Wednesday, November 2, 2011

wonder! a toy store for parents and kids alike

the first thing my kids and i thought when we walked into wonder! was..."wow!"

think about a place that has all your favorite brands of toys, clothes, strollers, diapers, cribs, nursery decor, feeding supplies, lotions and more. now picture a wide open place with plenty of room for shopping carts (adult and kid sizes alike). instead of an in-your-face razzle-dazzle type of toy store, this place invites slower movements, a feeling of exploration, thoughtfulness and ease. a lot of thought and planning went into making wonder! a different type of experience for shopping and playing. the evidence of this is everywhere you look.

if you are just starting out your family, you have an opportunity to wander from "bedroom" to "bedroom" to get a feel for the type of nursery you want to put together, with a variety of themes from which to choose. in another section, every kind of stroller you can imagine is available with a stroller "course" designed to try out the way they drive on rough ground, up and over curbs and around in circles. you can even see how easy it lifts into your vehicle with the available SUV. this SUV is available to try out the myriad car seats also.

if you already have children, you may want to visit the other side of the store. rows and rows of toys are at mostly eye level; they range from brands you usually only find at boutiques to the brands kids see on tv and at big box stores as well. a row of dollhouses of every size and shape invites small hands to play and test to make the very best choice. farther on, is a race course complete with tire bumpers so bikes, scooters, plasma cars and other wheeled wonders can be test driven and ridden.

once your kids have made their choices, you can sign them up (ages 0 to 7) to play at the "play scape" and "play room" where there are toy blocks and art supplies, as well as hills to climb and space to run.  be aware that it costs $10 per child for them to take advantage of this opportunity.  this space also has 10 "classrooms" available for classes including art, chess, cooking, dance, music, nature and zoology, as well as an open lecture space for concerts and other events.

if you are tired of the same old birthday party choices, wonder! has a customizable party space to offer unique event options that fit with a variety of interests and desires. parties include decor, activities and creative party planners.  kids can make their birthday lists at the store so parents of the party attenders really can have a "one-stop shop" (and party).

along with offering classes for children, wonder! will offer new parent and parent classes, including cpr/first aid, breastfeeding, child safety and birthing classes. parents can also take advantage of registry experts who will give them personal attention and make their registry available online for friends and family all over the world.

the founder of wonder!, shane christensen, really wanted this to be a "a destination where you could buy everything you could ever dream of for infants and young children, but at the same time make shopping actually fun for the entire family."

the kids thoroughly enjoyed their experience at wonder! i was a little concerned at how open the play space was to the shop itself. i thought for sure lilianna would spot me shopping and come running. she was so engrossed in all the activities and had so much fun, however, she didn't seem to miss me at all. in fact, even if she had spotted me, i think she would have preferred to stay where she was.

in the works is an opportunity for kids to take ipod touches around the store to make their christmas wish list. it can then be sent to grandmas and grandpas. i like this idea in theory; i feel like my kids are too prone to asking for the first thing they see, instead of making careful choices.

i do feel like, for a family at our income level (even when we were actually making income) the store as a whole is a little more "high end" than we can afford. as "basic tee-shirt," made under the wonder! brand runs for about $15. as much as we would enjoy the shopping experience at wonder!, we most likely would find ourselves back at target or somewhere similar actually to make our purchases.

i do look forward to taking advantage of some of the programming and events sponsored by wonder! today animals from the lincoln park zoo will be at the store from 4.30 to 6.30. i know my kids really enjoy events like that. wonder! is located at 250 s waukegan road in deerfield, il.

if you aren't in the area, you will want to check out their website, which should be up and running soon.  

my kids and i were invited to a sneak peek of wonder! we also received a goody bag from them. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

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