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Image: Beth Levine

I first met Vanessa Wodehouse, owner of Big Blue Whale Toys & Curiosities, about a year ago when I stopped in to find a baby shower gift. I have to admit: Prior to walking in, I had not been inside a toy store since I was a little girl. I'm moreso a fan of acquiring adult toys, like fancy beer, the latest skin care product, or a tool to help me prepare for the future zombie apocalypse.

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Image: Beth Levine

But upon entering Big Blue Whale, I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me. I was taken back to warm summer days employing a swiveling periscope so that I could catch impending attacks from the gang of neighborhood boys my age over the hill, and rainy afternoons spent indoors putting on battles between the dolls I was given and my siblings' hard plastic dinosaurs.

My friend's 4-year-old son is certainly his father's child. He loves every toy pertaining to engineering and science. As soon as he was able to stand, the first thing he did was try to take apart the motor that controlled the light switch and singing toys in his Playmat mobile.

I asked Wodehouse if she could direct me to some shelves that had something he would like, only to have her guide me to an entire section, comprised of multiple toy displays devoted to his catered interests. Beyond the expected books and microscopes, there were Snap Circuits—child-friendly circuit building kits—and Magne-Tiles, magnetic building blocks, right next to classic and vintage games and toys to encourage exploration, learning, and advancement.

On my most recent adventure to Big Blue Whale, I encountered tunnels, teepees, and chattering teeth. Toys abounded, from books and soft plush stuffed animals to interest-specific educational inspirations for children of all ages. I purchased a number of vintage knick-knacks I hadn't seen in ages that I will now happily gift to my adult family and friends as stocking stuffers—and I realized that shopping for toys is even more enjoyable while listening to seasonal music on vintage LPs. In fact, feeling like a kid again just might be the best gift of all.

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Editor’s Pick

Big Blue Whale

Toys 237 W. 19th St.

Any toy store can entertain kids. This one wows adults. Owner Vanessa Wodehouse stocks the shelves with vintage and retro toys that kids have loved for decad...

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