(clockwise from lower left) Sabuda pop-up book, Gund soft unicorn, Magic Sequins, Roll-Up Rainbow Piano, Linkt Bonding Bracelets, Talking Microscope, Go Go Gelato!, Yoee Baby, and Madame Alexander Little Love Twins. Photos by Frank Schweikhardt


At The Toy Chest

Hilary Key was working on a Ph.D. in neuroscience when she decided what she really wanted to do was own a toy store. The connection is surprisingly logical, she claims. “Science is discovery and creative thinking. You learn to ask questions—and that’s what play is.”

In 2014 Key bought The Toy Chest, at 125 S. Van Buren St. in Nashville, Indiana, then opened a second store in College Mall.

For the holidays, Key offers these gift ideas:

For babies and toddlers: Topanifarm block set with animals, $21.99. Start-up Circuits earliest engineering, $19.99. Yoee Baby sensory toy, $25.99.

Pretend: Wow Toys friction vehicles and bath toys, $13.99 to $46.99. Madame Alexander playable dolls, $29.99 to $55.99. Peppy Pups walk and run when pulled, $34.99.

Crafts: Linkt quality children’s jewelry kit, $19.99. PlayMais natural craft material, $5.99 to $15.99.

Games: Slapzi fast picture game, $19.99. Go Go Gelato!, race to arrange scoops, $19.99. Think n’ Sync, think fast and match your partner, $9.99.

Science toys: Talking Microscope 60 slides, over 100 facts, quiz mode, $45.99. Young Survivor Science Lab purifying water, fire without matches, and more, $19.99.

For big kids: Laser X two player, arcade-style laser tag, $59.99. Doinkit Darts safer magnetic format protects people and walls, $31.99. Roll-Up Rainbow Piano portable, flexible keyboard, (also available as a drum set), $59.99.

Hot items: Slow-rise Squishies foam play shapes $8.99 to $17.99. Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty with special features (heat or UV sensitive, glow in the dark, magnetic), $11.99 to $16.99. Magic Sequins items reveal different colors or images when brushed, $9.99 to $25.99.

Trends include slime kits, hats, plush toys, tea sets, games, and headbands featuring narwhals, unicorns, or dragons. “And after this season of America’s Got Talent,” Key notes, in which a young girl was a ventriloquist, “puppets are more popular than ever.”

(clockwise from top left) Isobella & Chloe red velvet and ruffled taffeta dress, Jellycat soft reindeer with matching book, Wubba Nub pacifier, Janod wooden toy, and Old Soles gold ballet slippers.

At O’Child Children’s Boutique

O’Child Children’s Boutique, on the south side of the downtown Square at 101 W. Kirkwood, features upscale clothing, toys, and books sourced from manufacturers in the United States and around the world. When mother-of-two Hyun Kwon heard the Fountain Square Mall store was closing last year, the former customer became the new owner, and reopened the business in June.

For the holidays, Kwon recommends the following gifts for the children you love:

Babies: Wubba Nub pacifiers with attached wintry stuffed animals (polar bear, penguin, or reindeer), $16.95. Finger Puppet Books interactive board books (Snow Baby, Little Snowman, Baby Reindeer), $6.99.

Toddlers and up: Jellycat super-soft stuffed animals from the United Kingdom with matching tactile books. Animals, $15 to $60. Books (If I Were a Reindeer, Magical Unicorn Dreams, Polar Bear), $12.50 to $15.

Girls, ages 3-12: CHARM IT! fanciful charms, $6; necklaces or bracelets, $6 to $16.

Stocking stuffers, ages 5–12: Plus-Plus soft interlocking blocks from Denmark, $6.99. Janod wooden toys from France. Magnetic animals and vehicles, $19.99. Puzzles, $5 to $20.

Holiday outfits: Tea Collection from California, sizes infant–12. Scottish-theme for boys Duncan red plaid shirt, $39.50, and lined green pants, $45.50; girls Caledonian Forest print sashed dress, $59.50 to 69.50. Isobella & Chloe, sizes infant–10. Red velvet and ruffled taffeta dress, $48 to $56. Mayoral striped sweater for boys, from Spain, sizes 4 and up, $35; with 3 Pommes jeans from France, sizes 4–12, $33.

Shoes: Freshly Picked handmade in the U.S.A. moccasins, sizes 0–4. Seventeen styles in natural leather, metallics, and patterns, $45 to $60. Mini Melissa from Brazil, sizes 5–10 scented shoes, $55 to $63. See Kai Run, sizes 4–Y3, made in the U.S.A. Seven styles of sneakers for boys, six styles for girls, $45 to $54. Old Soles from Australia, sizes infants–Y3. Nine styles for girls and boys, from patent leather Mary Janes to loafers.