Archives for 2015

Mr. Stinky Feet dropped by The Learning Tree last Saturday…..

…and this is what happened!

Mr. Stinky Feet (Jim Cosgrove).

World’s Best-Kept Shopping Secret

I was somewhat perplexed by my four year old nephew’s holiday wish list. Christmas was six weeks away, and I hadn’t heard of anything he was asking for. His list was more of a toy-collage filled with pictures of action figures, monster trucks, things that talk and projectiles. Seeking help, I took the list to work. I struck gold with Judy in H.R., (mother of three kids all under the age of six). She knew just where to locate these treasures. She directed me to the local Big-Mart across the street from my favorite little shopping center. “You’d better hurry” she said. “Most of the hot-toys are sold-out before Thanksgiving.” “Toy deliveries are on Tuesdays” she advised. “Get there early, before the good stuff is gone.” Surely she can’t be serious. I can’t shop for toys on Tuesday morning. I went after work.

Circling the parking lot, I found an available space just down from the lawn and garden center. I grabbed an abandoned shopping cart nearby and began to maneuver through a maze of men’s clothing, cleaning products, stereo equipment and sporting goods until I reached the Promised Land…the Toy Department. Wow, this place was busier than a Nordstrom Shoe Sale. What an impressive collection of playthings, all stacked up twelve feet high. I quickly found one of the race car sets on my nephew’s list at half the original advertised price. The box was slightly dented, but who plays with the box? The other items on the list were a bit more elusive. There were signs for some of them, but the toys on the shelf didn’t quite match up. Maybe they have more toys in a stockroom somewhere? An extensively tattooed and slightly pierced stock boy directed me to where I had just been. Asking other customers was not a successful strategy either.

After a few blank stares and some sideways chuckles, I retreated to the food court. I was on my second mocha-latte when I struck up a conversation with a young mother nearby. “I see you’re toy-searching” she said. “Looks like it’s not going as planned.” I agreed that I had missed out on this week’s delivery of the “good stuff” and that I had no idea what was appropriate for a four year old boy. She smiled and sympathized with my predicament. She leaned closer to me, so as not to be overheard. “After my son was born I discovered the world’s best kept shopping secret” she confessed. I swiftly moved over to her table. “Across the street, there is this charming, little toy store that has the most wonderful toys” she whispered. “Why are we whispering?” I asked. She admitted that she enjoyed the personal attention and if word got around the store might get too busy and lose some of its appeal. I told her that her secret was safe with me.

The next Saturday, I headed to the secret location. It was easy to park near the entrance and I had no need for an unruly shopping cart. Once inside I was greeted by the delightful sound of children’s laughter, as a group sat listening to a humorous adventure tale of a young boy and a group of pirates. (Note to self – get that book for my nephew.)

A friendly woman welcomed me and offered me a lollipop! Feeling at ease, I confessed to my need for assistance. She asked about my nephew’s interests and abilities before showing me a number of toys he might enjoy. “Pre-school children have sophisticated interests. They are very creative and often engage in fantasy play.” she added. “They require lots of physical activity to develop their gross motor skills” she included. Who knew that four-year olds were so complex? I never realized that there are physical and intellectual conditions to consider. I thought toys were just about having fun. The sales associate explained that a child’s play is very important developmental work. “Toys need to be fun, but the best toys teach a child new skills and build self-confidence” she added. She showed me how simple looking toys build language development, fine motor skills, abstract thinking and enhanced creativity. “Sometimes, simplicity is deceiving” she explained. “It helps to see a toy through the eyes of a child.”

We went over to an in-store play area. One child was pouring imaginary tea, another was intent on stacking a series of different size cups and a third was trying to see how many little train cars he could line up and push. They seamed so focused. “We could use some stuff like this in my office” I laughed. “A child’s play is her work” she added. She  explained that children continue to repeat a task, until they feel they have mastered it.

What looks simple and perhaps boring to an adult, is actually quite fascinating to a child.  “Children enjoy using their senses to discover the world around them” she continued. “They move through various stages of development and continually require new challenges.” She left me to ponder my options.

The things she said made sense, but my nephew seemed pretty excited about his list. It didn’t appear that I was going to find any of the coveted items here either. Waving the list, I ran back to the front counter. Apparently, these people have seen this panicked look before. “Don’t worry about the list” proclaimed another customer. “My kids are always cutting out pictures of TV advertised toys. I stopped searching for them, when I found them discarded a few days later in favor of a set of wooden blocks, a book, or a puzzle. Children get caught up in the hype, too” she concluded. “The staff here never steers me wrong.”

Feeling more assured I returned to the pre-school area, selecting several interesting items for my nephew, including the pirate adventure book and ship to go with it! While I was contemplating how I was going to wrap the large vessel in my possession, a sales clerk asked “Would you like your purchases wrapped, today? There is no extra charge and you can select the type of paper” she added. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather boa from the dress-up area! This is the place to shop. From the parking lot to the gift wrap; what a pleasant and informative experience. I better keep this little secret to myself…

This story is fictional, but the experience is real. Your local independent toy store is an ideal place to find quality, developmentally appropriate playthings for children-newborn to pre-teens – along with puzzles and games for the entire family. You’ll find a wide variety of open-ended toys and knowledgeable staffs that will help you make informed selections. Independent toy stores are an integral part of their local communities, serving as a resource for families and others interested in encouraging healthy growth through play. Shopping in locally owned stores keeps much of your purchase dollars in your local community. It’s a win-win experience: you get great service, creative products, and support local merchants at the same time.

Deborah Scholl is the owner of FUNdamentally Toys! in Houston, TX.
Provided By Susan J. Oliver, Tropomedia

This information is provided on behalf of the toy experts at your neighborhood toy store.
Neighborhood Toy Store Day 2015

KC Wolf’s Visit Was A Howl

KC Wolf visited The Learning Tree with a new Chiefs kids book.The kick off for our October in-store events was last Saturday at The Learning Tree as we hailed the Chiefs with a visit from mascot, KC Wolf!

KC came to meet and greet and to introduce The Kansas City Chiefs ABCs and 123s, a brand the new interactive board book for the littlest Chief’s fan! KC Chiefs book 2

This book’s a winner so we’ll keep plenty in stock all season!

KC Chiefs childrens book ABCs and 123sKC Wolf has a great time playing with kids at The Learing Tree.

KC Wolf is Coming to Corinth with a Brand New Kid’s Book!

Hello, wee little CHIEFS fans! We’ve got a new book we can’t wait to show you…

KC Chiefs Kids BookBig News! The Learning Tree is kicking off the introduction of Kansas City Chiefs ABC’s and 123’s kids book with a visit from KC Wolf on Saturday October 3rd at 11:00am at our Corinth Store.

Bring your little fans, dressed in Chiefs RED to meet KC Wolf. We’ll cheer for the Chiefs and read from their brand new book, Kansas City Chiefs ABC’s and 123’s!

KC Wolf, the Kansas City Chief’s mascot, guides readers through a sturdy board book full of colorful characters, fun football words and an interactive push button playing Chiefs cheers.

Get your copy signed by KC Wolf during the fun, free event!

The Scissor Magician- Clay Rice

November Event Preview:

The Scissor Magician, Clay Rice

Clay Rice, Silhouette Artist is coming to The Learning Tree in November!We are pleased to announce The Learning Tree will welcome internationally acclaimed, multi-award winning, silhouette artist and children’s author, Clay Rice for two days in November.

Friday, Nov. 6th at Park Place

Saturday, Nov. 7th at Corinth Square

Clay will share his award winning books in a special, musical Storytime, and be available for silhouette portrait appointments on both days.

With a few snips of Clay’s magic scissors, a silhouette becomes a timeless memory. Framed, a silhouette of your child becomes a treasured gift.

A Silhouette by Clay Rice is a Timeless Keepsake

Clay is a charming, gifted artist. We met Clay on our summer visit to South Carolina for the Astra Toy Market and have carried his books in the stores for years. He creates keepsake silhouettes, writes beautiful children’s books, tells stories, sings and plays guitar- talk about talent! We were so pleased when he found an open date for a trip to Kansas City to share his artistry.

Read more about Clay here.

Clay estimates that in his nearly 33 year career, he has cut almost one million silhouettes!

In fact, he is currently on his  “One Millionth Silhouette Tour”  anticipating cutting that millionth any day, with lots of fanfare and prizes going to the lucky subject!  This rare artform is a Rice family tradition spanning three generations and two artists.

The Stick by Clay RiceClay is the recipient of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and the IPPY Award for Children’s Book of the Year.

His latest book, The Stick, tells the story of a young boy who finds a stick on the ground. After reading the inspiring words carved into it, his life begins to change as he fulfills lifelong dreams and discovers the truth about giving.

Clay Rice combines great talent with soul and passion. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to meet this legendary artist, author and storyteller.

Book your silhouette portrait appointment by calling 913 385-1234 or stop by our Corinth location. [Read more…]

Dino O’Dell is a hit with Learning Tree Fans!

Kids Loved Dino O'Dell's performance at The Learning Tree in Corinth SquareWow! What a crowd we had for our friend, KC children’s entertainer, Dino O’Dell. We started off the week with a crowd of over 100 packed in the store. Kiddos, moms and dads, and grandparents were jumpin’ and jivin’. Dino invited everybody to participate as he read his new book Zar and the Broken Spaceship. Kids pushed imaginary buttons with their fingers , elbows, toes, and bottoms to help Zar fix his spaceship.

If you missed Dino last Monday, don’t despair! He’s coming back to The Learning Tree in Park Place this Tuesday, September 29th at 10:30. If you enjoyed him on Monday, come back for more. We’re always happy to see our friends happy and clapping to Dino’s tunes.

Dino O’Dell is coming to The Learning Tree Stores in September!

Early Learning through Books, Dino O’Dell Knows!

Dino O'Dell performs free at The Learning Tree stores.

Dino O’Dell is a favorite Kansas City children’s performer with a background in education and drama. Chances are you might have seen him perform at your local library or maybe he has even visited your child’s school. I was impressed by a simple quote he uses to describe what his goals are as he creates music, sing-a-longs and stories.

“We learn best when we are engaged and we are engaged best when the medium is interactive.” – Dino O’Dell

Dino O’Dell is including both of The Learning Tree stores in his stops around town to share his  newest children’s book project titled Zar and the Broken Spaceship.


Monday Sept. 21, 10:30am Corinth Square Storytime and Sing-a-long with Dino O’Dell,

Tuesday Sept. 29, 10:30am Park Place Special Storytime and Sing-a-long with Dino O’Dell.

Dino knows the rhythms of his catchy, repeating story, with the modern Hokey Pokey actions, will pull kids right in.  What seems like a simple children’s book, provides learning about language patterns, and opportunity for predicting and coordinating body movements from written commands.  All kinds of learning is happening!

New research unveiling the benefits of early exposure to books is constantly being published in the fields of education, psychology, sociology and pediatrics. In 2014,

Frontiers, an open-access, academic network publisher, introduced the following topic:

An Open Book: What and How Young Children Learn From Picture and Storybooks.

A worldwide invitation was issued for submission of articles that uncover how and what, pre-reading children learn from books. Twenty-two articles were collected and published with the intent of providing a body of information for educators, researchers and parents interested in children’s learning. The articles cover a wide range of sub-topics including the value of book illustrations, children’s books as a resource for culturally appropriate emotions, and teaching math with children’s literature.

Books can be part of all kinds of learning and influence behavior in surprising ways. One article titled Let’s look at leeks! Picture books increase toddlers’ willingness to look at, taste and consume unfamiliar vegetables (Heath, Houston-Price and Kennedy, 2014) made a surprising connection between book exposure and eating habits. Shared storybook reading is part of bedtime routine for many families.  A study conducted by Williams and Horst (2014) indicates it may have more value than previously recognized.

Research indicated that reading immediately before a period of sleep facilitates preschool children’s word learning. And more good news, the same is true in studies conducted with older children and adults! Sharing books is an enjoyable adult-child activity. Books are wonderful tools for learning and teaching. They can celebrate milestones- losing a first tooth, starting kindergarten or the arrival of a new sibling. Books can support difficult conversations surrounding divorce, illness or loss.

Our knowledgeable Learning Tree staff and exceptional Book Manager, Beth Roberts, are always happy to make book recommendations and welcome your requests. You may reach us at 913-385-1234.

Sunday September 13th is Grandparents Day

In honor of Grandparents Day this Sunday, Sept. 13th…

Come see us this Sunday, show us a photo of your grandkids and we’ll give you a 10% discount on your entire purchase. Or, better yet, bring your grandchildren in to see us!

AND we found a great resource for you from

Make Some Memories: 100 Free Things to Do with Your Grandchildren

Grandparents, through the years we have developed a special relationship with many of you at The Learning Tree. It’s our goal to help you enjoy the process of expressing your love and caring through gift giving. But, you don’t just shop with us, you keep us up to date on who has lost a tooth, who you’re going to visit, and who’s been making mischief. We know lots of your grandkids, and feel like we even know the grandchildren we haven’t met!

What we’ve found is that often grandparents are looking for a toy or activity they can share with their grandchildren to enhance the time they spend with each other.  Remembering my grandmother, I think about the cake tin filled with fabric scraps, buttons and thread she gave me. I sat for hours with her and my great-grandmother. They showed me how to thread a needle, how to make stitches and how to sew on buttons. Memories are made of the things that we do with the people we love.

When tested a sweepstakes to win $5,000 for a grandchild’s education as an incentive to sign up for their free weekly email, a download on their website titled “100 Free Things to Do with Your Grandchildren” outperformed the sweepstakes.  Grandparents want the opportunity for time to play, to discover, to teach, to create, and to nurture their grandchildren.

We looked over that list of 100 and found some great ideas for projects and games. Take a look yourself and maybe have some fun with #9, tips on how to make a soda bottle bowling alley, or #77, how to make a time capsule with your granddaughter, or use the recipe for #57 to make a batch of colored clay for the whole gang.

Make some memories!

Click here for the printable list

* is a website sponsored by the American Grandparents Association. The AGA “connects and nurtures Families, taking care of the needs unique to America’s 70 million grandparents.”

Start Your Own Family Game Night

Start Your Own Family Game Night!

How do we create special family time traditions with school, homework, sports and meetings filling up the calendar?

Our Park Place manager and Toy Expert, Elisa Moriconi, invited one of our game-loving customers to share her  family tradition:  “We often find ourBananagrams word gameselves in The Learning Tree looking at the huge game section because we love to play games! We love games so much that our son Colton created “Family Game Night.”

When Colton was 5 years old, he asked our family to designate one night a week as Family Game Night. On this night, we eat dinner, then turn off all electronics. Colton and Kyra pick out four games that we play during the evening.

Some nights we sprawl out on the living room floor and on other nights we pop popcorn and sit at our big, old kitchen table. We refresh our game selection each year as the kids typically find two to five new games under the Christmas tree that we play throughout the school break.

Now that the kids are older and more active in sports and other school activities, we find that our game night occurs every other week, but we are completely committed to Family Game Night.

You can’t go wrong with games. They are fun, you can learn a lot playing games, and it is a perfect way to spend quality time with each other. I highly recommend that you commit to your own Family Game Night. What better way to sit and laugh with your kids?”

Kristin F. lives in Stilwell, KS with her husband Russell, daughter Kyra, 10, and son Colton, 8.

qwirkleboxWant to start a Family Game Night of your own?

Not sure which games to play? Let us help! We can suggest a game just right for your family. Ask one of our Toy Experts to show you a few games. Then, feel free to play a few rounds in our stores before you choose one to take home!


[Read more…]

We have Shopkins Season 3 at The Learning Tree

ATTENTION Shopkins shoppers…

Season 3 Shopkins are in!

The Learning Tree has the latest 2-pack, 5-pack and 12-pack.

Shopkins Are At The Learning Tree toy stores

These mini collectable grocery store themed characters are a hit with trend-setters.

Each pack contains a collector’s guide to map out this enchanting world.