The 2012 edition of Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s (DHBC) Big Day Downtown introduced a playful twist in order to facilitate (or force, for the agoraphobic at heart) bloggers to step-up the “social” in social media. Names were drawn at a reception at the wonderful Morris East and I was partnered with The Internet’s own Joel and Sylvia from the collaborative pop-culture-athon known as This Needs to Stop (Looking for a place to start? Try the Comprehensive Review of Fifty Shades of Grey). The idea of mashing-up writers was a lot easier to get behind than the thought of me spawning a third child to properly continue my series.
Was I about to awkwardly dive into a brave new world of fashion, food and drink? Or would I bore them tears with the latest advances in consumer electronics, web standards and must-have apps? Luckily we found a secure middle ground. I would bring Rowan, a 6-year-old proxy of the wants and desires of the youth of today and we would invest the $200 in an array of gifts for children in need this upcoming holiday season. We were guided by a few simple rules; toys had to be battery-free and, most importantly, be super fantastic.
I tried to get a midi version of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love Of All” to autoplay in order to elicit the proper amount of emotion, but you will just have to hum along in your head.
We met at The Uncommon Group’s Carbonstok (1235 Barrington St, +1(902)404-7288) in the self-proclaimed SoMo sector of downtown. The place is full of unique, unusual and clever gift ideas. Where else could I find a massive cardboard buffalo head for my dad last Christmas? Several moments passed being confounded by various wooden brain teasers from the Toymaker of Lunenburg. Not only was this a great start to a big day downtown, but October 20th marked Canada’s first Small Business Saturday. This meant no tax at Carbonstok, extending our financial reach a step further.
- A super-bouncy Queen Beatrix by Kikkerland ($6.08/5+)
- Canadian-made “smell me”-worthy recycled plastic and real wood Sprig Rally Racer with Adventure Guide Rudi Tootin ($27.76/3+)
We strolled down to The Discovery Centre’s Discovery Shop (1593 Barrington St, +1(902)492-4422) and were treated to more accidental savings. Due to an update of exhibits at the Discovery Centre, all the Dinosaur toys were marked 50% off. There were a lot of choices to be made, leaning heavily towards experimental, observational and “some assembly required”. Rowan was blown-away by the effect of 3D glasses…even without having any corresponding 3D-ready images to look at.
- LEGO Friends Olivia’s Inventor’s Workshop, which Rowan remarked: “I think she builds robots and discovers diamonds.” ($12.99)
- Sylvia Branzei’s (Illustrated by Jack Keely) Animal Grossology, based on Rowan’s love of the original exhibit and having one of the books in the series herself ($14.99)
- Wild Republic’s Chomper for, well, chomping ($4.29)
- Geocentral Dinosaur Book & Dig Kit with digger and glue but no paint ($15.99)
- Toyop’s Triassic Triops space age tank with “guaranteed to hatch” prehistoric eggs ($15/8+)
- Schylling’s Balloon Powered Wooden Boat for tubby time fun ($5.60)
- “Guaranteed to grow” Big Time Toy’s The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys Ocean-Zoo based on Rowan’s own experience of raising a couple of these weird prawn-like beasts (6+)
- A Lizard Egg Growing Pet that, according to Joel, will eventually omit a foul oder…that’s automatic kid approval right there ($2.19)
The last stop was DeSerres (1546 Barrington St, +1(902)425-5566), where Rowan spent some time testing out various markers and art supplies. The toys and children’s craft section is very impressive, covering a wide-range of tastes and skill levels.
- From successful local toy maker Orb Factory Stick ’n Style Sparkle Bands that was able to elicit this response from Rowan: “[Squee]…that looks amazing!” ($16.95)
- Orb Factory Robots Sticky Mosaics with FlipMotion™ stickers which Rowan thought was “cool” ($14.97)
- The universally useful and fun Play-Doh Animal Activities Mini Bucket ($7.47/3+)
- A 71 piece Portable Easel “for double-sided fun” featuring a white board, magents, and chalk. There were two options, one with rounded edges and another more box-like. ($24.97)
We approached our goal of $200 within a couple hours and with $1.75 to spare. 14 items were purchased in total, though many more were fondled, test-driven and left-behind for another day.
The last step takes place on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 17th Annual Chronicle Herald Holiday Parade of Lights. The MacLeod-Lewis clan will be bundling up, as usual, as heading down to the event and eagerly handing over to the Empire Theatres Toy Drive. A new family tradition has been born!
See also: This Needs to Stop: Big Day Downtown!