Toyland in Marin

February 24, 2013

Five Little Monkeys in NovatoMarin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin mom and writer Gabrielle Cullen.

Here in Marin, we mommies are fortunate to able to frequent many unique and often times independent locally owned toy stores. A place to take the kids while looking for the 20th birthday gift of the year. A place where the person behind the counter is usually the owner, a member of the owner’s family, or a longtime manager who knows everything there is to know about toys. There are usually samples out and about, great for playing, and there are items guaranteed to bring back a major sense of nostalgia. Yes, the toy store of yore—some still exist! They’ve managed to survive the arrivals of gigantic retail monsters who’ve plopped themselves down in a cool 20,000 square feet of space in a strip mall somewhere down the road. So next time you need a gift, a new addition to the household stash, or just maybe a half an hour of peace, hit up one of these super cool spots. Not only will you be supporting a local business, but the kiddos will have a blast to boot.

Starting at the northern tip of Marin, nestled in cozy downtown Novato is Five Little Monkeys and this shop means toy business. Their goal is to give the community a unique selection of toys in a safe and fun environment. From puppets and dolls to dress-up and bikes, there is something for kids of every age. Be sure to check out new arrivals like the All Season Dollhouse or the Bananagrams game. In a hurry? Five Little Monkeys has a fantastic gift wrapping service.

A Child’s Delight is an independently owned mini-chain, and still way cool. Two out of three shops are north of the Golden Gate, with stores at Northgate One in Terra Linda and Town Center in Corte Madera. Filled to the brim with old school and educational toys and a little bit of everything else, be prepared for a major melt down when trying to actually leave the premises. It ain’t gonna be easy! FYI parents: If you just don’t have the time to stop in, check out their brand new website, where shopping online can still mean buying locally.

Fairfax always has some sort of fun offering and Fairfax Variety doesn’t disappoint. It’s a shout-out to the classic five-and-dime shops that used to line Main Streets and, although the toy selection isn’t super big, there are some fun joke gifts, stamp sets, and even a variety of classic books. Many an afternoon could be spent here, following a trip to the park and the ever popular Fairfax Scoop

Toy World, which moved about two years ago to a large space on Redwood Highway is the perfect way to make an afternoon of errands seem a little extra special. Stop off at Trader Joe’s, get the car washed and then head to Toy World, where in the back of the store there's a huge mat loaded with tons of toys for testing and trying out. Family-owned with toy ranging from eco-friendly dump trucks to collectibles such as the Breyer horse line, the kiddos will want to make a return trip in no time.

Heading down south to Mill Valley Henry’s Toyshop, at 27 Miller Avenue, a family owned shop filled with toys to bring the imagination to life. With a faux fireplace next to a book-filled shelf across from the pages of stickers, kids and parents alike will want to take some time to browse. Colorful walls and floors complete the vision. Down the road is new shop ToyHouse, which is owned by a Mill Valley mom and offers toys for kids ages 0–14.

A little bit out of the way, for sure, but definitely worth checking out when heading out the door is the Discovery Store, located inside the Bay Area Discovery Museum, where, along with toys related to the current exhibits, is super cool stuff like that mysterious “bubber sand” and make-your-own-volcano kits. The best part? Members enjoy 10% off total purchases.

New Shop Alert!!! Flying Horses has just opened in the Bon Air Center in Greenbrae. They’ve got stuff out front for kids to try out and the owners are super friendly. Stop by and welcome them to the county.