- Location: Evanston, IL
- Website: toysetcetera.com
(This is Post #2 from Kris, one of the finalists vying for a blogging position at the upcoming AT:The Nursery. Comment away.)
If you are looking for aisles of Bratz merchandise and aggressively marketed movie tie-in action figures, Toys Et Cetera isn't the place. But if you are a parent searching for toys that are both fun and educational, this might be the store for you.
While Toys Et Cetera has 3 locations in Chicago, it is their Evanston store that I visit most often. Located less than a block west of both the Metra and Purple Line Main Street train stations, this independent toy store, with its shelves full of toys stacked from the floor to the classic Chicago pressed-tin ceiling, is a child's delight.
In a store designed for little people, it is the little touches that make it great, like comfortable child-height seating in their (excellent) book department, and felt ceiling banners that use simple graphics rather than words to indicate different sections of the store.
Best of all, instead of dividing their stock by gender, Toys Et Cetera groups toys by themes like 'art supplies' and 'science activities', letting children find the toys they are interested in, rather than steering them towards gender specific expectations. As a former little girl, and soon to be parent of one, it is wonderfully freeing to be in a store that doesn't reinforce the notion that some toys are only for girls, and others are just for boys.
I am sure that child development theorists and educational specialists would drool over the incredible selection of open-ended play options that Toys Et Cetera carries – things like Beka blocks and this incredible doorway puppet theatre.
But as a prospective parent, this store reminds me that the best toys – the ones that are the most fun, the most engaging, and the most memorable - are not usually the ones that require batteries or carry a movie logo on them. Instead, they are the toys that foster our creativity and imagination.