Probably everyone reading this blog has a fond memory of a special toy from their childhood. I certainly do. I was particularly fond of toy cars and trucks but my dearest toys were any that involved constructing something. I remember being fascinated by building things with an erector set. However, toys have changed a lot since I was a child.
As an adult, I rarely see any toys that even vaguely remind me of my childhood. But all that changed a couple of years ago when I walked into a new store on the square in Georgetown, Texas, called All Things Kids. I had a hard time leaving the store without buying everything. Their toys are beautifully crafted and designed to engage a child’s imagination. And yes, they have a huge selection of erector sets and numerous other toys that involve constructing something. I fell in love instantly.
I also enjoyed getting acquainted with owners Christian and Karen Soeffker and their son Carl. (In case you’re wondering, they do carry all of the Cardboard Box Adventures books—yet another reason to enjoy this store!) Since my initial meeting with the Soeffker’s they’ve opened a second All Things Kids location in Austin at the Domain and plan to open a third location soon in Lakeway. It looks like I’m not the only one that’s fallen in love with their store.
All Things Kids is too good of a place to keep to myself so I wanted to take the time to introduce you to Christian, Karen, and Carl and to show you why I think All Things Kids is probably the best toy store for kids and their parents today. So to kick things off Christian and Karen have kindly agreed to answer a few questions for this blog
How did All Things Kids get its start?
When we relocated to the US 8 years ago, we had a 1-year-old son who was ready to learn and play. As first-time parents, we were shocked at the quality of toys out there—mass produced, whirring, battery-driven, noisy plastic toys that play with children instead of the other way around. We quickly called relatives in Europe to send us real, educational, and beautiful wooden toys for our son. He loved them, we loved them, and so did our friends who asked if we could order some for their children. Within 2 short years, our house had turned into a toy warehouse and we were selling European toys online. Now we have 2 brick and mortar stores and we are franchising our concept so that we can have All Things Kids stores throughout the US.
How do you go about selecting the toys you will carry in your store?
Our unique collection of exceptional toys and books are selected for their quality and use of natural materials as well as educational and play value. As parents, we have set high standards for our son’s personal toy and book collection – we have hand-picked our lines accordingly and are particularly impressed by toys and books that have been endorsed by awards and organizations such as Caldecott, Newbery Medal, Parent’s Choice, Oppenheim and Mensa.
We always stay true to our concept motto, which is painted on the wall of our Domain store:
“The most effective kind of education is that
a child should play amongst lovely things”
Do you test them out first? (And how fun is that!)
Absolutely! Our now 9-year-old son has carried the title “Vice President of Product Testing” for the past 7 years. He knows each toy, has played with them, shares them with his friends for research purposes and even has a video blog called Carl’s Corner where he talks about some of his favorite toys.
In addition to this, everybody who comes into our store is a product tester too. Our toys and games are all available to play with in the Play Zone, where parents can see which toys their children like playing with or simply enjoy an afternoon of games and giggles.
Do you have a favorite toy?
We each have our own favorite toy but the one toy that is most significant and memorable to all three of us is the wooden fire truck from Fagus of Germany. This was the very first wooden toy sent from Grandmother in Germany for our 1 year old, it symbolizes how our story began and at the same time represents our mission statement to provide only the best toys from around the world.
What other activities do you offer for kids?
Our Playzone has turned into a busy activity hub! During the week we offer story time twice a week, art activities for toddlers as well as structured classes for Pre-K children such as Music, Sign Language, and even foreign languages such as Hindi Play Group on Saturdays.
We also have a 12 week summer class schedule every year, birthday parties on weekends and magic shows and face painters during events. Our most popular event though is Parent’s Time Out—every Saturday we team up with NannyPoppinz of Austin who provide us with trained and certified childcare providers to help us with babysitting. Parents can leave their kids with us for a few hours so that they can enjoy a date night or a movie. This service is available every Saturday night from 6 – 10pm for $5 per hour (potty trained children only).
The All Things Kids website has a great calendar that shows everything that’s going on at both locations.
All Things Kids ~ Exceptional Toys, Books & Events
Small Business Of The Year 2012 (Georgetown Chamber Of Commerce)
Best Texas Downtown Business 2013 (Texas Downtown Association)
On The Square, Georgetown, Texas
At The Domain, Austin, Texas
And just so I won’t feel left out, here are a few of the toys I would have LOVED to play with when I was a kid.