All I want for Christmas is for my kids not to throw their toys in a heap and play with the cardboard box.
An Exhausted Mom.
You're in luck ladies and gents! I am happy to bring you an interview with St. Louis's small business owner Shawntá Ray of Happy Up Inc. I have asked Shawntá a few essential questions about toys and shopping this holiday season. Store information is at the end of the post. I strongly encourage you to check it out. It's a fantastic store!
Let's dive right in -
1) What are the hot toys for ages 0-3, 3-7, 8+? And why? And any ideas for the hard to buy tweens that's not a video game, money or clothes?
"For our brand-new babies, we have created a product Loose Leaf Baby! It looks like a piece of loose leaf paper, but it is safe for babies to chew on and can be personalized with any message or drawing! The possibilities are endless. I also want moms to know I worked hard to make sure it fits all of the highest safety standards.
Others include Noggin sticks, Banana Panda high contrast flashcards, and beautiful teething vegetables from Oli and Caro. Fat Brain steals the show with Ringlets, Inny Bin, Whirly squigs and too many more to squeeze in."
"We love Alilo Bunnies; they are durable little bunnies that hold 100's of stories and over 500 songs. The best part is that you can record in your voice and your little people can hear your voice no matter where they are in the world. It is fantastic!
We love to get them into easy but fun games like Pick Me Up Piggy, and Heads Talk Tails Walk."
"We are in love with Air Forts!!! They are amazing tents with no interior structure that allow you to pop up a tent and take it down in minutes! It is spacious and will fit five adults and several kids inside with plenty of room to spare.
Shashibos- these mind-bending fidget puzzles are ageless and enjoyable, you won't want to put it down!"
"For the teens in your life! Don't give up. Board games are cool again. Check out, Codenames, the Mind, and Illusion.
Every teen/tween needs a Boom Brick2.0, a very stylish wooden speaker. My Audio Life speakers are cute little animals. Get two for a stereo experience or play hide n seek with little brothers and sisters. They have incredible sound. They would also be pumped to get their very own color changing Jellyfish light or sweet lounger from Yoogibo!
Refocus bands from Le Cle are little negative thought destroyers. They come in current and trendy styles and are so easy to wear for everyone. Another stocking stuffer would be Notes to Self Socks, little positive affirmations that no one else has to see, and all of us can use that!"
2) Any good family games besides the Genuis Square, which is my absolute favorite game?
"Kingdomino, Otrio, Slapzi, or Dragon Stone Mine. One of my new favorites is Echidna shuffle. All of these can be played with a five-year-old and adults do not feel punished while playing!"
3) As a small business owner, what can you offer a customer that Amazon or a "big store" can't?
"Every employee I have loves what they do and wants to be at Happy Up! They are interested in children and our products. So they have a lot to say about the thousands of products in our stores.
We are so hands-on! How many times has any store offered to put batteries in something or to take it out of the box so you can see it work?
We have free gift wrap and have a return policy that is literally "we want you to be happy." We may get taken advantage of a tiny bit, but all in all, people are good, and it is a win-win for myself and my customers!"
4) What do you love most about owning a toy store?
"I love that every day is really different. We have built strong relationships with so many of our customers and get to share little snips of life with them. They come to the store for happy times and sad times. I do think of our customers as one big extended family!"
5) How do you choose which toys to stock?
"I started selling toys in 1995 and have been immersed in toys and child development ever since. I try hard to play with each and every toy that ends up in our store. This is the easy way to wade through 1000's of toys and come away with the best ones… you have to play.
Sometimes, I will hop on fads Like LOL or Shopkins. That comes from listening to excited kids and helping them with their collections. This can only happen when the trend aligns with our values as a store and my values as a mom and community member."
6) When were you a kid, what was your favorite toy?
"Light Bright was magic! It was shiny and we got excited to turn off all the lights to reveal our creations. We made signs for our "shows" it was definitely a highlight!"
I want to thank Shawntá for giving her time and offering up some fantastic ideas. If you would like to visit Happy Up, they have two locations in Clayton and Edwardsville. You can also visit their website at www.happyupinc.com. Happy shopping!