Really, the answer to this question depends on your expectations of a toy store but most of us would probably agree that a truly, wonderful, shop, will mimic something of a Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium, or the famous FAO Schwartz in New York.
They're supposed to offer us a magical experience. Something of a fantasy land where there's plenty to see and touch. The vision of a perfect toy store has old, Geppetto sitting at the counter, lovingly carving out his timber figurines. So, where is Melbourne's best?
Childplay in Clifton Hill has been around for many years. They are sensitive to the purpose of toys as being something that requires children's imaginative input rather than those where you can just push a button to have the toy perform. They stock dolls, blocks, musical instruments, puzzles and the Steiner inspired range of Winterwood toys.
The Teddy Bear Shop in Melbourne's City Galleria, boasts Melbourne's largest collection of stuffed toys and will please, with all its friendly faces smiling back at you from the shelves. Then there's Dafel Toys, which has operated in The Block Arcade since 1945. Their window is full of pretty dolls and bears and a collection of teeny, tiny collectables. Dafel Toys is well-known as doll hospital as well, for all those urgent repairs.
The Tree-Top Toy Shop on Sydney Road, Brunswick is relatively new to the toy store scene, however it should be commended for its high ethical values. They have purposely selected for children, toys manufactured using environmentally sustainable processes and they prefers unwrapped toys rather than those with excesses of plastic packaging. Tree-Top stock Bajo Wooden Toys, Wheelie Bug, Pintoy and more.
Jasper Junior on Brunswick Street in North Fitzroy is the place to go for any of the Lunby Doll House range from Sweden. They also have the Flatout Bear Baby, which is the softest cuddle toy you'll ever find. Jasper Junior has the advantage as a toy store, of having freshly roasted Jasper Coffee available from the cafe right next door.
The Singing Whale on St George's Road in North Fitzroy can be clearly spotted from the roadside with its bright, fluttering wind socks. Very importantly, they stock Coola Hoops, the rainbow coloured and metallic range of Hula Hoops used by professionals. C'mon, you've all seen a professional hoop twirler, right?
Poppy Shop in Carlton has the tendency to delight not only children but the many adults strolling along Lygon Street as well. If you're there, you might find yourself stopping at the window to reminisce over all the vintage style toys. How about the Australian Geographic Shop, which is another one that is just as good for us big kids as it is for the little ones?
Not to be dismissed either, are the big players Toys R Us, Target and KMart. Great for when you need something last minute for yet another of child's classmate birthday parties.
What do you think? Department stores or is it the independent but pricey retailers that are more your scene?
I find that Little People on Lygon Street, Brunswick has the BIGGEST snowglobe collection, cute gift ideas and they have an awesome collection of dolls houses, furnitures and accessories. They even have Gomu's yay!
Honeybee Toys in Malvern is the closest toy store you will find to Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium, it's a true wonderland for childhood with many toys out of the box, unusual toys, Steiner and educational toys, handmade dolls, wooden dollhouses & castles, non-toxic toys for babies too. It even has a little play area where the children can test run the toys.
I'm really surprised that nobody has mentioned Geppettos workshop in Sassafras. They specialise in wooden toys and marionettes which hang all over the roof of the store. There is something amazing wherever you look, a true wonderland of toys.