Best Toy Store
“We’re about kids having educational fun,” says Amy Masi, manager of the Southfield Zany Brainy. Masi took me on a tour, showing me some of Zany Brainy’s most popular items. Like other stores, Poo Chi and Razor Scooters are hot. But have you heard of the Mozart Magic Cube? Plays eight works by the maestro, and if you press any side of the cube, you bring in more instruments. Imagine your 8-month old, swiping at it, bringing in the string section, then the horns. Made by Embryonics (“From womb to classroom”), the cube sells for $39.99. I liked the Feltland Deluxe House ($99.99) — a modular dollhouse made entirely of felt — the roof, the furniture, even the inhabitants. Masi pointed to the right-hand side of the store, calling it the “girls’ side.” The left-hand side is for boy toys. (Sigh… and we wonder why sexism persists.) For girls, there are craft items such as jewelry kits and lots of cooking toys that turn out delicacies such as chocolate insects. Boys get Legos, Playmobile, and Kinex. Hopefully the kids mix it up more than the grown-ups.
Parents can relax — there are no toys promoting violence. No GI Joes, no toy guns. Even the Game Boy selection has been purged of blood and gore.
Zany Brainy prides itself on customer service, and there are activities for kids every day of the week — story time, art classes (bring your own equipment or buy it there), video premieres. Everything teaches something. The “123 Bee” by Vtech ($12.99) teaches “numbers, motor skills, and cause and effect,” according to the packaging. How? Numbered buttons light up and an electronic voice says a number. Go with Mozart, I’d suggest.