How long have you been in business? Homewood Toy and Hobby has been in business since 1950 (opened by McCain’s grandparents and later owned by her parents, as well). I have worked at the store since I was 14 and have owned the store for about 15 years. What is the best thing about being a part of the toy biz? Getting to play with toys and games and getting to know our customers. If you were stranded at the North Pole, pick the one toy you would want with you. If I were stranded at the North Pole, I would want to have a sled. What is the biggest toy phenomenon that you have experienced? The biggest toy phenomenon that I have experienced is the Beanie Baby craze. What is the best toy Santa ever surprised you with? A Madame Alexander ballerina doll. If you were transformed into a toy, what do you think you would be? I would be a remote control plane.
We asked Tricia McCain and Store Manager Julie Marix to tell us their top toy picks for this holiday season:
Baby Paper, $5.99, is a great gift for any infant, according to Marix. “It’s something that mom can throw in a diaper bag or a purse, hand it to the baby, and it’s something they can just sit there and crinkle and play with,” she said.
Klickity by Fat Brain Toys, $29.99, has a base that holds texturized balls attached to moveable rods, and it provides a sensory experience for babies. “Fat Brain Toys are one of our favorite brands,” Marix said.
Dimpl by Fat Brain Toys, $12.99-$19.99, is a single-piece toy. It comes in a six-month-old option or more complex 12-month-old and up version, and it has silicon bubbles that a baby can pop back and forth. “It’s about cause and effect, getting their hands pushing it,” Marix said, while popping it in her hand. “They will sit there and play with that as long as I am.”
Great Pretenders Colour-a-Cape, $22.99, allows growing toddlers to color their own dress-up cape. “The markers are washable, so you can do it a handful of times, wash it and color it again,” said Marix.
Gigantic Step and Play Piano by Alex Toys, $64.99, is a flat piano that is perfect for kids young and old and, like a real keyboard, offers multiple instrument sounds and a recording feature. “We saw all ages, including adults, playing on it,” Marix said. “It kind of reminds everyone of the movie ‘Big’ where they used that giant one.”
The Kidoozie Pop-Up Basketball Game, $19.99, when unfolded makes a great statement gift for toddlers. “It collapses really easily and you can just shove it under a bed or a closet when they aren’t using it, but it’s an impressive gift when it is set up,” Marix said.
Kala’s Learn-to-Play Color Chord Ukulele, $44.99, is one of Marix’s favorite instruments in the store. Designed by a Nashville-based musician, the instrument features colored arrows to direct children to the main four chords and has a compatible teaching app to download for more lessons.
Scruff-a-luvs, $25.99, a pet-rescue-themed plush is one of the hottest toys of the season. “You open it up and you don’t know what the animal is; it’s just this ugly little matted ball of fur,” Marix said. “You give it a bath and brush its hair and then, all of a sudden, it’s a cute puppy, kitty or bunny.”
Slimeball Light Claw and Glow Target, $29.99, is the newest variation on the classic darts game that you can play by yourself or with friends. “For anyone who is wondering, it is not actual slime you are throwing,” said Marix. “It’s a squishy, textured ball that is just called a slime ball.”
Warrior’s Mark Axe Throwing, $24.99, is another great darts alternative that plays off of the growing trend that Marix said, “came out of nowhere.” All-foam pieces make it safe and fun for the whole family.
Anne Williams Craft-tastic DIY Charm Bracelet Kit, $16.99, featuring emoji-style charms, is Marix’s favorite craft kit right now. “Craft kits are always big, with girls specifically; just how science kits are always a good idea for boys,” Marix said. “It’s kind of a safe bet, even if you don’t know the girl. You don’t have to be a girly-girl. It’s all across-the-board fun.”
Klutz’ Sew Your Own Furry Llama Pillow, $21.99, is an easy gift idea as well. “It doesn’t matter what it is, if you can put a llama, a unicorn or a sloth on it, then it’s going to sell,” Marix said.
E-Blox’s Circuit Blox kit, $19.99, is the hottest new building set that mixes science and play in a Lego-compatible set. The kit will make 59 different projects, whether lighting up blocks or sending a propeller flying in the air. “People will always have Legos, but this gives them a different project that is also educational,” Marix said.
Coinhole, $19.99, a cornhole-style game in which players toss quarters instead of bean bags, is great for older ages. “This would be great for teenagers, college-aged. It it would even be fun as a Dirty Santa office gift,” Marix said.
The Horizon Inductrix Switch RTF Blade drone, $79.99, switches from a hovercraft that floats over land or water to a drone. “It’s great for those older boys who think they are too old for toys,” Marix said. “You don’t necessarily want to give them a bunch of gift cards, so this gives them a toy type of thing.”
The Ooly’s Unique Unicorn scented erasers, $5.99, are both cute and cool, Marix said. The store also carries ninja packs for boys.
Nurchums Dino Hatch Egg, $6.99, is a great little experiment. “You put it in water and it takes a few days to hatch,” Marix said. “When it hatches, you’ve got a dinosaur figurine and
there are different dinosaurs to choose from.”
Mad Mattr Meteor Monster, $10.99, are Mad Mattr’s latest and greatest offering, Marix said. Just open it up, dump it out and watch a monster figurine emerge from the sand. “You don’t know what color mattr or what monster you’re going to get.”
Whiffer Gumballs mystery pack collectible scented clips, $3.99, are another great blind-bag option. “My niece, who is 11, would think this is really cool,” Marix said of the small, scented clips that feature cute little characters.
Indestructibles children’s books, $5.99, are baby-proof books that look like paper, but they are rip-proof, chew-proof and washable. “I have tried so many times to tear this book and you cannot tear it,” Marix said, bending the cover of the book with all of her strength and not leaving more than a wrinkled page.