Styled by Lynn Leishman
Photography by Drew Hyland
Got somebody to spoil? Humboldt has some magical toy shops that will take you back in time and back to the age of wonder, whether you're treating a little one or getting in touch with your inner child. You're never too old to play.
The Rocking Horse, is located in Arcata's historic Jacoby's Storehouse, right on the plaza. Mary Gifford, who shopped at The Rocking Horse for years, bought the place in 2011. Gifford's teaching credentials fuel the selection, encouraging dramatic and imaginative play. The Rocking Horse stocks locally made dress-up gear, from Renaissance-style costumes to fairy wings, in addition to handmade hats and baby booties. There are also wooden toys, science kits and classic toys like Gumby, rubber band guns and well-built musical instruments for all ages. You'll want to collect the vintage-style Star Wars toys and spoil your girls with Goldiblox, which encourages girls to explore science and engineering. Gifford is proud to stock local authors, and stewards a Little Free Library out in the hallway for the community to browse and borrow.
Sassafras has been a staple of the Old Town area for nearly 10 years, moving a couple years ago to its current space, right next to the Gazebo. With two floors of toys and children's clothing, Sassafras owner Amanda Slinkard focuses on wood, fabric and "kid powered" toys, with an emphasis on American-made and fair trade offerings. That includes sustainably harvested wood and environmentally friendly paints and stains. She and the staff are wild about the robotics sets and wooden play kitchens. There's a sweet selection of locally knitted animals and sweaters, plus nice art supplies and board games for the whole family. Upstairs, you can find wooden dollhouses and accessories, and picnic tables and benches. But the real treasure is three bookcases full of puzzles. From matching alphabet puzzles to 9,000-piece behemoths (at more than 6 feet across, they're larger than most dining room tables), there's something for every age and skill level.
The Toy Box in Henderson Center boasts nearly 3,000 square feet of toys for all ages. Michelle Metaxas started working at the shop in the late 1970s and has owned it for the last 10 years. She's watched the space evolve from a hobby shop into a full-blown toy store, and is happy with where they've landed, with toys for the littlest kids, all the way up to rockets and models for the young at heart. The impressive book corner, features board books, Golden Books and up, and more shelves are packed with recycled plastic toys, science kits, balance bikes and Legos. Metaxas takes pride in her store's stock of classic, quality toys. Some of the staff's current favorite items include the books, Calico Critters and Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty.