Monday, December 24, 2007

What's Hot?

Marshmallow Shooters! Can't keep em in stock! Nothing says, "Happy Hanukkah" or "Merry Christmas" like sugary projectiles going upwards of 30 feet out of a pump-action rapid fire gun! There's a version for the little mini-marshmallows, one for regular sized marshmallows and even a "Bow and Mallow" that shoots it like a bow and arrow. Really, how can you go wrong? We reordered em, and they should be back in stock sometime next week for your post holiday gift-giving needs.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Very interesting article in the New York Times

Jonathan Dee has written an extensive article about toymaker Mattel and it's quest to be a better global citizen in it's manufacture of toys. It's an eye-opening article about the steps they have taken to make it's factories better places to work. It also talks about Mattel's recent recalls. Check it out

Saturday, December 8, 2007

New website tests for healthy toys is a new website that has been organized by The Ecology Center, but presents data collected by over a dozen watch groups throughout the USA.

The site presents data on hundreds of toys, which is listed in a searchable database. They test specifically for the chemicals lead, cadmium, chlorine/PVC, arsenic and mercury, but will also list other chemicals that appear in their tests. Each toy is listed as low, medium or high in toxic material content.

You have to join the website in order to view the data, and right now the amount of listings is somewhat sparse, but this is a site I've bookmarked, and if you're concerned with toy safety, you might want to consider it as well.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Toys for children with special needs

Being so close to the duPont Hospital for Children, we sometimes get customers coming in looking for toys for children with special needs. We try to stock a wide selection of toys that help in the development of children of all ages - but it's difficult to come up with toys that would be appropriate for children with specific disabilities. Happily, there is a great resource on the web that allows you to search for toys that have been independently rated for children with a range of disabilities. is a website set up specifically to help shoppers with their choices of toys for children with disabilities. The site was developed by the National Lekotek Center, which (according to their website) is "the leading nonprofit authority on play for children with disabilities." Check out the video below for a story about brothers William and Owen and their family's experience with Lekotek and the "power of play."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Wood is Good!

Some of our most popular toys this holiday season are made of wood. Call it nostalgia. Call it an interest in more durable toys. Call it a move to a more environmentally friendly material. Wooden dollhouses, wooden building blocks, wooden trains, wooden games, Lincoln Logs and more.
One of our most popular brands is Melissa and Doug - who's line is filled with wooden toys. I just spent a couple hours putting together the Melissa and Doug wooden kitchen (you can see it in our store's window). It's really cool - it has a fridge, oven, stovetop, a sink, shelves and even a microwave oven - and it's all made of wood!
Also popular is the game 'Gobblet' by Blue Orange Games (left). It's made entirely of wood and Blue Orange Games was awarded the 'Green Toy Company' Award for it's move to replant the trees they use for their products! Plus, the game is great! It's like tick-tac-toe, except for the added twist of being able to jump your competitors pieces. You can try even it out online here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Black Friday

Friday was Black Friday. So called, because it's the day that retailers traditionally move from the 'red' to the 'black.' Well, folks, Black Friday has been hijacked. It's now a day of opening at 4 am and lines starting the day before to get a $299 laptop computer, of which the store usually has 6 of em in stock. The media does the obligatory story, with photograph, of people going nuts trying to buy cheap stuff. Check out this video of people fighting over something at Walmart last year. Fun stuff, huh?

Happily, it's been some time since there was a toy people went nuts to get on Black Friday. The days of 'Tickle Me Elmo' et al - have they passed us by? I sure hope so.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Toys for Tots

I'm proud to announce that Mitchell's is now an official 'Toys for Tots' dropoff point. There's a great big box in the front of the store to collect toy donations. If you'd rather donate money to the 'Toys for Tots' program, you can follow this link to the Delaware Toys for Tots Foundation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Made in the U.S.A.!

So, I'm hunting through the store, looking for toys that are made in the USA, and I did find some.

We just got an order in from KNEX - they're a pretty local company out of Hatfield, PA. If you're not familiar with KNEX - it's a very well known construction toy - probably only behind Lego as far as popularity. They're got some cool carnival toys you can construct (including the Serpent's Spider Roller Coaster pictured to the left). Most of their components are made in the USA - all of their bricks, rods and connectors. You can check out this letter from KNEX President Michael Araten - link. (Large range of prices - Ages 3 & up)

Oddly, they also have the Lincoln Logs brand - which are all made in China. Fear not, we've recently added Roy Toy building toys (right, $16 & up, Ages 4 & up) to our stock - which are very Lincoln Log like, and made in the USA.

Also, Lunastix juggling sticks (left - $20 & up, Ages 6 & up) are made in the USA.

KNEX, Roy Toy building toys and Lunastix are all in stock now. So, you've got options if you want to stick with items made in the USA. It's a shame it's not more toys are made in the USA anymore, but it's a sign of the times.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

10 Worst Toys of 2007

It's that time of year again! Yes, folks, people wait with bated breath for the honors that are bestowed upon the 10 Worst Toys List! Happily, Mitchell's does not carry any of these toys. Here is the list, as released by the consumer group W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm).

Go Diego Go Animal Rescue Boat - Fisher-Price
Sticky Stones - Geo Central
Jack Sparrow's Spinning Dagger - Zizzle
Dora the Explorer Lamp - Funhouse
Lil "Giddy Up" Horse - Sassy Pet Saks - Douglas
Spider Man3 New Goblin Sword - Hasbro
Hip Hoppa - Spin Master
B'loonies Party Pack - Ja-Ru
My Little Baby Born - Zapf Creations
Rubber Band Shooter - Simple Toys, LLC

Toy Recall Frenzy 2007!

OK, so it seems like every day another horrible report of a toy recall comes in. It was bad enough that millions of toys were recalled due to excessive lead content, but then a surreal report comes in that SpinMaster's Aqua Dots beads, when injested, actually can break down into the date rape drug GHB. (For a fascinating article on the discovery of how this chemical was in the beads, check out this article in the New York Times - registration required. To avoid registering, check out

All this can scare the bejeezus out of people when faced with the upcoming holiday gift-giving season. People have been coming into Mitchell's looking for toys "not made in China." Sadly, that's a difficult thing to come by these days. In an age when people don't wanna pay more than $6.37 for a Barbie, manufacturers have been forced to outsource toy manufacturing to China - where wages are tiny compared to US wages. Unfortunately, outsourcing to China means you lose control of how your toy is finally made and what goes into it. Don't get me wrong, many (if not most) toy manufacturers have representatives in China checking into the manufacturing process all along the way. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that just because it's made in China, it's a bad toy.

What can you do to be safe? You can keep abreast of recalls by visiting the Consumer Products Safety Commission webpage at While there, you can subscribe to their e-mail list to be automatically notified of any recalls.

Also, the people over at the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio have released a list of toys they have tested and found to not have lead. The lists are here.

Very few toys today are made in the USA. The one's we carry include Lunastix juggling sticks, Slinky and Roy Toy construction toys (like Tinker Toys). Some, like Playmobil, are made in Europe.

Rest assured, at Mitchell's, we pull all recalled toys immediately. We've also posted recall noticed on toys we've carried to alert you of the recall. At this point, the only toys we've carried that were included in the recall were selected Thomas the Tank Engine toys and several Schylling Toys.

Toy Hall of Fame Winners 2007

The Strong National Museum of Play announced the 2007 inductees to the National Toy Hall of Fame on November 8th and they are: the Atari 2600 video game system, the Kite and Raggedy Andy, after five years of separation from Raggedy Ann (she was inducted in 2002) joins her as a Toy Hall of Famer.

Ah, the Atari 2600. We got it, along with most of the other families I knew, way back in the 1970's. It may not have been the first home video game system, but it certainly was the one that started the whole video game craze that has yet to relent. I remember how excited we were that games like Asteriods and Defender were going to be available to play at home! (In the immortal words of the Beastie Boys, "and if you play Defender, I could be your hyperspace"). Plus, you can still play your favorite Atari 2600 games on your computer! Just get an emulator and you can use the ROM files from your games on your computer.

Kites, Raggedy Andy and the Atari 2600 join toys like Silly Putty, Etch-A-Sketch and the Duncan Yo-Yo and 32 others in the Hall of Fame.