Holiday Toy Roundup 2018

The gift-giving holidays are looming, and in addition to the pressures of finding the right balance between too many gifts and just enough, the right gifts for the right people, and the financial aspect, it can be a stressful time! Most families turn to online retailers and big box stores. If that’s the way it works best, then that’s the way it must be. There is a budget to adhere to, after all. But, when considering the amount of fossil fuels used and waste we incur with all the cardboard, bubble wrap, and plastic air pouches, things may be less expensive, but the price doesn’t reflect the actual cost. There is a way to get everyone on the shopping list taken care of, use less fossil fuels getting gifts, create less waste, and support local business. Don’t forget, when buying local, no one can steal that package from the doorstep; package thieves make their bread and butter around the holidays. This year, consider a handmade and local only gift policy!
While it may seem so much easier to just order or just go to a mega store, it’s wonderful to familiarize oneself with the local businesses that make the community rich and vibrant. When buying local and independent, instead of lining a billionaire’s already bursting pockets, every dollar instead goes directly towards the hard-working business owners in our own cities. In recent years, there has been a movement to counteract the rampant consumerism of Black Friday with another shopping event, “Small Business Saturday,” which is held the Saturday after Black Friday. American Express customers can also find and receive rewards by shopping local and independent for the holidays.
It’s hard to know sometimes what stores are truly independent, and not just made to look like they are, and if one always shops online, one may not even know what is offered locally. Everything from clothing and toys to books, experiences, and jewelry can be found locally in most cities in the Bay Area. Websites such as Independent We Stand can help users find what is local to them, and even Etsy has a feature to order from local-to-you crafters, with a pickup option instead of shipping.  The Small Business Saturday organization also has resources to find what is available nearby, on Facebook or
Here are just a few favorite local retailers to get started with:

Toy Go Round — Albany
Toy go round has new and consigned toys for all ages. Books, puzzles, games, ride-on toys, magic tricks, everything for babies to big kids. It’s been on Solano Avenue for what seems like forever, and is well-loved by the community.
Toy Go Round, 1361 Solano Ave., Albany. 510-527-1363, found online at its Facebook page.

Trips for Kids Re-Cyclery
— San Rafael
This bike store is an amazing community resource. Bring in an old, outgrown bike and upgrade to a pre-owned and refurbished bike, meanwhile supporting the mission at the Re-Cyclery to provide more than fifty percent of all funding for local underserved youth programs. A donation to the shop is tax deductible, and the staff have cleaned, repaired, and upgraded all the used bikes for new riders. It’s great for the environment and the community.
Trips for Kids Marin, 610 4th St., San Rafael. 415-458-2916,
Ruby’s Garden — Oakland
Located in trendy Temescal, Ruby’s garden is technically a used kids’ clothing store; however it focuses on stocking the store with clothing and other kid items made by local designers and artists. This is the place to go to get a onesie or tee that can’t be found anywhere else.
Ruby’s Garden, 5026 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 510-595-5325,

Howard’s Shoes for Children — Palo Alto, Cupertino
 A bit south of the heart of the Bay Area, Howard’s is worth a drive. It has been in business in the Bay Area since 1962, offering quality kids’ shoes and expert service. While the shoes are not independently produced, or locally sourced, the store only carries the brands it stands by, the best in quality and fit.
Howard’s Shoes for Children at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto or Main St. Shopping Center in Cupertino. 650-325-9300,

Mapamundi Kids — San Francisco
 Mapamundi Kids is a unique place! From its own webpage, “We are designers, makers, shopkeepers, neighbors, citizens of the world and most importantly parents. We bring many years of experience working inside the children’s clothing and toy industries and use our discerning eye to craft a distinctive assortment of toys, clothing, books & homewares. We roam around the world to put together a curated collection of design-driven products.” And it’s true, the items, clothes, toys, etc., are unique and also sustainable and fair trade whenever possible.
Mapamundi Kids, 1306 Castro St., San Francisco. 415-641-6192,

Sweet Dreams
— Orinda, Berkeley
The Berkeley (Elmwood) location has two stores on the same street. One is for toys, the other, an emporium of novelty items, candy, socks, and clothes and accessories for adults. The Orinda store, however, is just the coolest toy store ever, and everyone working there seems to really enjoy themselves! The store carries the good brands parents know and trust, like Haba, Melissa & Doug, Playmobil, Bryer, and have floor to ceiling displays of toys not found at big box stores. From babies to tweens, this is a great place for toys!
Sweet Dreams, 2 Orinda Theatre Square #107, Orinda. 925-254-6672,

Multicultural Children’s Bookstore — Richmond
This new bookstore located in the Hilltop Mall is a treasure. It’s specifically dedicated to books about diverse characters and topics not easily found in run-of-the-mill stores. From its web page; “Discover the world of multicultural children’s books under one roof. We have selections for Babies to Young Adults including Board, Picture and Chapter books.
“You will find books for these cultures: African-American, Latino, Native American Asian/South Asian, Middle Eastern and Filipino. We also feature sections on LGBTQ, Disability and Biracial families.” It will special order books it doesn’t carry, and every weekend it has a story time, and all are welcome! It offers an educator’s discount, and hosts frequent “Meet The Author” events, and many of the authors are also local!
Multicultural Children’s Bookstore, 2325 Hilltop Mall Rd., Richmond. 510-322-4781,

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29 Nov 2018

By Haley Reen