Sunday, November 05 2017 10:27

Celebrate Neighborhood Toy Store Day with ASTRA's 2017 "Best Toys for Kids!"

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ASTRA Neighborhood Toy Store Day 2017

Neighborhood Toy Store Day is Saturday, November 11, 2017, and for the second year, The Rock Father™ has teamed-up with ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailer Association) to help spread the word as we officially kick-off the holiday shopping season!

I've said it before, but in the age of the online retail and the big box, toy stores are more important than ever, and your independent neighborhood toy store is a place where families can get personalized customer service and go hands-on with many of the season's hottest holiday toys. Many store owners have even earned the ASTRA Certified Play Expert (CPE) designation after completing a rigorous training program that teaches the science behind the power of play in relation to a child's development stages and learning styles. Additionally, the Play Experts at ASTRA have named their picks for the 2017 Best Toys for Kids - and these are toys that might be a little off-the-radar of the mainstream, but absolutely worth checking out at a participating retailer near you! 

Neighborhood Toy Store Day 2017

The 2017 Best Toys for Kids Winners are:ASTRA 2017 Best Toys for Kids

  • ACTIVE PLAY Laser X 2-Pack (NSI)
  • BOTS Smart Bot Robot (Playvision)
  • CHOOSE YOUR OWN CATEGORY Zipes Speed Pipes Performance Pack (Neat-Oh! International)
  • CLASSIC 0-7 YEARS Topanifarm (Djeco)
  • CLASSIC PLAY 8+ YEARS Doink it Darts (Marky Sparky) 
  • CONSTRUCTIVE PLAY Geomatrix (California Creations)
  • CONSTRUCTIVE PLAY Remote-Control Machines: Construction Vehicles (Thames & Kosmos)
  • CREATIVE ARTS PLAY 7+ YEARS Linkt Crafts Kits Bubble Loops (Neat-Oh! International)
  • CREATIVE PLAY UNDER 7 YEARS The Ultimate Brick Maker (Relevant Play)
  • DOLL PLAY Rahel from Ethiopia (Hearts for Hearts Girls)
  • EARLY PLAY SmartMax My First Safari Animals (Smart Toys and Games, Inc.)
  • GAME PLAY 2-5 YEARS Cha-Cha Chihuahua (Gamewright)
  • GAME PLAY 5-8 YEARS Go Go Gelato! (Blue Orange Games)
  • GAME PLAY 8+ YEARS Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games)
  • LOGIC SKILLS Roller Coaster Challenge (ThinkFun)
  • PRETEND - ROLE/FANTASY PLAY My Magical Sound & Lights Unicorn (Gund)
  • SCIENTIFIC PLAY Snap Circuits STEM (Elenco)

As retailers celebrate the launch of the holiday season, they'll be having special events (varied by store) that may include character appearances, giveaways, contests, special play sessions, sale pricing and more. Many neighborhood toy stores also offer wish list pulls, gift wrapping and personalized assistance to help families get the best out of their play!

The Rock Daughters at Learning Express

Pictured: The Rock Daughters™ at Learning Express 

Being in the Chicagoland area, I always like to shout-out a few great toy stores that come to mind here in the North 'Burbs -Snickelfritz in Vernon Hills, Beanstalk in Highland Park and Learning Express in Lake Zurich. In the City proper, Building Blocks Toys has two locations, with a ton of fun at each!

This Saturday, November 11, 2017, be sure to visit your local independent toy store for Neighborhood Toy Store Day 2017. And don't let the fun stop there! Shop your neighborhood toy store throughout the holiday season and year-round for a carefully curated assortment of some of the best, award-winning toys around! Learn more and find a store at ASTRA.org!

Extra thanks to ASTRA not only for sponsoring this post, but also for sending over an assortment of this year's "Best Toys for Kids." These toys will be donated to local families in need as part of my annual #RockFatherSanta Holiday Toy Delivery Program, now in its fourth year.

James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, has contributed to The Toy Book and writes a regular Star Wars column - Transmissions from a Galaxy Far, Far Away for The Pop Insider. He also regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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