Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fidgets: They’re not just for kids

Nearly every day parents come in looking for fidget toys for their children. Teachers or therapists have recommended they find something to occupy the child’s hands so the child’s brain can focus in school.

It turns out children aren’t the only ones to benefit from having fidgets to play with. Far from idle diversion, fiddling with desk gadgets can have an impact on cognitive functioning, improving focus or sparking fresh thinking or faster learning on the job, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

WhatzitThe story describes research conducted by a doctoral student at NYU’s engineering school. When people feel restless or confined by computer work, they may get physical stimulation and stress release from playing with a small sandbox, stretching and bending a Slinky, clicking a pen, or shaping and rolling putty.

That, in fact, is how Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty got started. In 1998, designing websites for a living, Aaron convinced his colleagues to chip in and buy 100 pounds of bouncing putty. “Squeezing, stretching, and shaping…they didn’t even realize it was there! As it melted their stress away, their creative potential was unleashed!” he says on his website. People began stopping by his desk to buy more putty, he began adding colors, and the rest is history.

PoshballParticipants in the NYU study mention benefits they get from squeezing, stroking, flipping, twirling, stretching, clicking or fiddling with everyday objects.

Eni Puzzles, chew toys, Wikki Stix, Wacky Tracks, Whatz’it, Sands Alive, squeeze toys, Pop Toobs, Posh Balls and rubber band balls are some of the many fidgety toys that kids and adults alike find calming.Tangles

The NYU study is one of many in the evolving field of research called “embodied cognition,” or how physical movement and the environment may shape cognitive functioning. “Some studies show fidgeting may also be a coping mechanism for restless energy, stimulating the brain enough so a person can focus on mundane tasks,” the WSJ article said.


Best of Clark County? Right Here on East Mill Plain

We were grateful and excited to be named Best of Clark County by readers of The Columbian. We were doubly excited to see that eight BOCC awards and a runner-up are right here in our shopping center, Columbia Square. We’d like you to meet our outstanding neighbors. See if you can spot the phrase that pops up in every one of these.


Larson’s Bakery: Best Bakery/Desserts (four-time winner)

Fresh banana cake. If you haven’t tasted it, you’ve missed one of Vancouver’s culinary treasures. Larson’s Bakery has been making fresh banana cake and much, much more at this location for 27 years after moving up from the Bay Area. The small, family-owned business, led by Sue Wilson, gets super busy at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter as folks line up for their cakes, pies, rolls and other goodies.

Larson’s also features a deli with sandwiches, soups and salads. For dessert? How do you choose?

Spanky’s: Best Consignment Shop (six-time winner), Best Clothing Values (four-time winner)

Rachel Phillips bought Spanky’s in 2009, carrying on the tradition of a good selection of fashionable, like-new clothing for kids, women and men. “It’s one stop for the whole family,” she said. “It’s still family-owned, so we provide that special touch.”

Spanky’s started in 1981, and one of the original three owners, Sandy Shepherd, is still general manager. Deanna Cook has worked there more than 25 years and Rhonda Thamert more than 18, so customers see familiar faces. They accept clothing either new within the last two years or very classic. “The cuteness factor goes a long way,” Phillips said. “It has to be in season, too.” The store also consigns home decor.

Mar’s Inn: Best Chinese (first-time winner)

Cantonese and Sichuan dishes from the south of China are the specialty at Mar’s Inn. Instead of Americanizing, “We try to translate what we really take from China,” explained Daisy Huang, who grew up in southern China. Cantonese focuses on stir fry, stews and steam, while Sichuan is a lot more spicy, she said.

The family-owned restaurant started in 1980 on Hawthorne in Portland, said Edward Mar, whose family has had as many as five restaurants but now owns one in Portland and the Vancouver Mar’s. Since opening here in 2008, it’s been a popular place for dining in or taking out.

Pho Green Papaya: Best Pho (first-time winner)

For a decade, Pho Green Papaya has been serving up Vietnamese comfort food. “Since it rains so often here, it’s nice to have a warm bowl of soup,” said Ann Chu, whose mother was born in Vietnam.

It’s mostly word-of-mouth that brings crowds of people to the family-owned restaurant. Besides pho — noodle soup laden with meat and vegetables that’s a street food in Vietnam — Pho Green Papaya serves vermicelli and noodle dishes, shredded salad, stir fries and a few other soups.

Chuck’s Produce: Best Grocery Store, Best Specialty Foods (two-time winner)

When Chuck’s Produce opened on 10/10/2010, grocery shopping in Vancouver changed. This local, independent, family-owned grocery strives to have the best prices in its huge produce department, with a unique selection of fruits and vegetables. If you don’t know what something is, ask a produce person to open it and give you a taste, said manager Larry Maresh.

But that’s only one part of the store. Local, healthy and organic are key words whether you’re shopping the grocery department, grabbing lunch at the from-scratch deli, satisfying your sweet tooth at the artisan bakery, seeking health and beauty products, or looking for hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. A gift shop is tucked in one corner, the Potting Shed fills with plants each spring, and free classes are offered regularly to help customers with healthful eating. Maresh’s team of 120 employees stands ready to serve.

Kazoodles: Best Hobby/Toy Store (three-time winner)

Providing the best classic and kid-powered toys since 2006, Kazoodles has been in this center for four years. The focus of this family-owned business is on getting kids into creative, active, imaginative, brain-boosting play. Kazoodles offers play tables where children can get their hands on many of the toys, help for bewildered grandparents, ideas for families of children with special needs, low-cost activities such as Storytime and Crafternoon, and free giftwrap.

Owners Bob and Mary Sisson have been active with the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, putting them on the front lines with issues such as toy safety, the shop local movement, and choosing the best toys for child development and fun.

Craft Warehouse: Runner Up, Best Hobby/Toy Store

Headquartered in Camas, this small chain of eight craft stores has been at Columbia Square since 1997. “We’re family-owned, not that huge box store,” said Carol Shand, assistant manager. “When we do a category, we do it well.” She, the store manager, and half a dozen others have been at this Craft Warehouse since it opened.

“The staff is very knowledgeable,” she said. The store commits to having more staff so they’re available to help customers. Scrapbooking, jewelry making, quilting, framing, floral and home decor are some of the areas that spark customers’ creativity.


Now, about that phrase. Did you catch it? It’s “family-owned.” Every one of these businesses is owned by a family that cares deeply about our community and our customers. So next time you’re in the vicinity of 134th-136th and Mill Plain, stop by and be part of the family!




Fun with arts and crafts


With thanks to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association

Deep in the recesses of your memory, you can still feel it. The way your hand slipped across that special smooth paper when you finger painted. The oozy sensation of play dough squishing between your fingers. The satisfying feeling of bringing a handmade construction-paper greeting card to life with large amounts of glue and glitter, even if it did take forever to dry.

Whether our medium was paint, clay, paper plus glue, or — shall we say — eclectic, most of us remember the fun and creative hours spent elbow deep in craft projects as children.

When winter weather keeps kids cooped up indoors, it’s a great time for moms and dads to spread newspaper across the kitchen table and round up some paint, glue, glitter, scissors, paper of various sorts, clay, and more.

Crafts are more than just fun. Kids are learning how to use their hands, how to express themselves, and how to figure things out when they do craft projects. Young children are also building pre-literacy skills because art helps them grasp the idea that symbols can stand for something. Craft projects get them using the tools of literacy such as paper and writing implements.

Here are some tips for finding your child’s inner Picasso or Michelangelo through activities at home:

• Safety first. Make sure all supplies and tools you offer kids are safe and age appropriate.

• Messy is okay. It’s up to you how much mess (and subsequent cleanup) you can tolerate, but try to get comfortable with the reality that creativity can be messy. Limiting art projects to a designated space with clear boundaries is a good idea. Choose a spot with easily washable floors, walls, and furniture. Involve your child in the clean-up process.

• Be creative about materials. Depending on what’s safe for your child’s developmental level, use both typical purchased materials and items you have around the house. Some ideas include finger paints, shaving cream, tempera paint, clay, play dough, fabric scraps, yarn and string, different types of paper (construction, newsprint, gift wrap, wallpaper), old magazines, scrap wood, cardboard, crayons, felt pens, stencils, and much more.

• Don’t expect or judge outcomes. Avoid asking what the new creation is, even if you don’t have a clue what you are looking at. Let your child tell you what he or she is trying to accomplish, if anything, with the project. Try to suspend your adult sensibilities, and see the end result through the child’s eyes.

Above all, let the child’s imagination drive arts and crafts fun at home. When it comes to creativity, there is no such thing as a right way or a wrong way. If kids want to use materials in unusual or unorthodox ways, as long as their ideas are safe, why not let their creativity soar? It’s all about having fun.

Kazoodles is out in the community this weekend.

Here are some of the great things going on around town…

  • The WellMama Family Wellness Fairwellmama2

Celebrating healthy moms and their families while providing support, education and resources, this is the first WellMama Fair, organized by doula Bryna Sampey. The fair will feature a walk — a benefit for the Clark County Breastfeeding Coalition, entertainment, and a marketplace of mom-run businesses that encourage healthy families. Kazoodles is a sponsor.

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 11. Walk starts at 9.

Where: LeRoy Haagen Memorial Park, NE 136th Ave. and NE 9th St.

Find the WellMama event on Facebook

  • A Reason to Run

This 5k run/walk features a free half-mile run for kids. The scenic course begins at Marine Park and parallels the Columbia River. Kazoodles will be on hand at Marine Park until noon with activities for the kids who aren’t running at that moment.  CPCrun

The run, sponsored by Columbia Presbyterian Church, supports missions such as Clark County Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Marshall-McLoughlin Community Connections in Vancouver, and the Beer-Sheba Project in Senegal, West Africa.

When: Saturday, May 11. Registration 8:30-9:30 a.m. Kids’ area 9:30-noon. Kids’ run 11:30 a.m.

Where: Marine Park, exit 1 off SR 14

A Reason to Run


  •  Mother’s Day Extravaganza

Local artisans from Made in Vancouver, USA present their first annual Mother’s Day Extravaganza Friday and Saturday at the Hilton. You can find art, jewelry, flowers, beauty products, décor, clothing, accessories, woodwork, treats and patterns.  You can find mom a great gift made right here in Vancouver!

When: May 10 and 11, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Vancouver Hilton & Convention Center, 2nd floor


  •  Yo-Yo Club

Of course, don’t forget Yo-Yo Club right here at Kazoodles! Caleb and Matt are ready to take you to new levels of yo-yoing, whether you’re starting at the bottom or the top of the string.  Kids and adults alike enjoy this monthly gathering of yo-yo enthusiasts. Free!

When: Saturday, May 11, 2 p.m.

Where: Kazoodles

  • And on the national front…MarySisson

Miss Mary has a great article published in the national site for neighborhood toy store love: The Woohoo Factor.


What’s the deal with Crafternoon?


Every Thursday Ms. April, the manager schmanager, wants to hang out with your kids and make cool crafts at Kazoodles’ Crafternoon! We like making crafts because kids are naturally creative and learn a lot of great skills in the process of making something they can be proud of. Cutting with scissors, drawing and gluing all help with fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination. Creative problem-solving skills are usually deployed during craft-time. Kids develop an interest and appreciation for visual arts when they start to understand the process behind it, too.

Ms. April is a graduate of Vancouver School of Arts and Academics and believes in exposing young people to new outlets of expression. She uses positive language to encourage exploration of the materials and tries to assist kids in creating their own vision of the end product. In other words, it’s okay to draw outside the lines, and YOUR ideas are interesting. Crafternoon is a drop-in activity every Thursday between 3 p.m.- 5 p.m. We like drop-in because some kids might want to take a long time with their project or create multiples, and showing up later is just fine. We ask for $2 per child for help with supplies. The projects are great for ages 4 and up, and parents are encouraged to help the younger ones if they need extra help. Older kids can try more elaborate ideas.

We try to work in some products we carry so you can see what it’s like out of the box, but we also put an emphasis on recycling materials into beautiful things. Ms. April likes to go to a cool place in Portland called SCRAP to collect recycled supplies, as well as saving all those tin cans and toilet paper rolls and egg cartons. If you have anything to donate, please let us know!


Here’s what we have planned for the next couple of months:

  • April 11- Tissue Paper/Pencil tip Pointillism. We’ll cut small squares of tissue paper and twist them around a pencil. Add a drop of glue and stick the little pop of tissue color onto cardboard.
  • April 18- Rock Painting- Apply paint to a boring ol’ rock and make it your own fancy schmancy rock! Klutz has a great book with ideas to make your rocks look like animals and bugs and other stuff.
  • April 25- Tiny Toy Battle- Today we transform popsicle sticks into tiny bows with Q-tip arrows. We’ll also make catapults and decorate them. With parent consent, we will then have a tiny yet glorious battle.
  • May 2- Shaving Cream Marble Painting-  Shaving cream is a great medium for art! Put a few colors on the surface of a tray filled with shaving cream and swirl them around. Next put paper down to make a cool marbleized print.
  • May 9- Bubble-wrap Printed Picture Frames-  This is a perfect gift for Mother’s Day, so we’ll keep it (somewhat) of a surprise.
  • May 16- Mask Making and Parade-  We’ll use various techniques to create our own unique masks. Kids who are in the store at 5 p.m. can join in an awesome conga line around the store wearing our masks, just for fun!
  • May 23- Watercolor with Crayon Resist- This Crafternoon will be heavy on the open-ended side of creating art. We’re not as focused on having a finished product as we are on having fun with watercolor paints and experimenting with wax crayon resist techniques.
  • May 30- Wikki Stix Play Day- Wikki Stix are a great USA-made creative toy; they’re basically a colored string covered in non-toxic wax, which make them super bendable. You can make 2-D designs and do tracing with them, or you can take it 3-D and make cool sculptures.
  • June 6- Creature Bots-  We’ll be trying out a kit from Creativity for Kids, one of our suppliers. These are cool robot/monsters that make cool actions.
  • June 13- Small Recycled books- Use all different kinds of paper materials to make little books that can become journals, comic books, adventure logs, address books, you name it! Make a story for your Dad for Father’s Day!
  • June 20- 3-D Rolled Paper Craft/Twirly Q’s- Little strips of paper or corrugated cardboard get all coiled up and turned to one side to make really cool designs! We’ll look to Klutz for inspiration.
  • June 27- Fairy houses-  This has been a very popular activity at Kazoodles in the past. Based on the book series from Lightbeams Publishing, we’ll use all natural materials such as sticks, leaves, moss, pine cones and other seed pods to fashion a home for the fairies. We’d love contributions of materials for this craft. Come in to the store and check out the books for ideas ahead of time!
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Imagineering the future

There’s a reason they call it the Magic Kingdom. Thanks to a great staff that keeps things going here, we got to go to Disneyland with our son and daughter-in-law, grandkids and their cousins over their spring break. We hadn’t been there since we took a troop of 7th-grade Girl Scouts  in the ’90s. We suspect Disneyland was the spring break destination of many of our Kazoodles friends this year, too. It really is a place where you can enter the magic and have a ton of fun.

Catching that first glimpse of Disneyland’s Main Street, you feel the magic begin. Everything is done to perfection. We’ve heard the story of Walt Disney, back in 1955, taking the tour before Disneyland opened. He dropped to his knees and asked his entourage of architects and builders do the same. He wanted everyone to see it from a child’s perspective.

I couldn’t help wondering, as we Yo-hoed through Pirates of the Caribbean and screamed through Space Mountain, what childhood was like for the Imagineers who took Disney’s dream and made it happen. What did they play with? What kind of freedom were they given to develop their own fun? Did they spend their summer days playing pirate or detective or princess or astronaut with the neighbor kids, learning to problem-solve,

Spring break at Disneyland with our grandkids (the tall ones) and their cousins (the short ones).

Spring break at Disneyland with our grandkids (the tall ones) and their cousins (the short ones).

create and imagine as they played? Did they build forts and play with Lincoln Logs and learn strategy by playing board games? Did they read books so the pictures formed in their mind’s eye?

I recall seeing “Sleeping Beauty” just after my 6th birthday. I was off to princess land in my imagination for months afterward. Many, many more Disney movies have been made since then. And millions of Disney toys have found their way into the toyboxes of America’s children. They are part of the American cultural experience.

So why don’t we carry Disney toys at Kazoodles? It goes back to those Imagineers. We believe deeply that kids need the freedom to create their own play. Rather than dressing her as Belle or Jasmine, let her put together her own costume (like the young customer in a princess cape, robot hat and rubber boots) and her own persona. Let him create his own storyline, whether with cars or cowboys, pirates or lions.

Disney has a beloved place in our culture, and we all can enjoy the works of the Disney Imagineers. Our hope at Kazoodles is that the Imagineers of the future will have a great start with play that doesn’t dictate a storyline to reenact, but lets kids develop their creativity, problem-solving, and ability to invent something totally new.

Come Celebrate Kazoodles’ 7th Birthday!


Ms. Robot April is so excited she might open a present early!

It seems like yesterday that we opened the very first Kazoodles. Time really does fly when you’re having fun! We’ve come a long way in the seven years since then, and we’ve decided to throw a big birthday party on March 23 to celebrate!

But this won’t be any ordinary party (would it really be a Kazoodles party if it was?). For six of our seven years, we’ve run a summer reading program in which readers “earn” volunteer-knit blankets for cats at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington. The idea comes from StephanieJo, local author of Meow a Cancer Legacy. In honor of the program, this year’s celebration will be–drumroll please–a yarn party!

Yarn party? Yarn party. We have an entire day of fun yarn-related activities for kids and adults alike. “But how many yarn-related activities could one toy store possibly think of?” you might be saying to yourself. We’re glad you asked. To the schedule of festivities!

  • 10 am – We’ll tell yarns in a special storytime
  • 10:30 am – Yarn toss games
  • 11 am – Face painting with Cinderella (The stepsisters apparently left her home to knit)
  • 2 pm – Learn to spool knit or crochet with StephanieJo, the instigator of our summer reading program
  • 3:30 pm – Race rocket balloons on yarn rocketways
  • All Day – Make friendship bracelets, enter for prizes, and contribute to a yarn drive so volunteers can make more cat blankets.

The big day is Saturday, March 23, so mark your calendars! We’re already practicing our yarn-throwing form, and we can’t wait to see yours. We’ll be open from 9:30 in the morning to 7 at night. Stop by for a quick visit or a long afternoon. After all, this isn’t all about us, it’s about you, the customers! Thank you for seven fantastic years! Let’s party!