Christmas is quickly approaching and the mad scramble for that new favourite toy is set to begin. People in the Battlefords may think they have to go to Saskatoon or even Edmonton to find the perfect toy that is not only fun, but educational. The largest educational toy and educational resource store in Saskatchewan just happens to be right here in North Battleford! It’s great for birthdays, special events, everyday adventures, and yes, it should be your first thought for Christmas toys. They’ll even wrap them up for ready for Santa’s sack!
Lifelong educator Sonya Hilsendager is the owner of Learning Adventures Toys and Games which has been operating in the city for eight years. After moving her store twice into larger premises, (did we say that this is now the largest independently owned toy and educational resource store in Saskatchewan?) she is firmly planted in the Discovery Co-op Mall and ready to share her passion with the community.
“As a former educator myself, my focus is on the best things for children. I’m not just here to sell toys, but to help teachers in the community as well,” Hilsendager said. “When I started teaching here, I would have to travel to Edmonton or Saskatoon to buy supplies. That’s when I realized there’s a market and a need here for educational resources.”
You won’t find many electronic based toys in the store. Hilsendager believes kids can lose creativity if their attention is devoted to screen time or electronic gaming.
“When I first opened this store I was gearing it towards educational resources, but then I remembered the best way to learn is through play,” Hilsendager said. “A toy has to be fun first, but if a child can learn while playing, it can start a lifelong eagerness for discovery. Those are the kinds of toys I want to have in my store.”
One of Learning Adventures best-selling toys is Playmobil. It’s a journey of the imagination in every box, from imitations of the everyday life we see around us, to fairy tales, to adventures on the high seas with pirates! Parents are encouraged to participate with their children, it’s great for family unity.
Another big seller is the very popular Melissa & Doug brand. Hilsendager is especially excited about these toys because they are “old school wooden toys” and the manufacturers really stand behind their product.
Hilsendager said her background in teaching has enabled her to provide the best variety of toys and resources one can find. Her experience teaching from urban Houston to rural Saskatchewan provides insight into all learning styles.
“I know firsthand when you have a class of 20 to 30 kids they all learn differently,” Hilsendager said. “I have a range of toys to help fidgeters like myself to kids with bigger learning disabilities. I have a big selection of products for special needs kids too. They range from tactile toys to help those who can’t handle the way certain things feel, to toys with fabrics they love, to help comfort them.”
Hilsendager is now exploring toys to help infants learn as well. The Gro Clock uses fun images of the stars and sun to communicate when to go back to sleep and when it is time to wake up. According to Hilsendager the baby will start to acknowledge the colour for bedtime or the time to wake up.
Learning Adventures also carries Baby Jogger, also known as City Select, a line of strollers Hilsendager describes as “unique because they can be purchased basic or built up, kind of like selecting options for a car. If a parent has one child, they can buy one seat and as their family grows, more accessories can be added, like a seat or a glider board, instead of purchasing a whole new stroller.” Like a good car, these strollers can hold their resale value too.
What really separates Learning Adventures apart from any other store is kids can register for birthday parties. When registered, the child goes through the store to pick out the toys they want on their wish list. The birthday boy or girl will also receive a free gift. Anyone purchasing gifts for the party can check with the store to see what products are still available. The registered child also gets a free gift and Learning Adventures will wrap any in store purchase for free.
The Learning Adventures website is Canada wide and Hilsendager has received orders for educational resources from as far as Nova Scotia. Products from the huge selection can arrive as early as two days if the item is being ordered from a Canadian vendor.
Hilsendager prides her store on customer service. She and her staff aren’t just there to point someone in the right direction, they all have knowledge of the products and can help any parent or teacher pick out what they need. Most importantly, there is almost no product which can’t be ordered.
“If I don’t have it on my shelf, I can bring it in for you no problem at all,” Hilsendager said.
Although the store has been open in the Co-op Mall for two months Hilsendager will be holding the grand opening on Oct. 23rd, noon until 5:00 p.m. She is very excited for the event, because not only will there be product discounts, free face painting, free balloon twister and snacks for families, but it will be the launch of her Christmas wish list.
“Families will come in and we will provide them the wish list and kids will be able to pick out what they want. I’ve even put a part on the list that says ‘if Santa sees I’m really good I get this.’” Learning Adventures is located in the Discovery Co-op Mall across from Leisure Time Sports. The hours are Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Special Christmas hours will begin soon.
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