By Emily Williams
OTMJ: Do you remember your first day working in the toy Biz?
Tricia McCain: “I’ve been coming in here since I was four. I really did come to work with my parents and sat upstairs above the bike shop and colored. I’ve been doing it forever.”
OTMJ: If you were an elf working in Santa’s workshop, what would your job be?
TM: “I would be the cookie taster, or the anything chocolate taster. Either one!”
OTMJ: What is a toy that has stood the test of time?
TM: “I think of baby dolls, in general. At some point between the ages one and five, every girl gets a baby doll.”
OTMJ: If your younger self time-traveled to 2019, what would be the first toy on your list?
TM: “I’ve always liked to swing, so maybe the Sky Dreamcatcher. I mean, I still love to swing. I’ll go to the park right now.”
We asked McCain and store manager Julie Marix to give us their top toys for the holiday season:
The b4 Adventure Sky Dreamcatcher swing, $129.99, is a gift for the entire family. “It can hold up to 500lbs, so really multiple kids or even adults can get on it,” Marix said. Though marketed for ages 4 and up, she noted that a blanket can be thrown over the base for younger kids so their legs and arms don’t fall through the net.
Inspired by the popular Netflix series Stranger Things, Dungeons and Dragons has released a starter set, $28.99, which includes a new adventure called “The Hunt for Thessalhydra.” “This is great for that middle school boy all the way through college age,” Marix said. “It’s a good, classic non-video game.”
The VR Bow, $39.99, allows you to clip your phone into a plastic bow and virtually hunt turkey and deer via a gaming app. “It turns the screen of your phone into a hunting environment, so while you’re moving the bow around, you’re actually walking around in the woods,” Marix said. In addition, the app can access your phone’s camera and allow you to hunt different kinds of game in your own environment.
A fresh take on the remote control car is the RoboDragon Chameleon, $29.99. “It lights up, it walks, its little eyes move and it comes with insect disks,” Marix said. “When you push a button, its tongue jumps out to catch them.”
According to Marix, gift givers can never go wrong with bluetooth speakers. My Audio Pet, $24.99, comes in different animal options, from unicorns to dragons. “It’s a bluetooth speaker and it’s teeny tiny, but it has really great sound,” Marix said. “For the younger kids, there is an app you can download and you can play games with it, like hide-and-seek. You can also talk through it and it will change the sound of your voice.”
Moms who need a great toy to toss in the diaper bag or baby stroller can grab Fat Brain Toy’s Oombee Ball, $24.99. It’s all one piece, Marix noted, featuring nesting balls with different textures to create a sensory experience for the babies.
Batteries are not even necessary when it comes to Playviators, $19.99. “It’s a plane, but all it takes is the power of the child moving their hand up and down to propel it,” Marix noted.
Great Pretenders’ Color-A-Skirt Mermaid, $25.99, is Marix’s current favorite. “It’s a reversible mermaid skirt,” she said. “One side is rainbow scales and the other side is for coloring. You can color it, wash it and color it again.”
Moldable, squish-able Playfoam Pluffle, $8.99, is available in a variety of colors and is perfect for kids who like to keep their hands busy. “It feels fantastic,” Marix said. “It kind of sticks together and it keeps moving. It’s as if it’s alive.”
A top-selling game last year for the store was Clack! This year, a new version was released called Clack! Categories, $24.99. “The object is to collect as many tiles as you can, and the tiles make a clacking noise whenever you pick them up,” said Marix.
Crafting kits are ever-evolving – and ever-popular. A unique option is the DIY Puffy Charms by Ann Williams Group, $29.99. “You can make bracelets or necklaces. They’ve got little pencil toppers, charms, you can put it on your shoes, your backpack. This just gives you everything.”
Marix noted that shoppers can never go wrong when they invest in a Madame Alexander Middleton Doll, $119.99. “These are the dolls that feel like a new baby, and we’ve got doll furniture and other accessories to go along with it.”
Glowstriker, $34.99, takes dart games to new heights. “The (targets) are little ping pong balls,” Marix said. “So, when you turn it on, the air pushes them up and they are hovering. You’re trying to shoot them with your dart gun.”
When it is time to stuff stockings, Marix said, the Fart Bomb, $2.99, is a go-to option. “It’s great for little boys, the grosser the better,” she said. “These will clear out a room. So, you may want to give it to your neighbors or a cousin.”
Finally, for your favorite collector, Funko Pop! figures, $11.99, are arriving in new styles to suit sports fans. While the brand covers everything from Star Wars to superheroes, Marix said it has been rolling out some sports-themed figurines. “LSU we have in. Alabama is on the way,” Marix said. “They do not make Auburn, yet. They only have six or seven colleges right now, but they are supposed to come out with more.”
Homewood Toy & Hobby is at 2830 18th St. S. in downtown Homewood. For more information, call 205-879-3986 or visit homewoodtoy-hobby.com or the store’s Facebook page.