Go online to shop for toys, and you can visit a lot of stores without being on your feet for hours, an advantage that grandparents can appreciate. You'll enjoy the experience more if you sometimes leave the online big-box retailers and venture into smaller sites. Here are some to check out. Each began with a specific vision, and each has its own market niche. It's a different experience to shop for toys at these online sites.
On Oompa's website founder Milanie Cleere discusses searching for toys that are sturdy and brand-free. Her search took her to Europe, the source of most of this website's offerings. Oompa's website promises "No batteries. No blinking lights. No cartoon-themed toys. Period." The site has good search-narrowing features. Look for whimsical stuffed animals, unique dolls by Kathe Kruse and beautiful wooden puzzles. Oompa offers free shipping for purchases of $99 or more.
As its name suggests, Fat Brain Toys excels in the area of educational toys. According to the website, you won't find "licensed, violent, cheaply made toys." You can click on a link for American-made toys. You can find toys that are suited for a special needs grandchild. You can shop by category or age or use the Gift Bot to help you make a selection. Fat Brain Toys offers $3.99 shipping and same-day service, in most cases.
Look for Squigz building toys with suction construction, light-up balls for play in the dark and retro toys like Tonka trucks.
Educational Toys Planet was created to address the "gap between what big corporations were offering and what we were looking for as parents and educators," according to the website.
It doesn't have the nifty search-refining tools of Oompa, but it does offer a number of ways to search and a "Made in the USA" option. Scroll down to see user reviews for a particular toy; they're easy to overlook. You'll also enjoy browsing this site's "Top Ten" lists. Orders over $75 ship free. Find Archiquest building systems, marble runs by Quercetti and lots of choices from Alex Toys.
One Step Ahead is a website with a difference. Its personnel is actively engaged in testing toys and sells only those that pass the tests. As a result, it offers a smaller but still interesting selection. The company has also begun designing its own products. One Step Ahead has clothes and kid gear as well as toys. It doesn't very many ways to narrow searches, so be prepared to spend some time on the site. Look for colorful mats, water toys and lots of items for outdoor play.
Since 1983 Hearthsong has been selling quality toys for wholesome play. The site features a number of search and filter features and also offers live chat. You can filter by age, price, category or rating. Some items are Hearthsong exclusives. Look for fun swings, science kits and gardening toys, especially fairy garden accessories.
The tag line of this site is "brainy toys for kids of all ages." Beginning in 1990 as a small store in Minneapolis, MindWare was selling STEM toys before the term was invented. The site has garnered tons of awards and has even begun developing its own line of brainy toys. Lots of filters make searching easy. You can find quirky games, giant building sets and kits for assembling remote control toys.
This boutique-type website offers "sweetest gifts for baby." The selection is limited to babies and toddlers, and the toys are mixed in with clothes, room decor and the like. Still, there are many items that are absolutely adorable. Look for stuffed animals by Maileg and Moulin Roty, 3-D puzzles and grandparent-themed make-a-picture books.
Owned by Amazon, Yoyo Toys is essentially the opposite of the online toy boutiques, but it offers some advantages that smaller sites don't.
For example, shipping is always free on orders over $49, and orders are delivered in two days or less. You can apply up to seven filters using the checkboxes on the left. Still, categories like USA made and European design are very sparsely populated. Use this site for more mainstream purchases.
Supporting your local brick-and-mortar stores is a worthy endeavor, but for those times when it's impossible or inconvenient, online shopping can be a godsend for grandparents.