to play together! Little kids do surprisingly well and older kids and adults are challenged (and sometimes humbled!). Each and every card ALWAYS has a match (just one) to every other card. Spot the match first and you get the card. The player with the most cards wins. The different sizes make spotting a match much harder than it might sound. This is our staffs all time favorite game for the last 2 years running. The box recommends 7 and up for ages, but after playing with dozens and dozens of kids we recommend ages 4 and up! A great game for grandparents to play with grandkids!

Wednesday, November 2

Neighborhood Toy Store Day: Nov. 12th

As a child, nothing compared to the enchanted feeling of shopping for toys at your local toy store. Gazing with wonder at the aisles of exciting choices…holding your new toy for the very first time…anticipation building inside you as you finally took your new gifts home.

In a world where new gadgets pop up every day, it is heartening to know that some good things never change.

On November 12, My Little Red Wagon will join hundreds of locally owned stores across the country to celebrate the second annual national Neighborhood Toy Store Day.

"When you shop at an independent toy store, you are entering a universe of play possibilities," explains Kathleen McHugh, President of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). "Neighborhood Toy Store Day is about celebrating the role the local store plays in the community. We are highlighting the expertise your local store has in selecting just the right innovative, exclusive and engaging toy to help your child grow and learn through play."

As part of the festivities, My Little Red Wagon will be celebrating Neighborhood Toy Store Day
with a visit from Santa's elves and some fun activities and treats for the kids. There will be a
drawing for prizes including a $50 gift card. The event will take place form 11am to 2pm in
their Hudson store.

Independent toy stores can even help you find top toys for the children on your list this holiday
season with help from The 2011 Best Toys for Kids Award list.

Michelle Sahr, owner of My Little Red Wagon explained, “With our expert understanding
of how kids play, ASTRA members have created a list of toys that deliver the highest value, inviting imaginative discovery and encouraging creative thinking.”

And consumers can be confident that more of the dollars spent in local, independently-owned
stores, stay in the community—25% percent more in contrast with national chains, according
to the 3/50 Project. Resident business owners pour more money and energy back into the
community in the form of everything from tax dollars to charity donations to participating in
local initiatives through civic associations and area chambers of commerce.

McHugh urged shoppers to take this opportunity to be part of a celebration of community and to get to know their neighborhood toy store on Neighborhood Toy Store Day.

“By shopping locally, consumers will find great toys while supporting vibrant communities and
sustainable economic development. Visit your neighborhood toy store and you may bring home
more than just the perfect gift, you'll share the spirit of the season.”

My Little Red Wagon, 220 N. Main Street, Hudson, OH 44236, 330-650-1295

Thursday, October 27

New Toy 2011: Nanoblocks

Just arrived in time for the holiday season, Nanoblocks. Nanoblocks are just like Legos only much much smaller. Because of their size, they can make some incredibly detailed structures and animals. The kits come in two sizes. The smaller size is $9.99 and includes things like a panda bear, a giraffe, a frog and a koala bear. The larger size includes "sites to see" like the Eiffel tower, the Moai Statues, and the Neuschwanstein Castle.

Nanoblocks have won two amazing awards in 2011. The ASTRA Best toys for kids award (selected by neighborhood toy stores like us) and the 2011 Preferred Choice award.

Mere Human or Super Hero???

Our world is filled with villans and heros alike. We had this masked wonder stop in our store today. We wondered if indeed we were being graced by a mere human or a true super hero. It is a question we will continue to ponder. Indeed, we were unable to extract any information from this mysterious visitor. She made a quick entry and quick exit alike. Perhaps she was on the lookout for a victim in need of her assistance. Have you seen her? Who is she?

Saturday, October 15

Learning to Count - 1 2 3...

When I first became a parent, I was under the impression that the way children learn to count was teaching them their numbers.... 1, 2, 3, 4. I thought they learn their numbers by us showing them flashcards or writing numbers down for them to see. It wasn't until I went to a convention for specialty toy retailers (ASTRA) and heard speaker Dr. Jane Healy speak that I realized I was dead wrong about how kids learn to count. Dr. Jane Healy has made it her life long study researching how the child's brain works and learns. She has written several books including "Your Child's Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from birth to adolescence".

I learned that children learn first through hands on play. In fact, this is necessarily precursor to learning the abstractions such as the numerals 1, 2, and 3. Kids begin to learn though simple hands on touching, feeling and observing. We might see a kid stacking blocks, lining up play cars or dropping toys. To us it is a kid "just playing", but to the child it is learning about how the world works through a beginning lesson in gravity and numbers.

One of the best instruments for learning to count and beginning to understand mathematics is unit blocks. Unit blocks are of proportional sizes which help build kid's understanding of proportions, counting and fractions. Kids begin to understand that 2 of the 1/2 size block makes up one of the full size block, and 4 of the triangles make the same size as one full block and so forth. Child learning experts tell us that unit blocks help with other math skills too including area, size, order, space, shape, numbers, mapping, patterns, measuring, fractions, operations, estimating, negative space, adding, one on one correspondence, and seriation.

Next time you are tempted to reach for the flashcards for you smart little preschooler... reach into the toybox instead.

Thursday, October 6

Game Spot: Gotcha Party Game

We had a lot of laughs playing this game at our last staff meeting. Gotcha is a party game for 3-8 players. The rules are fairly simple, but following them is another story. Each player is dealt a few cards and the rules are set initially. Players are trying to follow the rules and at the same time trying to catch their friends breaking the rules. It gets tricky because the rules keep changing. Rules might includes things like all females have to use their last name before speaking. Or all people wearing socks have to use finger quotes before speaking. Or all people with red on have to play the air guitar before playing a card. With the rules always changing, someone is bound to get confused. When a player breaks a rule you hit the gotcha button and you move ahead while they move back. The first person to the finish line wins.

Because players can place a new rule during their turn, players can change a rule they don't like or add a rule they do like. We were picking on Kyle this time. "Players with facial hair must use air quotes", "males must not speak unless it is their turn". (I wonder if they have a players with dreads card?).

We give this game a thumbs up for a fun game that will add a few laughs to your evening. The game is easy to learn and easy to play (if you can follow the rules). Play time might last anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 4

Featured Toy: Ezy Roller Ride On

The Ezy Roller is a great toy for active kids. It takes no batteries and moves remarkably easily. Kids just move the bar back and forth with their feet, and it goes. The Ezy roller features a nice hand break (great when you hit a bit of a hill) and adjustable bars. It will adjust to fit kids ages 3 to 14 (or adults if they don't mind scrunching up a bit).

Here is a video of the Ezy Roller we made at our last sales staff meeting.

Friday, September 30

This Just In: Safari Dinosaurs, Horses, Dragons and more

Our beautifully detailed Safari replicas arrived yesterday. We now have a nice selection of Dinosaurs, dragons, horses, princesses, fairies, and mythical creatures. We also brought in a large selection of the Safari the mini-animals that sell for only 99 cents each!

99 cent animals include farm, jungle, horses, dinosaurs and more.

Saturday, September 24

Classic Dolls by Corolle

Baby dolls are a timeless classic for a reason. Children love to imitate Mom and Dad, and what better way than in nurturing and cuddling their own baby doll. Doll play is a great way for kids to learn to express their emotions as well as creatively play acting out situations in life. It helps with problem solving and interrelationship skills.

Corolle is our favorite baby doll company. They have been creating beautiful quality dolls for over 30 years now. They pay the close attention to the features of their dolls. The soft vinyl helps the dolls look and feel like real babies. Some of the bodies are soft bean filled and flexible (Calin, Chouquette) so they sit and feel like a baby. They have a nice vanilla scent that does not go away. Their hair is carefully rooted in small amounts. This means their hair looks and feels like real hair. All Corolle dolls are either surface washable or you may wash them in the clothes washer.

We just received a shipment of Corolle dolls and clothing. You can see some of the baby dolls on our website. The Les Cheries Corolle dolls are new for us this year (and not on the website yet). They are a 13" fashion doll, made with exceptional Corolle quality standards. They also have additional clothing available.

Friday, September 16

New Squishables

I've been buying toys for our stores for about 20 years now. I'm not sure that I could even pretend to count the number of times I've been told this or that toy is going to be the new big trend, or a huge hit for the holidays. Mostly I just ignore those comments completely and judge for myself. I also don't go looking in other peoples stores to try to glean off them what is selling.

Instead what I do is try to look at all the toys out there and bring in my very favorites. Sometimes I hit on something that becomes extremely popular. We were one of the first stores (in Akron at that time) to have the Ty Beanie Babies and we were one of the first (maybe the first) to have Webkinz (in our Stow store). In fact, I had both of those in for a while before they went real crazy. They were a little slow at first believe it or now. I started to wonder if they were going to sell well. Then all of the sudden it hit and from then on I couldn't keep them in stock.

That brings us to these Squishables. A fellow specialty retailer (not in this area) told me that these are blowing off the shelves. I took one look and was sold. These guys are so soft and squishy. I love the size of them... big enough to make a nice pillow! I don't think these will be on the scale of popularity with Webkinz or Beanie Babies (especially at around $40 a pop). I do think they are going to do very well though. Stop in and give one a hug.

Wednesday, September 14

New Fixtures, Thanks Borders!

We took advantage of Borders selling all their fixtures off and replaced a few in our store. Here is the before and after. Much neater, better organized, and the fixtures fit more merchandise.

Tuesday, September 6

Purchasing Toys for our Toy Store

This is the time of year I do most all of my purchasing for the holidays. I am just about done with all my ordering, other than reorders. Let me tell you though, that it isn't easy. It isn't unlike coming in our store and finding 10 things you like but only intending to buy one. There are lots of great toys for me to choose from. And just like you, I have a budget. I plan my sales projections and my purchasing budget is based on that. Thankfully, after many years of making these projections, I am often within 5% of my projections.

So this year, once again as I get to the end of my ordering spree, I find myself wanting to bring in a number of toys that just aren't going to make the cut. I am forced to go back to the previous orders and slimming them down a bit to make room for a few necessities (of course there are necessities in a toy shop). I so love these toys, that it makes it hard not to get them all. But I have to stay on budget.

Here is a sneak peak of a few items that made the list: (pics will have to come later).
  • Healthy Gourmet Salad and Pita Pocket Lunch for Green Eaters (love these)
  • A much bigger selection of Corolle dolls AND their much requested clothing
  • Power Poppers (on-the-run rapid fire foam ball gun) in 3 colors including pink!
  • Spooner Boards (you'll just have to see these... cool)
  • Bumpers - new bouncy animals similar to Rody, but $20 cheaper! (and still well made)
  • Blast Pads galore - Stomp rockets, blast pad, air bolt, jr. stomp rocket...
  • Trekbot - remote control bots that power up on your usb
  • Lots of great arts and crafts
  • More Thomas the Tank Engine items in the store
  • More little items that make great stocking stuffers and little gifts
  • Nanoblocks - miniature lego like sets
  • Oh, way way too much to list everything here.

So what didn't make the cut you ask?? Well, I'm hoping you will never know or notice!

(Pictured here is me, Michelle, placing orders at my computer and a big shipment of toys we just received today!)

Wednesday, August 31

This Just In: Fastrack Game

This just came in yesterday... Fastrack. Here I show you how to play the game. After I made the video I played the game with Monique and it was more challenging than I thought. I was shooting my pucks at her and she was shooting hers at me. Sometimes mine would block hers and vise versa. Lots of silly fun.

Monday, August 29

Contest: Win a Double Shutter Game!

Only 3 days to enter (enter by Thursday at 9pm) and you could win this Double Shutter Game, a double tile version of Shut The Box.

Entering is EASY... just leave a comment on our blog, facebook page or in twitter: @redwagontoys and you will be entered. You can tell us how much you love our store, or just just say "hi". It doesn't matter what you say as long as you keep it nice!

We will ship the game to anyone located in the continental US for free (but if you are local we would prefer you to pick it up at the store).

The winner will be chosen at random. We enter all the entry names in a hat and pull one out. Good luck!

Game Spot: Math Games

In honor of all of my dumb math mistakes this week, today I am reviewing some educational kids games that help improve math skills.

First up: Shut the Box. In shut the box you roll the dice and use mathematical equations to turn down the tiles. If you roll a 9, you can turn down the numbers 8 and 1, or 7 and 2, or 2,3, and 4, or just 9. You get a point for each tile you flip down. When a roll produces a number where no tiles can be turned down then the round is over. This game can be played using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division or all of them.

Double Shutter is a variant of the classic game shut the box, but adds a second row of tiles nestled behind the first row. You can't use the second row until the tile in front is turned. Both games can be played alone or with 2 to 4 players.

Sumoku is a newer game in which each player gets 8 numbered tiles. You roll the dice to get your key number and build a line of tiles (without repeating colors). The line of tiles needs to add up to a multiple of the key number. Here is a video of how to play..

Friday, August 26

Why Play Matters: Blocks

Starting a new series called "why play matters". We'll discuss how play helps kids build better brains, fine tune motor skills, learn mathematics and learn how to be creative (just to name a few).

So let's start with what many child development specialist would call the foundational toy and play tool. Unit blocks are found in any great Kindergarten classroom and should be a part of every home toy box. Here is a quick little list of what kids learn from playing with blocks...
1. exploration of sizes, weights, shapes, distances and proportions
2. mathematical concepts (bigger than, smaller than)
3. counting, sorting, classifying, matching
4. experimentation, manipulation, problem solving
5. stimulation of imagination and creativity
6. small and large muscle development
7. coordination of muscles (lifting, bending, reaching)
8. hand eye coordination
9. learning a sense of balance
10. visual spacial awareness

Unit blocks are a standardized size (5.5 inches long, 2.75 inches wide, and 1.375 inches thick). They help teach proportions because they consist of full blocks, 1/2 size blocks, 1/4 size blocks and so forth. Studies support that "a child’s ability to create complex block constructions can predict mathematical ability". (2) Next time you see a child playing with blocks, take some time to observe. You can almost see the little gears moving in their heads.

(sources: 1. 2.

Tuesday, August 23

Meet the Staff

We decided to blow the dust off this blog and open it back up again. We will be blogging on a regular basis once again. I thought I would start with a series introducing you to our staff. We have a fun crew, each with a unique story. There are only a few of us, myself (Michelle), Penny, Monique, Jenna (who will be moving into our Kent store), Ariel, and Julia (our book and sanity keeper!). So we will start with me, and follow up in the next couple weeks with more on the rest of the staff.

I'm a mom of 3 kids, and wife of another one! At home I spend my time working mostly. Either I am cooking, cleaning (and that is spotty), taking care of kids, or I am on my computer for work. When I can carve out a few minutes I like to read out on the patio.

My Dad had bought My Little Red Wagon from Dick Franz when it was located in Quaker Square, downtown Akron in 1991. We had a lot of good memories in Quaker Square and really learned the toy business there. Around 2003 we moved the store to Stow into a huge store on route 59. Then about 4 years later around 2007 we opened a second store on Main Street in Hudson Ohio. Through all of our changes we came to believe that historic Main Streets offer a unique setting for the independent retailer that let's us shine. We slowly have shifted our thoughts and locations to reflect this. Now we are no longer in Stow, but only on Hudson's Main street with other independent retail shops. We also have a second shop that is different in concept, called Off the Wagon, on the historic Main Street in Kent. With smaller stores we are able to spend more time catering to the customer.

Recently my Dad passed away, and now it is me at the helm. He had a great business mind and taught me a lot. He is missed and well remembered. I had been working in the business since I was a little tot. When I graduated from the University of Dayton, I soon headed back up this way to help run the stores. I spent lots of time computerizing the operation and eventually adding a website. I learned all the ropes about advertising, promotion, ordering and the zillion other details that go into running your own business. Now I have been working in the toy business for 20 years. I've made mistakes (and expect to make more) and done a few things right as well. I LOVE IT. This is the best job (most of the time!).