The Best Indie Toy Shops in Philadelphia and the Suburbs

In the blink-and-buy age of Amazon, the classic toy store brings throwback charm to the gift-giving game. Head to these standout shops for top-notch presents for discriminating tots — and a welcome dose of nostalgia.

Ardmore's Puccimanuli is packed with toy cars, board games and plush animals. | Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Ardmore’s Puccimanuli is packed with toy cars, board games and plush animals. | Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

For One-and-Done Shopping: Puccimanuli // Odds are your giftee list spans different ages and interests. Tick ’em off in record time at this all-encompassing toy emporium, where the owner — who regularly hits the toy-fair circuit for new, special finds — stocks enormous stuffed animals, art kits for burgeoning creatives, a mind-boggling assortment of dolls, and even a tightly curated lineup of artisan-made goods (like wooden tops and puzzles). Bonus: Gift-wrapping is complimentary. // 35 Cricket Avenue, Ardmore. 

For (Discreetly) Educational Toys: Tildie’s Toy Box // With dig kits for budding archaeologists, kid-friendly science experiments and good ol’ sidewalk chalk, this newly opened 1,000-square-foot shop has cornered the market on smart toys and games. (The owners are a couple of Penn grads, after all.) In their pursuit of brainy fun, they’ve even gone equal-opportunity, doing away with traditional gender labels for their toy sections. // 1829 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk.

For Trains: Nicholas Smith Trains // A train is a mainstay at any toy store worth its salt, so imagine an entire shop stocked floor to ceiling with all manner of vehicles, tools, accessories and railroad miscellany. With more than two decades in the biz, this nirvana caters to novices and seasoned collectors alike, so consult the shopkeeps for help navigating the could-be-overwhelming selection. // 2343 West Chester Pike, Broomall.

For Giftees Four and Under: Minnow Lane // If choosing an age-appropriate toy befuddles you, look to this parenting and wellness shop, which stocks toxin-free, eco-friendly and socially conscious items (think sweet scoot-arounds, knitted rattles and maplewood teethers) for toddlers and infants. Tip: The in-shop apothecary is rife with cult-favorite healing salves and essential oils, so scoop up something for mom while you’re there. // 2029 Frankford Avenue, Fishtown.

For Old-School Entertainment: Happily Ever After // With children as tech-crazed as ever, there’s value in introducing them to time-tested literary characters and games. This Pine Street shop spurns trendy items for classics, featuring Curious George, Winnie-the-Pooh and Raggedy Ann. Meanwhile, Madame Alexander devotees can find the most comprehensive selection of dolls in the region. // 1010 Pine Street, Washington Square West.

And Now for the Over-the-Top Gift of the Season

Maniio Modern Dollhouse at Design Life Kids | Photograph courtesy

Maniio Modern Dollhouse at Design Life Kids | Photograph courtesy

For the little one groomed on Dwell, there’s the Miniio Modern Dollhouse  ($525), a refined two-story dollhouse at West Chester-based e-shop Design Life Kids. Sure, its price tag is exorbitant, but considering that the design seems inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and the rooms are outfitted with tiny oak furniture, who wants to be the schlub who shows up with a Barbie Dream House? That’s what we thought.