With Christmas fast approaching and some local Santa Clauses having yet to leap into action, a crash course in this season’s big ticket items found in area toy stores is here to the spare the elves from working overtime and slackers with too little time (you can thank us later).
At the bustling Doodlehopper 4 Kids on West Broad St., little feet were scurrying around the floor-to-ceiling mountains of toys, games and books that are suitable for kids of all ages — even the big ones stopping by for themselves.
“I’ve made a mental note about what’s here,” Dan Bates, a Falls Church resident since 1986, said. “I’ve always played games, almost all my life, and dropped in to see what kinds they have.”
Plenty of games line the shelves which the store’s assistant manager, Jessi Cash, was happy to point out, like the hot selling Upshot, a virtual reality game used with a phone as the controller.
“You’ll be shooting down dragons and such,” she said, still smiling after a hectic day and hours on her feet.
Vintage games are available, too which she says adults love because they’re throwbacks to their youth. (Think, “Sorry,” “Candyland” and “Pac-Man” for starters.)
Leading a tour of the shop, Cash said the store has not one best-selling item, but several popular sections like unicorns, “squishables” and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) toys.
Robots – a top seller – had sold out last weekend, but Doodlehopper has remote cars which “Always have a lot of requests for, and they keep improving them. We have three this year which are voice-controlled, and one is a transformer,” Cash added.
First stop on the store tour were the unicorns: “Pretty much anything with a unicorn on it is popular,” Cash said, and although mostly girls like unicorns, some boys do, too.
Then came the “squishables” — soft, pillowy figures with faces and shapes of animals like kittens and sharks, and food, among several categories.
How about a piece of squishable avocado toast with that Christmas drink? Or, a giant burrito?
“They’re super cute and very popular. Boys and girls love them.” she said. “Every time we get them in, they sell out.”
Near the front of the store are the always-popular Legos and their cousins, “plus-plus” toys which are more easily assembled and made for younger children than Legos.
Next on the tour was the “everything Harry Potter” section. “He is always hot and getting hotter with the new movie coming out,” Cash continued.
Dolls with magnetic pacifiers, mock apparel for ballerinas, veterinarians and pediatric nurses, and yes, drones for children are also available.
The store is not big on “screen toys, tech-based toys. There are so many computer games,” Cash said. “We try very, very hard to stand out without the video game thing. We like being hands on.”
Based on comments from customers, Doodlehopper succeeds.
Jason Perkins, a science and special education teacher at George Mason High School, lives with his family within walking distance of Doodlehopper where the Perkinses shop once or twice a month. He explained they weren’t there Saturday to Christmas shop but to satisfy his seven-year-old daughter’s love for shopping.
She and her nine-year-old sister were looking for things for themselves, Perkins mentioned.
“They get paid an allowance for trying hard in school so my youngest daughter has about eight or nine dollars that are burning a hole in her pocket that she’s looking to spend,” Perkins said. “It’s nice the Doodlehopper provides wrapping and there are local students who work here. They have a lot of nice toys and very good service. We just like to support the place where we live.”
Mary and Erin Kohler drove from outside Fairfax City to come to the shop because, Mary said, it has lots of good things for their one and a half-year-old nephew. “It’s a perfect store for him,” said Erin, Mary’s daughter.
“We want to support small business. We try to shop locally as much as we can. We’ve grown up in this area and have known Doodlehopper a long time,” Mary added with a smile.
Store prices range from stocking stuffers at 99 cents on up to about $250 for the highest-priced toy, Cash and store manager Caroline Roane said.
Doodlehopper 4 Kids, 234 W. Broad St., Falls Church. It’s open Monday through Sunday with extended shopping hours on Friday, Dec. 21, until 9 p.m. The store will be open on Dec. 24, closing at 6 p.m.