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Melissa Atkins Wardy On How To Shop Smart

Our Dec. 11 hour on girls, boys and toys was a fascinating discussion on gender and marketing. Guest Melissa Atkins Wardy, CEO of online clothing and toy company Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, offered a great list of where and how to shop this holiday season. 

With all the talk about gender stereotyped and sexualized toys, families may be wondering where CAN we shop and find healthy, respectful toys? Here’s my list, with my top tip being: your local, independent toy store.

Here is what I recommend:
1. Shop at your local, independent toy store. They are more likely to carry items made by small businesses and most importantly they put a ton of research and care into toys that will stimulate and entertain the young child. There are never pink aisles or blue aisles. Toys are grouped by category or interest and many toys are award winners and eco-friendly. The staff is usually knowledgeable and friendly and knows what to do when  you say, “I’m looking for a gift for an eight year old who likes science and moths.” Everybody wins!
2. Hunt down specific toys on Craigslist or Ebay. If you are someone who plans ahead, rummage sales in the summer are great places to find toys at great prices. Your kids won’t notice it didn’t come in a box.
3. Shop at your nearest museum or children’s museum gift shop. These can be gendered, but for the most part are focused on learning.
4. Books. Done.
5. Scientific Explorer makes some cute science kits. You’ll see these in stores and some are gendered, but online there is a great selection.
6. What about an experience gift — like a membership to a museum or trip to the aquarium? We’re headed to the Shedd and the Field Museum after Christmas.
7. I like toys that get kids active, like bikes, stomp rockets, sports equipment, and seasonal toys like snow shoes, sleds, and igloo block makers.
8. I babysat for a family who once gave their kids a series of cardboard boxes nestled in each other like matryoshka dolls and in the smallest box was tape, box cutters, string, markers, and scraps from the crafting drawer.
9. Tool box, with real tools. Every kid needs one.
10. Here is a list of some of my favorite places to shop at:
– Melissa Atkins Wardy
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