My mind was wandering the other day, worrying about the future of retail in a rapidly changing world where it’s so much easier to click a few buttons and have your purchase arrive at your door step. There’s no denying that this brings up a lot of worry and stress for me. But as I was thinking about this, I asked myself WHY would someone choose to shop in my store instead of buying online? What value can I bring that they can’t get online? So beyond the obvious things like excellent customer service, seeing the product in person, an expert opinion, etc….I began thinking about it from a child’s perspective. What are they experiencing when they get to come to a real store, interact with a real person and learn real life lessons? So here you have it…..lessons from a toy store.
- Money Skills
One of the most wonderful things to witness is parents instilling money skills in their children. By looking at coveted items, learning to check the price and beginning to understand the value of things, children are learning such important life skills. Sometimes it takes multiple weekly visits to be able to save up enough for their chosen item and then finally the day arrives when they bring in their piles of change and carefully count it out and make their own purchase. The pride on a child’s face as they leave with their own hard earned purchase is something amazing.
- Patience/Delayed Gratification
Hand in hand with learning money skills, a visit to a toy store is a lesson in patience. It’s not always easy as a parent to have to say no and deal with the resulting tantrums, but these tough moments build character in our children. Learning that not every trip to the store results in a purchase and that sometimes we need to save up for something we want is a valuable life lesson. A trick I found helpful with my children was teaching them to admire items without asking for them or expecting them. Sometimes just talking about an item, why they like it, what they would do with it, etc is enough to validate their desire for it but they get that the items can't always come home at that moment. Trust us when we say we are not judging when you have to pull your screaming child out of the store. We get it, we respect it, we support you! Parenting and teaching life lessons is a tough gig.
Sometimes leaving a store is hard, especially when that store is full of enticing toys. It's a great opportunity to work on transitions with your kids and we see this in action every day. We see you preparing your kids by giving them a 5 minute warning, or telling them where you're off to next. These strategies help make it easier for your child to leave, knowing that they will be able to return again soon.
How to behave in a store is something else that your kids can only learn by visiting a store in person. I was recently in a big box store and was horrified at the state of the toy section. Packages were ripped open, products were missing, things were scattered, it was sad to see. As a business owner all I could see was the financial cost of all that damaged product. I know you'd hate to think your child was capable of such destruction, so make sure they get a chance to learn proper etiquette in a store. It's not okay to open packages, take things off the shelves without returning them to their proper place, etc. Learning to look without touching is probably one of the hardest things to teach, and some touching is certainly allowed in a toy store, but learning to leave the products as you found them is something all stores will appreciate!
- Interpersonal skills
We love chatting with your kids! It's great to see a child with the confidence to ask for assistance, tell us about what they're buying, etc. We appreciate it when you use these teaching moments to remind your kids to say please and thank you. Have a shy kiddo? Not to worry, we know every kid develops on their time and some kids just aren't ready for that yet.
- Decision Making
When the day finally comes that you bring your child in to choose something special, whether they've finally earned enough money, or received birthday money, or simply just because...deciding what to take home is a tough decision! But learning to weigh all of their options, consider the pros and cons of an item, discover their interests, and stick to their budget are all very valuable decision making skills that will serve them well later in life. Kids each have their own temperaments and personalities and some take longer to make a decision than others. We love to see you supporting these and sometimes it takes a return trip before your child is confident in their choice.
Your children are our favourite part of running our business. We love hearing all their names for us from "The Train Store" to "Bumble Bee." We've had one little customer who told her mom that she worked at Bumble Tree and every visit was an excuse to come "work" at Bumble Tree. Maybe one day she will for real! Another little guy comes for his regular Saturday visits and we love that he wants to share his time and latest news with us.
We know sometimes it feels easier to dash in and out without the kids in tow, but please know that we welcome those visits where you bring your kids. If there happens to be a meltdown or a tantrum just know that we are not seeing a "bad" child or a "bad" parent, we are seeing a child who is experiencing life and learning valuable lessons. We see a parent who is putting in the hard work. We honour you for putting in the hard work to raise responsible future citizens. That is something that you can't buy online.