Baby and Play Toy Shop Bedford – A hidden gem

Baby and Play is a beautifully presented toy store located in the centre of Bedford - a hidden gem in fact, nestled up Castle Lane.

I visited the store one very cold Wednesday afternoon just after lunch and was warmly greeted by the owner Adam, who is chatty and very friendly. Adam and his partner Kirstie own the store, and are parents to five children who all have a big say on what’s stocked in the store and can easily critique new toys, so it’s a real family ran business.  

The shop opened its doors to the public on the 29th April 2017, so I asked the question why Adam and Kirstie set up a shop in the town when they already ran a very successful online shop since 2012?

Adam told me they took the plunge partly because they saw a gap in the market in Bedford as there were no other independents selling the kind of toys that Baby and Play have to offer - and because some toys simply sell better when you can touch and play with them.

When you come into the store that’s the vibe you get, ‘please come in and play.’ It’s a very tactile shop with lots of items out of their packaging for you to have a good look at. They have toys around the store which are simply there for children to play with.

This helps relax the parents, safe in the knowledge that their child can safely play with some of the toys and gives everyone a bit of breathing space to look around.

Combine that with a warm welcome and a nice friendly chat and you see why customers some back for more time and time again.

In fact there reviews on line are impressive and customers particularly mention their great customer service (5 stars across the board). Take a look for yourself here https://www.facebook.com/pg/Babyandplay/reviews/

The toys on offer at this store are beautiful, they are affordable, and they have meaning. 99% of the products won’t need a battery and you definitely won’t find any toys with screens in this store. Wooden toys are Adam and Kirstie’s passion and you will find an abundance of quirky, traditional and sustainable options in store.

They have an extensive range of baby and toddler toys up to age 5 but you can also find some good presents for older children up to around 7-8 years (at the time of writing) which included a good selection of science kits/toys and educational history cards.

 

My top 5 toy recommendations

So, what toys really stood out for me on my first visit? Here are my top 5 toy recommendations:

Lanka Kade Toys

These are tactile, sturdy wooden toys. I personally loved the small £1.99 vehicles and the £2.50 animal range. I bought two of the small animals for my youngest son (2) and I will be going back for more in a few weeks’ time as he loves them so much. They are easily to pick up and hold, they are collectable, and will last a lifetime and never go out of fashion. Plus all of Lanke Kade's toys and gifts are fair trade and exclusively designed in the UK before being handcrafted by skilled artisans in Sri Lanka. When you purchase a Lanka Kade product you support several disadvantaged rural schools in Sri Lanka with books and daily milk to ensure that all of the students are better equipped for learning. A win-win for me as a parent.

For more information on fair trade please visit www.lankakade.co.uk

Djeco Puzzles

What struck me most about this range was just how eye catching the packaging is. It really is impressive and would make the perfect gift. The prices were also reasonable for such a beautifully designed range of quirky puzzles; £9.95 (at time of writing) suitable for ages 4+

Plan Toys

Plan Toys produce beautifully made, durable toys made from sustainable wood and eco-friendly materials that encourage learning and development through play. They had a lovely range with varying price points and one of my favourites was this cute little camera, which when you looked through the viewing lens had a kaleidoscope inside.  You then twist the front of the camera like you would you focus the lens to see beautiful images. This is a good example of a toy that probably wouldn’t sell well online as you simply have to pick it up and look through the lens to get what it’s all about.

Green Toys

So many of our children’s toys are plastic, and I always worry about the effect that this will have on the environment in years to come, Green Toys start out their life as milk bottles, they are recycled, cleaned and rebuilt as the toys you see below. Made with no screws, batteries, glue or virgin cardboard packaging. So 100% recycled and free from BPA, phthalates and melamine. I purchased a toy train for my son and he absolutely loves it.

Janod Toys

Janod is a French company specialising in traditional toys and games made from wood as well as cardboard.

The Janod Multikub Circus (£18.99) toy particularly stood out to me in store as strong gift option. Partly because of its timeless appeal (what child doesn’t like a stackable toy) but also because of the striking design and good price for such a large toy. I think it would also be popular with boys and girls alike.

What else can I say to convince you that Baby and Play is well worth a visit?

The shop are also organising events in store, they are very busy on social media and have both a public page and a group page on Facebook where you can enter competitions, chat with other mums and get exclusive special offers. They also stock a range of chewable toys - great for special needs children.

Oh…and they won a Love Bedford mystery shopper award in 2017 and they have just set up a free dressing up library!

So what are you waiting for? Baby and Play are a bit off the beaten track, but for parents of young children they should become your go-to destination for fab toys.

Baby and Play
16 Castle Lane
Bedford
MK40 3US
Phone: 0800 6444 364
Email:
Mon - Fri: 10am - 4.30pm
Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: CLOSED

For more information please go to www.babyandplay.co.uk /

I wrote this blog page in my spare time and was not paid or given anything for free to write this post. All comments are my own.  To find out more about me click here. http://mybedfordshire.com/about/

Want to try a new hobby? Destination Aquatics could have the answer

This is my first blog into the world of independent pet stores in Bedfordshire. I chose Destination Aquatics in Bedford for my first review because of the reviews online and their great Facebook page with video content. My two son’s also want to visit an aquarium so one wet Saturday we went to take a look.

Destination Aquatics is a retail store devoted to fish and aquascaping . Its mission statement is to ‘ensure that anyone introduced to fish-keeping, reptile keeping or pet keeping has the knowledge to ensure the animal thrives’  It’s a store which ‘aims to inspire new people into the hobby’, it has a welcoming and exciting feel to the store when you first walk in. The displays in the large entrance area immediately gave you the impression that this is no ordinary store. The tanks displayed are high value items (some are well over £1000 to buy) , and the livestock you buy from here require special love and attention. As all animals should. This is why the staff will ask you a few general questions to ensure that the fish are going to be living in the correct conditions and naturally the store can refuse to sell fish to anyone they feel will not keep the fish in the correct conditions.

What’s on offer?

Planted tanks: I assumed this just meant adding a plant to the bottom of the tank, well I was wrong. A planted aquarium attempts to mimic a fishes natural environment and as a result of all your hard work, your fish will behave in a more natural manner. Creating a planted tank helps you to understand the chemistry within the water that allows the plants to grow and flourish if presented with the right environment. Like gardening, the soil or in this instance the ‘substrate’ you put your plants into will have a huge impact on how your plants get on in your new tank. So it’s important to really research what you are doing and ask the staff in store for help. There are hundreds of types of plants available in all sorts of colours and sizes. Check out this guide here. https://aquariuminfo.org/plantedguide.html

Goldfish Tanks and Tropical Tanks

As soon as you enter the livestock area you can see the huge wall of livestock on offer. My eldest son was amazed at how large the fish tanks were and he loved getting up front and personal with the goldfish especially. We were also very interested in the starter tanks suitable for children. They had a good selection to suit a variety of price ranges in stock and the staff were keen to offer guidance and advice.

Marine Tanks

I can see from looking around the store that to own a full blown marine tank takes investment, time and knowledge. The end results are awe inspiring however, and I was amazed at what you can produce in your home or office thanks to careful lighting, knowing a bit about water chemistry/PH levels, understanding water flow and of course getting advice on the right type of tank needed. All questions the staff at Destination Aquatics are willing to answer of course and they can show you in store just how amazing these coral reef tanks can look with the right advice.

Types of livestock available to buy

The selection is impressive from Marine, Invertebrates, Corals , Tropical, Coldwater, and Anubias plants. To really see what’s on offer you really have to go and take a look in their store regularly but their Facebook page keeps you updated with all their latest and most beautiful fish.

Beautiful Coral and Invertebrates

For me the most impressive part about this store was the coral and invertebrates tanks in the centre of the store. As a novice fish keeper and owner of only goldfish and the usual tropical fish, I had never seen this type of livestock before and honestly didn’t know it was something you could buy from a store.  It was so beautiful to look at and I wish I had more space in my home to accommodate such beautiful creatures. I hope my photos do them justice, please go and see for yourself just how beautiful they are.

In the summer months they also have a large selection pond fish too such as Koi and Goldfish. A firm favourite for my Mum and Dad who have kept Koi’s for several years.

Dry Goods

Of course you need to have a wide selection of foods and items to put inside your tank/aquarium. Again looking down the store the selection was impressive. The colours of all the products looked amazing and my 2 boys loved looking at all the wonderful accessories such as the skulls and wood for the fish to hide and swim through.

Overall thoughts

The terminology and vast array of items on offer made my shopping experience a little overwhelming, however this was my first visit to the store and with some careful research online I would definitely go back armed with more knowledge and experience to then handle the amount of information on offer. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and you can always get them to guide you round the store when you are at the stage to buy.  I would definitely also look into the training sessions the store offers to its customers. These include evening events for Reef and Marine Keepers and training sessions on entry level fish keeping. They also at the time of writing this blog offer a tank maintenance service which is about ongoing support and even a tank set up service.

For further information please go to their website http://destinationaquatics.co.uk/ or Facebook page where they keep you up to date with all their latest videos https://www.facebook.com/Destinationaquatics/

They have their own dedicated car park and the store is easy to get to. It’s not in the centre of Bedford but on an industrial estate outside of the town. The address is below.

Destination Aquatics

Telford Way

Cambridge Road

Bedford

MK42 0PQ

01234 242486

I wrote this blog page in my spare time and was not paid or given anything for free to write this post. All comments are my own.  To find out more about me click here. http://mybedfordshire.com/about/