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
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.
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 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
Phone: 0800 6444 364
Mon - Fri: 10am - 4.30pm
Saturday: 10am - 5pm
For more information please go to www.babyandplay.co.uk /