Raising Wilshire's Grandparents

Blogoir about caregiving for Asian American immigrant parents

The 4 Best Non-Obvious Places For Children’s Toys in Santa Monica

Wilshire Matute plays with his BBB toy on his 1st birthday party.

This is part of an ongoing series where I talk about where I buy stuff for Wilshire in Santa Monica.

They say that play is the work of children – and my child takes his play just as seriously as anyone else. I want to facilitate that play through tools (toys) that allow my son to stretch his creativity, develop his cognitive skills and vocabulary, and bring him joy and laughter. We have gotten Wilshire some of his toys online (namely his train set), but I have had some good times searching for things that might resonate with him in Santa Monica, especially in some not-so-obvious places. They include:

Blue: The Transit Store’s Pop-Up location (in a trailer)

Big Blue Bus’s Blue: The Transit Store is currently in a trailer.

If you are in downtown Santa Monica during the week, you should stop by Big Blue Bus’s retail store (a pop-up location, which is a fancy way to say temporary trailer) so you can pick up a toy bus. It’s just $8 including tax. (WMATA wants $25 plus shipping for their replicas.) Note, BBB only carries one or two at a time due to space constraints, so call ahead if you want more than one toy bus. BBB does not accept online orders for these so you must come in person.

Big Blue Bus’s Blue: The Transit Store
1334 5th Street, Santa Monica, CA 904041
Phone: (310) 451-5444
Store Hours: Monday-Friday, 7:30am-5:30pm

Puzzle Zoo.
It’s actually a real toy store, despite the tourist-trappy vibe of its flagship location on the 3rd Street Promenade. Puzzle Zoo has a respectable selection of children’s toys, including Legos, Play-Doh, and Melissa and Doug. You’ll pay full-retail, but Puzzle Zoo is only one of three remaining toy stores left in the City. You do get the distinction of having purchased something in person.

Tip: Visit Puzzle Zoo’s more chill location on Main St. Again, the Promenade location feels like a tourist trap, which is fine except when it isn’t.

1411 3rd St. Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: (310) 393-9201
Store Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10am-10pm, Friday-Saturday, 10am-11pm

2910 Main St.
Santa Monica, CA, 90405
Phone: (310) 396-4331
Store Hours: Sun 10AM-6PM Mon-Sat 10AM-7PM

TJ Maxx. Think: Trucks! Books! Tea Sets! Puzzles! We got Will his very first kid broom here (he still prefers mine) and some musical instruments. Prices are 30% to 50% below MSRP and cheaper than Amazon. The best part is that you’re limited to what’s there, which is a constraint I appreciate because it’s better than getting lost in the abyss that is online shopping. If you can’t find it at TJ Maxx, or at Puzzle Zoo, then is it really worth having?

1251 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401

99 Cents Only Store
Where almost everything is 99.99 cents… A good place to stock up on art supplies, including finger paints, coloring books, and post-its.

2819 Pico Blvd
Open daily 8am-9pm

There are several other toy shops in town but I cannot vouch for then.

  1. The Acorn Store, 1254 5th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
  2. Quinnie and B, 1632 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

Until next time,

P.S. I’ve been compiling an index of all my blog posts about buying stuff in Santa Monica here. Check it out!

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