The children are home, the days are getting shorter, school is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and the ‘I’m bored!’ soundtrack is on repeat. The kids need—we all need—some fun, and local toy stores are a great place to start. Be warned: Puzzles, it turns out, are a bit like toilet paper, according to SpielWerk Toys’ Stacee Wion, with stores having real trouble keeping them on the shelves these days. So we asked the owners of three beloved local shops to take us beyond the jigsaw to some popular pandemic choices for the bored, the brave, and the incorrigibly boisterous.
The marble run to roll them all, the GraviTrax Starter Set contains more than 100 pieces and all the add-ons—a vortex, a magnetic cannon, a launchpad!—your Rube Goldberg-ing heart may desire. It looks high tech but is pleasingly low tech, says Kate Noreen at Northwest’s MudPuddles Toys and Books. $60
Among the most popular items in toy stores these days? Stuffed animals, like this super-soft sloth from Douglas Cuddle Toys. “Everybody is missing hugs,” explains Noreen. “It really is just a comfort thing.” $35
Beguilingly simple in design, multifaceted in application, the Wobbel is for standing on, fake surfing on, balancing on, wiggling on, reading in, laying in, making mountains from, and more. “There’s a million ways they can play on this one,” says Wion. $169
In case this current disaster isn’t enough, Copernicus Toys has a Cabinet of Curiosities line for creating natural-disasters kits. Inside, find the means to make your own blizzard, tornadoes, and an erupting volcano for what Karen Leppmann of downtown’s Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts calls some “quasi-educational” fun. $18
This is the kind of infrastructure building we can really get behind: Way to Play offers flexible connecting road track pieces that work both indoors and outdoors. “It’s super durable, it’s bendy, and fits together like a puzzle,” says Wion at SpielWerk’s N Williams Avenue shop. Starts at $25
This 69-piece set from Everest Toys allows you to get constructively creative: piece a frame together and pull a sheet over it for your very own space of solitude and contemplation. Kids also can do this. $44