Saturday, April 7, 2012

Splash Toy Shop offers something special for everyone

In a world awash with big box toy store, it's refreshing to find a smaller version in your own neighbourhood.

Splash Toy Shop was a joyful part of my kids' growing years.

I can remember my daughter and son never ever walking to the front door. Instead, they tried their best to outrun one another as though it was a contest worthy of their most admirable effort.

Once inside, my daughter naturally gravitated towards the crafty kits, envisioning what she could make beyond what's suggested on the colourful glossy packages. Her ability to think "outside the box" made me think that toy companies should hire imaginative children on their design team, but that's a whole other story.

My son, on the other hand, walked past the imposing train set, past gleaming swords and shields, past boxes of crayons and paints, past plush bunnies and dogs, all the way to the back of the room. There, he would stand mesmerized in front of a rack that displayed an array of inexpensive items.

One day, an uncle visiting from abroad took him to Splash Toy Shop and offered to buy him anything he wanted.

"I can have anything I want?" asked my seven year old.

"Anything you want," uncle said with a wink.

"How about two, can I have two?" pressed my son.

Uncle paused a moment, probably trying to figure out how much money he had in his wallet, "Well, OK, you can have two."

My son was jubilant. He dashed all the way to the back of the store, the shiny and colourful displays blurring past him.

So he stood in front of his favourite rack, strained with great indecision as he weighed his options with gravity. He tentatively picked something out, hesitated a moment, and carefully put it back. Again and again.

After an agonizingly long time, he went back to his uncle and announced that he had made his decisions and brought his hands from behind his back.

Uncle held his breath.

"What?" uncle said. "A deck of playing cards and a set of dice? Are you sure?"

"Yep," my son said, his eyes aglow with pleasure. He skipped all the way home and spent the next few weeks lost in endless games that he had learned or invented in his own head. To this day, he still has his deck of cards and set of dice. Okay, he has since graduated to more "normal" toys and, as we speak, is an avid 20-year old gamer.

But for many years, Splash Toy Shop was my children's destination of choice and we came to depend on it for our party, picnic, and celebratatory needs.

Now, I smile when I see neighbourhood kids peering into their windows, fingering sales items that crowd around the front doors, and yes - racing and pushing each other to cross the threshold first.

You can't say that about the big box toy stores, can you?


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