Not just a store for teachers
By BETH ALTENA
Jim Pytlik, owner of Let’s Play at 3170 Plainfield Avenue hopes people realize that his specialty educational toy store is not just for teachers. “The toys in the store here have developmental benefit, children are developing cognative skills while they play,” he explained. Pytlik said he understands the mentality of the mass merchandizing of black Friday and frenzied shopping prior to the holidays, but he believes the types of products he offers provide a different kind of value.
“I purposefully don’t carry anything that is mass merchandized,” he said., warning that the images so popular on screens across America won’t be poppingup on his shelves. The toys in the store are carefully selected to be non-violent, non-harmful in nature and are not the Gameboy or Playstation electronics variety “There are kits here where kids can make circuit boards, but we don’t carry electronic games. The idea is to get kids into really creative play, unplug it or put down the remote.”
At Let’s Learn, hands-on supplies and games all offer an educational benefit and kids might not even realize they are learning as they are having fun. From making art, to building things or up and at ‘em physical fun, the games also generate brain power.
“These aren’t the kind of toys they play with for ten minutes and they are done.” He said most are designed to have levels of increased learning as children continue to play with them. “We call it disguised learning, because they don’t even realize they are learning as they play,” he said.
A walk through the store shows the wide variety of educational toys, kits and tools available for old-fashioned wholesome learning away from the screen, whether it be a hand-held devise, a television or a computer screen.
Skeletons in the Closet is a skeletal system building game, and a 500-piece map of the United States can educate kids on state location and learning about their country. Kits allow kids to create a tiny hurricane, and a greater understanding of some of the strongest forces in the natural world.
The store carries a variety of kid-friendly furniture, from art tables, easels, craft and activity centers. Hot this year is the game Catch a Falling Star, and others include magnetic building kits, Doodle Dice, and the Sturdy Birdy balancing game—all offer educational learning hidden in real play.
Some are clearly educational, from Frog Pond Fractions, Mathological Liar, Time Flies, Count Me In, and even include social skills games, such as the Social Skills Board Game where youngsters can contemplate “how others feel,” “acting out,” “manners,” “emotions” and “what makes a good friend.” Also available are costumes, peel and press stickers, small world creative foam with kits for sealife, safari and tiny creatures. Choices among different age levels and interests are practically endless.
Nature games and products include kits to hatch out and eventually set free a live butterfly, or if you are a braver parent, a praying mantis. Learn about caterpillars, their food, or go out and find your own with a Pop Up Porta Bug container (let them go when the collecting is done).
Pytlik said much of the store’s business is teacher supplies, and parent purchases may not differ as much as you might imagine from those used in classroom learning. “These toys are all parent friendly, you don’t have to be a teacher to help kids learn to play.” He believes the benefits of providing a child with active, dynamic play outweighs the option of providing a toy where the main activity is pushing a button.
“Our theme is specialty toys for smart girls and boys,” he explained. He said the wares to be found in his shop aren’t for a parent who just wants to buy as much low-priced stuff as possible to make a big impression, but rather to offer well-created, well-designed toys that let kids learn while they have fun. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.