Shop local!

Welcome, parents, to our annual Toy Issue, our official holiday gift guide, our map to all the things, sorted by age from baby to tween.

This year, we’ve got quite a crop of gift ideas for you, a whopping 49 toys, 12 games and 6 stocking stuffers, all tested and approved by kids, parents and even a few grandparents — as part of our 10th-annual Toy Test.

As we do every year, we hit up local and national toy stores. But this year, when it came time to talk to local toy vendors, we were even more aggressive than usual.

Earlier this year — when all seven of the Creative Kidstuff stores closed — we worried it was the beginning of the end of local toy shopping. But as we talked to toy store owners, we learned that quite the opposite is true: Our metro area has dramatically rebounded in a matter of months with three new Legacy Toys stores, plus new stores in Wayzata (The Owl and the Octopus) and Minneapolis (Pinwheels and Play Toys).

And that’s not counting all the other established stores — see our list — that are going strong. We asked our local stores for their best ideas, their ultimate advice and, most important, their toy samples. And boy did they deliver: We tested a record-breaking 150 toys this year! 

So I want to encourage you to visit a local store this year for holiday shopping. I know it can be tempting to take our amazing (ahem) guide and use it as an online shopping list. 

But don’t do that. You’ll miss out on all the incredible expertise the staff at your neighborhood toy stores can provide. At local stores, you can ask questions face to face and try store floor models and hands-on samples, including ride-ons, textural toys and games, too. You can even bring the kids and see how they react.

After all, our toy guide includes just a sampling of what’s available. Local store owners know their stuff and they care about kids.

“We love what we do,” said Legacy Toys’ co-founder/co-owner Brad Ruoho, who is opening an enormous store at the MOA this month. “It’s where our heart is at. We want kids to socially interact with each other.”

Neighborhood Toy Store Day is Saturday, Nov. 9 and many stores are featuring activities for families and special deals. So get out there. 

And, don’t forget to watch for coverage of our toy test on KARE 11 TV, which hosted — and filmed — our toy test this year. (Thank you, KARE 11.) Watch for stories between 6–7 a.m. Nov. 4–12 on KARE 11 Sunrise to see interviews with parents and kids and some of the testing action, too.

Happy shopping!