Cheap Momma’s Guide to Parenting
Entry 5: Toys & Who?
By : Liz Eagle
Apparently there is something strange, still in existence here in the Queen City. In my mind, they had long been eradicated, thanks to the likes of big business and low prices. But about a year ago, I happened upon one of the most cheerful settings in our city: Toys & Co.
This almost-37-year-old company has locations in Greensboro, Myrtle Beach, and Charlotte. Two locations here, actually, in Park Road Shopping Center and in Cotswold. No matter which lively location you choose, you are in for an amazingly fabulous and amazingly free adventure.
You walk in the door, which is generally adorned with balloons and chalk boards, and are surrounded by kid-sized kitchens, kites, moving trains, doll houses, and, hell, even some pogo sticks. I guess the best way to describe it is Macy’s in Miracle on 34th Street: only this junk goes on year-round.
The best thing about these toys? They are not in boxes. That’s right, cheap parents, you heard me. These. Toys. Are. Out. Of. Boxes. They’re for any grubby little hands to smear boogers, man-handle, or attempt to smuggle in mommy’s purse. And I don’t mean your garden variety Discount Dollar Store toys, either. These are top-of-the-line, intricate, kids-wearing-smocked-jumpers toys.
The colors are vibrant. The scents are vivid. The sounds are nostalgic. It’s perfect. Well, perfect if you like to be in an overstimulating environment, full of toys whose baseline price is $25. But that’s beside the point. What IS the point is that this is like a hands-on museum that requires no admissions fee.
I feel like I could do a great black-and-white-turned-color infomercial for this place: “Are you tired of your kids destroying your house? Are your kids equally tired of their worn down and overused toy selection? Are you looking for a solution for both of your existential crises?”-color quickly fades in as setting changes-“ Then head on down to Toys & Co, where the toys are fresh, and your kids can destroy anything they like, free of charge. And the best part? You don’t have to lift a finger.”-Cut to woman giving thumbs up.
Did I sell ya on it? I’m looking for a new career in marketing, ya know.
Well, this concept sold me. It’s like preschool center stations. You’ve got housekeeping, art, dolls, transportation, scooters and others to rotate in and out of. Even as I share this, I feel mildly guilty for not only admitting I have never spent a penny in this amazing establishment, but also for kind of encouraging you to do the same. So, I’m not telling you not to financially support their business, I’m just telling you that you don’t have to. Trust me. They’ve got enough high-dollar-momma’s dropping loads of dough so their nannies can keep their kids entertained while they go on lunch dates. So, it’s your call to make. I’m just saying I’ve made my decision.
That’s not to say, though, that at almost every visit I avoid my daughter begging for a $30 bead set and my son’s adamant refusal to drop Thomas the train and come home to our Target-brand equivalent. But, somehow, each and every time, we manage to make it out alive and with the same amount of money in our pockets as when we entered.
In addition to free-range toys, there is a calendar of events that take place each week. My personal favorite, and clearly a favorite of many other parents in the city, is Mr. Nigel. Mr. Nigel is a vivacious children’s musician who weekly performs about a half-hour segment of interactive music, as kids gather in the center and parents hang out and take a breather. His deep voice and constant movement keep the kids entranced more than your garden-variety soft-spoken librarian story-teller and you can almost bet that your wandering 2-year-old will be stationary for at least this portion of the day. You are welcome.
So, for those who skim article, looking for bullet points and lists, here is your Cheap-Momma How-to navigate a perfectly free day out at Toys & Co. 1. Get dressed. Don’t lie. You’d be in pajamas till 4pm. 2. Load the car with water bottles and snacks and leave your breakdown-avoiding toys at home. You won’t be needing them this trip. 3. Head to either Park Road or Cotswold and ask your higher power of choice to help you find a parking spot. (If you can conquer this, you can hold your head high, ready for whatever else life throws at you for the day.) 4. Take a deep breath, like the ones you take when diving off a high dive, and enter. 5. Behold the majesty, and let go of the kids. 6. Let those little balls of energy walk, run, and jump all the way to their toy department of choice. 7. Hope to goodness Mr. Nigel is there so you have a free babysitter of sorts while you sip on the coffee (with or without whiskey- your choice) that you attempted to finish 3 hours prior. 8. Let your kids play until naptime. 9. Give them the classic “No, sweetie, we can’t take any of these toys home; they live here” speech and head towards the door. 10. Hope to goodness they transition into sound sleep on the ride home.
So there you have it. Another free outing that keep both you and the sprouts entertained. For a few hours, anyway. Stay tuned: you never know where the cheapness will lead us.