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Bedford Marketplace in Bedford, MA is the very first combined Learning Express Toys and Learning Express Play concept. Construction is complete and we’re busy setting up fixtures and checking in stock. We will begin to merchandise next week.
A children’s activity center and play museum for children ages 6 months through age 8, Learning Express Play will host classes, birthday parties and open play. Classes will span movement and dance, art, music, science and other themes. The play space, named Downtown Play, will feature more than 16 themed play areas inspired by New England townscapes and nationally-recognized children's museums, including a general store, design and build center, veterinary clinic, performing arts center, pretend restaurant, infant play area, 1000 sq. ft. gymnasium with a rock-climbing wall, and much, much more.
Our Grand Opening is scheduled for September 23-25. We’ll have guest appearances from Elmo, Peppa the Pig, Elsa & Anna, Marshall from Paw Patrol, Cinderella and many more. Contests, raffles, and doorbusters will be happening throughout the weekend.
New moms and dads are great problem-solvers. They’re constantly on the hunt for ways to distract baby so they can get things done: make dinner, throw in a load of laundry or take a shower.
This is where interactive toys step in! Mirari’s line of infant toys are great for surprising and delighting baby with fun sounds. Babies and toddlers love to press buttons, so the Mirari myPhone, Wee Keys, myPad Touch and Pop! Pop! Piano are sure to keep them entertained. At the same time, they’ll be learning concepts like cause-and-effect and hand-eye coordination. They’re all Summer Top Toys!
The Mirari myPhone is a fun toy smartphone for babies 6 months and up. Babies are fascinated by anything Mom or Dad plays with, so why not give them their own phone? The myPhone has a remote control, so the parent can make the phone ring from 15 feet away and baby can “answer” it. Babies learn cause and effect when they press the circular button on the phone, and a personalized recorded message from Mom or Dad plays. Colorful lights and sounds entertain baby with sensory stimulation as she presses the icons.
Mirari Wee Keys are another great toy for babies as young as 6 months. This big, plastic key ring features three sturdy keys for infants to hold, each with a different texture. Babies can explore grasping and develop hand-eye coordination while they grip and rattle the keys. Buttons on the key fob play four familiar car sounds: A car engine starting, a door lock, an alarm being set, and a horn honking. Babies will love bringing their keys on car rides when Mom and Dad get out their keys!
The Mirari myPad Touch lets toddlers over 12 months play with their own tablet, just like Mommy’s and Daddy’s! Press the power button, then any icon on the screen to light it up and play songs and fun phrases that correspond to the icons. For example, the picture of grapes and a banana says “Fruit is yummy!” and a picture of a shirt and pants says “Find your socks!” Toddlers learn the cause-and-effect relationship and to predict the sounds associated with the icons. The safe, durable myPad Touch lets toddlers get in on tablet fun.
Pop! Pop! Piano
Lastly, kids over 12 months will love the Mirari Pop! Pop! Piano, an exciting, multisensory toy piano that plays notes or silly sounds while popping plastic stars into the air. The clear dome is removable, so parents can choose whether to keep the stars contained or to watch them tumble away as the child presses the keys. When baby is younger, he will enjoy the silly sounds like laughter and a slide whistle. When he’s a little older, he’ll enjoy learning simple tunes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the 6-note piano.
Whether you need a baby gift or you’re a parent looking to keep your little one entertained, check out our great selection of infant and toddler toys.
The holiday season is a magical time to be a kid.
Some of my most cherished holiday memories are of Christmas morning. Every year my parents would insist that my brother, sister, and I line up in birth order on the stairs as they took a photo of us in our PJs. We would squirm in anticipation trying to get a look at the presents under the tree for what felt like hours before they would finally let us run to the living room. To make the most of the morning, we would each take turns opening our presents one at a time, oohing and aahing at each other’s goodies.
While all three of us kids loved Christmas, I was by far the most vocal about it. My family likes to tease me about how dramatic I was on Christmas morning. I always made a huge display of how much I loved my gifts, using phrases like “This is what I’ve always wanted!” and “This is the best Christmas ever!” like I was a character from a Claymation movie. My siblings thought that I was ridiculous, but my parents have since told me that they enjoyed watching me gush over my presents and said that it added to the holiday cheer.
Thanks to my famed gift-opening reactions, my father liked to pick out special toys that were not on my list with which he could dazzle me. The most impressive of these was a pogo stick. Having never seen one before, I was a little confused when I opened the large, awkwardly-shaped present. My dad explained how it worked and promptly went outside to clear a large practice area for me on our patio.
I was absolutely terrible at it. But I was determined to master the art of pogoing and spent weeks trying to get more than two bounces at a time before falling off. My dad would come out to give me pointers and utter words of encouragement, to no avail. Then one day, it just clicked. I started getting so good at the pogo stick that I could do 200-300 bounces at a time! I still hold our family record and will always remember that wonderfully unexpected gift.
I am so happy that my father encouraged me to try out new toys. He exposed me to fun activities and engaging products that I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen for myself.
If you’re looking to surprise your kids with exciting new toys this year, Magnatiles and Magformers are the way to go. These Top Toys are colorful, unique, and interactive. Read why these magnetic building sets should be on your list this year:
Magnatiles Kids ages 3+ will love building mosaics and 3D structures with these beautiful, multi-colored and clear tiles. Each set contains square and triangular-shaped tiles that have magnetic edges, which attract on all sides to provide endless design possibilities. Sets come in either solid or clear colors and are available in a variety of sizes. The clear Magnatiles sets can be used to create eye-catching configurations resembling stained glass art and are even more entertaining when placed on lighted surfaces. The fun never stops with these magnetic building tiles, and you can be sure that they will keep your kiddos entertained for hours. See some of the amazing designs that you can create with Magnatiles by clicking the image.
Magformers These award-winning construction sets take magnets to a new level. With all different sizes and themes, the Magformers sets can be used to create amazing 3D structures including geometric shapes, buildings, and even a moving car! The magnetic pieces come in both square and triangle shapes that are open in the center for easier gripping and maneuvering. The magnetic edges securely attract, allowing kids to create a variety of structures while the bright, rainbow colors draw the eye and add extra flair to every design. Perfect for kids ages 6+, these sets are fun for the whole family. Click the image to watch Magformers in action!
Inspire your young ones to explore remarkable new toys this year with two construction sets that are simply magnetic. You might even get an award-winning reaction in return.
Happy Holidays and stay tuned for more Top Toy reviews this season!
New England Franchise Association recently presented founder and CEO of Learning Express Toys, Sharon DiMinico, with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
During the ceremony, NEFA President Murray Vetstein read some of the praise other franchisors had shared about DiMinico. “Her passion and commitment are nothing short of inspirational,” noted one member of NEFA. “She has dedicated her professional franchise career to developing a business atmosphere true to the best in a franchise model: fair treatment and encouraged prosperity,” said another. And eloquently and concisely encapsulating the history of Learning Express Toys, Vetstein said: “Learning Express Toys was a small store that dared to dream big.”
From the very beginning in 1987, creative thinking and entrepreneurship have been at the heart of the LE Toys concept. After the birth of her second child, DiMinico discovered an untapped niche in her community. Drawing from her prior experience in retail and her instincts as a parent, she developed a business plan for a specialty toy store. As chair of the Board of Directors of her children’s nursery school, DiMinico presented her business plan to the Groton Community School. In it she proposed that the school open a Learning Express Toys store to supplement their revenue. She saw the need for a store that would offer high quality toys, books, and games for children all the way through their pre-teen years. Learning Express Toys today is the nation’s leading franchisor of educational toy stores, with more than 120 locations across the country.
“My father was an entrepreneur and instilled in his children the belief that we could do anything if we worked hard,” says DiMnico. “This company is my passion and my joy. And, every day, I continue to learn.” Earlier this year, DiMinico was named to the “Women at the Top” list by Franchise Update magazine. “These are 24 amazing women—24 outstanding human beings—and we are both humbled and proud to have their participation in this inaugural women’s issue,” stated the foreword to the article.
Owners of one of the first Learning Express Toys locations, Richard and Susan Gibson who opened in Newton, MA, 22 years ago did so because they believed in the company and in the founder. “Sharon often says this business is about relationships,” comments Richard. “And, she is one of the best I’ve seen at creating a professional, fun, and cooperative environment for the franchisees.” The Gibsons are opening their second Learning Express Toys location on May 31 in the Natick Mall.
Though the franchisees enjoy great flexibility with the LE Toys model, all locations feature a carefully selected product mix, an expert sales staff, and a friendly, hands-on atmosphere where children are encouraged to test out the toys and their skills.
Greetings, Learning Express Readers!
Last week on the blog we gave you a behind the scenes look at the annual Learning Express Toys convention. What we didn’t have a chance to tell you about was the incredible donation our vendors made to the Monroe Carroll Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. It was pretty spectacular!
As you’ll recall from last week, one of the highlights of the convention is the vendor expo. Over 120 toy vendors fly in from around the country—and each vendor sets up a booth on our expo floor. If you took a walk around the show floor in Nashville this year you’d see household names like ALEX and Melissa & Doug, as well as some newcomers like Tegu and Lollaland. Store owners could be found spinning on Spooner Boards, trying their hand at Speed Stacking, and even learning to tight rope walk on Slack Lines.
Come 3pm on the last day of the vendor expo, it’s time for vendors to pack up their toys and head home. Each year, many of our vendors generously donate their toys to a local group or nonprofit rather than ship the product back home. In the months before the convention the Home Office works with local store owners to decide who should benefit from the generous donation from vendors. This year, Connie Edmonds from our Franklin, TN store, suggested we partner with the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Volunteers from the hospital joined us for the pack up—and it was quite a sight to see! Vendors donated over 3000 toys, and before getting loaded into the truck they were organized by the area of the hospital they would benefit most. Some were put aside as birthday gifts for sick children, some were reserved for the toy lending library, some were assigned to the age specific play areas, and others were chosen for the complimentary “holiday shop” where parents can pick out age appropriate toys for sick children and siblings. If you’d like to see a few of the toys that were donated, check out Connie from Franklin chatting with The Tennessean!
A few of us from the Home Office had the opportunity to visit the Monroe Carroll Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt the day after this vendor donation was made. We met with Stephanie Van Dyke (their Director of Volunteer Services) who gave us a tour around the hospital. We got to hear about the creative ways the toys will be put to use to make medical treatment less scary and overwhelming for kids, as well as see the parts of the hospital that the toys will directly benefit--like the toy lending library and play rooms.
The hospital relies on toy donations and couldn’t have been more delighted by the generous gifts from our vendors—and we were told that it was it’s the biggest toy donation the hospital has ever received! We’d like to say a big thank you to all the vendors who made this wonderful gift possible.
Talk to you again soon! Kathryn