Froggies 5 and 10 is staffed by toy nerds including Tiny Hands Joe (not real name).

Shopping

Gift Guide: A Working Parent’s Primer for Buying Toys in Dallas

Go offline and let local shops lend a hand. It will make your life easier.

From the day I informed my mother that I accidentally got pregnant (we’re all adults here, right?) she has repeated the same working-mom mantra over and over: “Do whatever’s easiest.” Buy stacks and stacks of onesies so you don’t have do laundry as often. It’s easier. Put lots of hooks on your walls so you can simply hang and grab things. See, easy. Screw Baby Wise. Do what’s easiest for you.

Now, the conventional wisdom is that online shopping and or hitting up a big box store to knock out all your holiday shopping is easy. That has not proven to be true for me. I prefer the immediate satisfaction of having the object in my hand at the point of purchase, and if I need to return an item, I usually find it a year later, hiding in the corner of my car trunk, refusing to go to the post office (a.k.a. I forgot). And in the case of big box stores, there’s such an expansive selection, I end up staring at a wall of Shopkins, Twozies, and Li’l Woodzeez for an hour, wondering what the heck, then leave empty handed, my deepest decision-making anxieties unleashed.

So when I say that I do my holiday toy shopping exclusively at local boutiques, I’m not being cute or a snob or a making a stand for small businesses (though I’m cool with that), I’m just tired. And I need help. I have a small child. So here are my notes on toy shopping in town.

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Girls fleece pants are so hot right now, and in abundance at Toy Maven.

This weekend I walked through Toy Maven, which, by the looks of it, has the largest selection of the Dallas toy boutiques. When I told owner Candace Williams that I was shopping for tweens, she directed me to some freshly-arrived American Jewel gummy purses and an entire circular rack of Candy Pink Girls fleece pants in everything from ice cream cone to popcorn print. Take note: Williams has a background in education, so there’s also a healthy stock of science kits and building sets. My kid, however, was most smitten with a camo-print Berg four-wheel bike (unfortunately, Santa cannot accommodate that request seeing as the kid already has four bikes and we don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood anyway—END OF DISCUSSION).

We also visited Toys Unique, a family-owned biz operating in Dallas for decades. My nap-deprived 3-year-old forced me to do a one-eighty almost as soon as we walked in the door, but in the 60 seconds we spent in the shop, a clerk had already offered assistance, and, in one glance, I noticed oodles of stuffed animals, plushie puppets, and play costumes such as tot-sized mermaid tails and fireman uniforms.

My personal favorite of the toy shops is Froggies 5 and 10. The Knox Avenue place is small enough that I can sweep the jam-packed stock in under 20 minutes. Every December I show my list of kids to a staffer who then geeks out, showing me the latest board games, cutest baby dolls, or picks from a floor-to-ceiling display of novelty goods (see above image of creepy finger hands). I would have never noticed the rocket balloons on my own, but a clerk convinced me to get a pack a couple years ago, and it turned out to be the best, most obnoxious, hilarious Christmas Eve moment when my extended fam sat around the living room and let go of 15 squealing, whipping balloons at once. I always leave with several bags and a completely crossed-off list.

A few other fantastic shops to visit for holiday gifts:

Little Bean, the cozy room nestled inside the Lovers Lane shop Madre, currently carries polos with embroidered designs such as tigers and trucks, and they can even add a name or monogram to it. For girls, there’s an array of precious floral dresses designed in-house and cute GAIA kitty purses subtly embellished with sequins and pom-poms. The carefully-curated selection of toys includes organic cotton Hazel Village animals and pretty play teepees cute enough to sit in the living room for days at a time.

Baby Bliss/MiniMe are side-by-side shops, one mostly stuffed with baby gear, the other filled with children’s clothing, both speckled with displays of giftable items. Wheely Bug ride-on toys are a huge hit, and my number one pick for girl-gifts is a unicorn horn headband made by Brooklyn Owl. 

A display of off-beat toys at TenOverSix.
A display of off-beat toys at TenOverSix.

Life of Riley has a kids’ area tucked in the back of the store with a display of Fiona Walker felt animal heads, Janod walkers, a slew of Vilac toys, and one of my favorite unique finds, hand-carved wooden race cars sourced from an artisan in Argentina.

TenOverSix—the Joule’s uber-cool shop staffed by fashionable types who can totally rock baby bangs—has a small but awesome pocket of unusual kid things: Donna Wilson’s funky stuffed animals, multi-colored canvas shoes from Rivieras, and a Dear Dana onesie imprinted with an illo of Dolly Parton.

 

 

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