Is it just me or does online shopping suck some of the joy out of Christmas shopping? I remember with great fondness pressing my nose up against the window of my local toyshop as a child and clapping my eyes on a tin of marbles and dreaming of it ending up in my stocking. Independent toyshops are a great way to sidestep the online behemoths that monopolise our gifts at this time of year. And, with many advocating plastic-free toys, you can make ethical as well as imaginative choices for your children. Here’s where to find Britain’s best toys:
My small world, Bath
Newly located in Bath’s Southgate shopping area, this sumptuous shop will soon have you yearning for your childhood years. Everything in the shop is impeccably designed, from the dolls to the aeroplanes suspended from the ceiling. Whether it’s stocking fillers, books or board games you are looking for, I defy even the most disciplined amongst you to walk out of this place empty handed. Order online or visit in store.
Crocodile Toys, Cirencester
Crocodile is a small family run and very specialised Independent traditional toy shop, that has always been associated with quality and purpose for in excess of 30 years. Only stocking sustainable, plastic-free toys, this is a great option for the budding eco warrior in your life.
Tails from the Woods Wimborne, Dorset
This tiny gem of a toyshop lies well and truly off the beaten track in the market town of Wimborne Minster on the south coast. It doesn’t have a website so you have to visit in person but those who seek it out will be richly rewarded with a treasure trove of wooden toys – from pirate ships and dolls houses to wooden play food and ride-on cars. I furnished my children with an animal name-plate each for their bedroom doors, complete with hand-decorated letters. They went down a storm last Christmas. For a small shop, it certainly packs a punch.
Daisy Daisy, Brighton
Brighton is a haven for lovers of independent shops and this toyshop is no exception. With a basement dedicated to dressing up costumes, this is the place to go for little would-be thespians. Daisy Daisy also stocks a wide range of puppets, soft toys and brio.
Little Burford, Oxfordshire
Quite possibly the cream of the crop, this self-styled ‘children’s emporium’ sits on the edge of the picturesque Cotwolds town of Burford. It puts a playful twist on traditional toys – from ride-on unicorns to colourful indoor teepees. Round your trip off with lunch in the adjoining cafe, peruse the plants in the up-market garden centre and treat your little ones to a film in the children’s cinema.
The Rocking Horse Country Toy Shop Barton, Cambridge
Unique, hand-picked toys fill the shelves of this converted barn shop and the only problem you’ll have is choosing which one to take home. From little wheelbarrows to children’s cutlery, come here for gifts with a practical, exploratory edge. Children can enjoy the outdoor play meadow while you shop, which boasts a wooden pirate ship.
Sylvanian families shop Highbury
I used to live just down the road from this shop and its contents always intrigued me. When I questioned whether there was enough of a customer base to sustain a shop devoted entirely to Sylvanian families, I was quickly taken to task by my neighbours – apparently fans flock from far and wide to view the stock, which includes rare collectors’ items as well as the newest releases.
No toyshop roundup would be complete with mentioning Regent’s Street’s finest. Take afternoon tea in the cafe at the top, visit the Santa’s grotto and then work your way down the themed floors – from construction through to flying gadgets. For your little ones, it’s a day out in and of itself.
If you can’t make it to an independent toyshop in person then there are still ways of sidestepping the usual outlets when shopping online.
Melissa & Doug
These Australian toymakers are a hit with parents across the globe and it’s not hard to see why. They have a knack for making toys that children cannot put down, selling everything from high-quality dressing up costumes to wooden puzzles and stamp sets.
If it’s traditional wooden toys you’re after then look no further than Mulberry Bush for your Christmas gifts. They stock high-quality lasting toys that will remind you of childhoods past.
From bedroom prints to reading lamps, notonthehighstreet has rapidly become the go-to place for personalised gifts. It’s on the pricey side but still a great option for givers who want to go the extra mile.