In a time where every cupcake must be organic, gluten-free and made with unicorn tears, and every toy must involve learning concepts a child can use to solve global warming and at least get into Harvard, it’s good to know there’s someplace where a kid can truly just be a kid.
"I just wanted to the store to be fun and silly because that's what motivates me."
Enter the Big Blue Whale toy store on West 19th Street in the Heights. It’s quaint, cute and fun, and it’s quite impossible not to have a good time shopping and playing in the store.
Owner Vanessa Wodehouse is a mom, who was, at some point also a kid, and as a Heights resident, she saw the influx of children in her neighborhood. She wanted to give them a local toy store to explore without the pressure of accomplishing anything more than just enjoyment.
“I look for toys that are classic and toys that are new to the state," Wodehouse says. “I just wanted to the store to be fun and silly because that's what motivates me.”
That’s not to say a child can’t learn something from a trip the Big Blue Whale. Between the wild hats and animal masks, dragon figures and cuddly plush, opportunities for imaginative play peek around every corner.
Wodehouse has a great eye for vintage toys, board games you’ve never heard of and cheeky items for kids of all ages. She also supports local and national artists and finds whimsical handcrafted pieces for the store.
The Big Blue Whale hosts reading time Thursday mornings at 10 a.m., and is open Tuesdays through Sundays.