The Secrets to Smarter Toy Shopping

Toys and playtime are a necessary part of every child’s development, so parents naturally want their children’s toys to bring out the best. That means shopping selectively for the child in your life.

“A good toy is one that holds a child’s attention and stirs the imagination. We want children to have toys that keep inner wonderment alive when at play,” says Lori McConville, a former educator who owns Marvin’s Toy Store, in Crystal Lake, with her daughter Kate.

What makes a good toy?

“Meet the child at their level of interest and build upon that,” says Lori. “Keep in mind they should be having fun.”

The McConvilles specialize in toys that stimulate young minds. In fact, every toy in the store is carefully vetted along a set of criteria that includes high quality, “future friendliness” and affordability for all income levels.

Some examples of best sellers include a sewing kit to make a stuffed animal, building kits for trains and mini rollercoasters, a science kit to make your own root beer, and slime and putty.

While the staff at Marvin’s can help shoppers to select an ideal toy, Kate, who has children of her own, stresses the importance of letting children be involved.

“Kids may be drawn to something a parent doesn’t agree they need,” she says. “And on occasion, grownups want to push children in directions they want them to go instead of letting the child’s interests lead.”

If the objective is pure joy, the simple things can make a difference, she says. Things like a plush puppy, a small truck or a silly squishy toy will provide sensory input and help to develop a child’s mind.

If a child seems to be focused on one toy for a while, that’s OK, she says, so long as the toy continues to provide curiosity and build imaginative play.

“Offer a different toy once in a while, but it’s good when children really like something and can explore it to the fullest extent,” Kate says. “Children will eventually try other things or find a way to extend their interest in a toy by adding to it.”

Marvin’s Toy Store is located at 64A N. Williams St., in Crystal Lake, and 100 E. Station St., in Barrington.