Toy Stores

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Cynthia's Toys

Dianne (11/99)
Cynthia's Toys (Oakland City Square)- It is not hugh like Toys R US-- it's a boutique toy store, but very unique items, including ethnically diverse items (Jewish, Af. Am, Asian, multicultural -oriented toys) as well as general toys, tapes, books. The owner is very knowledgeble and helpful ( I think she has an advanced degree (maybe a PhD) in child development or education) about the right kinds of toys for different age groups. She has helped me on many occassions to pick out the right toys, gifts etc for kids at their different ages. Very personalized service.

Only problem may be a bit of inconvenience- her hours, I believe, are M-F 10-6. Also, she is only at the store maybe one or two days a week, leaving a younger person to staff the store. But I have found her so helpful and the store so nice that I make an effort to call ahead to see when Cynthia is there and go then.


Bonnie (10/99)
My favorite toy store for years has been the Hearthsong Store. It started in Petaluma and now has stores in Berkeley, Sacramento, and other cities (along with a catalog). The one in Berkeley is in the 4th street shopping area, around the corner from Sur la Table. It is a *** lot *** more crowded with things than it used to be, and my kids are teenagers now, but I still go there occasionally. Recently I purchased plain wax globe candles, candle decorating wax, and a little book of instructions and examples, to give to a sunday school class. The tiny cloth witch on top of the pumpkin in my office is from Hearthsong. They have some interesting wooden toys for babys. The after-holiday sales are always great. With a Preferred Membership, you can get discounts even on the already-discounted items. Upstairs in the Berkeley store is a small but well-chosen book section that includes books for very young children. My youngest daughter and I liked to shop there for birthday party gifts and then get lunch at Betty's across the street. Invariably we would see someone we knew, which was always part of the fun.
From: Ellen (3/98)

HearthSong on 4th Street is a great toy store where playing with stuff is part of the fun of shopping there. I highly recommend not going on the weekend, too busy and parking can be a nightmare. The prices are more high end there but they usually have some great bargains in their sale section. They have a good selection of toys (crafts, handmade/wooden toys and European imports) for the preschool set and the staff is usually friendly and helpful.

La Pena

Dianne (11/99)
Another very nice, but very small, store is La Pena's store in Berkeley. Not a toy store, per se, but it has great (many inexpensive) musical instruments, books, tapes, CDs for kids and adults.

Rockridge Kids

Myriam (10/99)
Rockridge Kids has a nice selection and really excellent service. Nishan does a wonderful job advising on car seats and baby carriers. They don't carry some of the standard brand toys but often have a smaller brand that is equivalent or better. It can be disheartening for a three year old who wants a playdough barber shop or whatever, but workable.
From: Linda (4/98)

My favorite toy store wasn't even mentioned - Rockridge Kids on College Ave. They have a large selection and the staff are especially knowledgeable AND very nice!

From: Margaret (4/98)

More on toys stores--I'd like to second the recommendation of Rockridge Kids. I have found them to be very helpful and knowledgeable, and they have a good selection of both toys and child-care items. They gave me great advice when I was buying car-seats.

Mr. Mopps

Fran 10/99

are there any good big toy stores in the Oakland/Berkeley area BESIDES Toys 'r' Us? I loathe TRU because of a hideous experience I had there three Christmases ago... I made a vow never to darken their cash register with my money again, but every time I ask my friends where they got a particular toy for their baby, the answer is Toys R Us. I have a seven month old baby. Also, I prefer not to buy from catalogs or on-line because of all the packing material that ends up having to be dealt with, discarded etc. any help wld be gratefully appreciated.

I LOVE Mr Mopps in Berkeley on Martin Luther King near Fat Apples. It may look small, but there are tons of creative toys in all price ranges. It's packed to the gills, and has a good book sections too.
Check out Mr. Mopps on Martin Luther King near Fat Apples restaurant. Also, Sweet Dreams on College near Ashby, and Rockridge Kids on College near Lawton.
Try Mr. Mopps' in Berkeley on Martin Luther King. They have a wide selection. The prices are higher than Toys R Us but they have cool stuff.
A great toy store/bookstore in Berekley is Mr. Mopps on Martin Luther King Way near Rose. Big selection of quality toys at reasonable prices. Not cheap but not overpriced, either. They have Fischer Price as well as higher end toys. For babies, they have the great line of toys from Lamaze (and another one, too, that I can't remember the name of -- I think it's First Years). Plus (and it's a big plus in my book), they have books.

Sweet Dreams

Randal (10/99)
Our personal favorite toy store is Sweet Dreams on College Ave. Wonderful selection of interesting toys.
From: Margaret (4/98)

Sweet Dreams on College Avenue in the Elmwood is also good and I've found their service to be friendly. Their selection of children's books and young children's toys is especially good.

Myriam (10/99)
I do like Sweet Dreams as well, and often shop there for birthday party presents.

Zany Brainy

Myriam (10/99)
For a big toy store with some standard and some not-so-standard stuff, with hours that work for a working parent, I'm afraid I make the trek out to Zany Brainy in Concord. It's a chain with relatively good prices and excellent selection of nice toys both from big manufacturers (Lego, Fisher Price, etc). They are open until 9:00.

Toy Catalogs

From: Joyce Sturm <jsturm [at]>

In response to the inquiry regarding where to buy lullabies - I only have two words: Mail Order! If you're not already on their mailing list, you might want to try:

Junkie stuff for class gift bags: Oriental Trading Company, Inc.: 1-800-228-2269

Toys: (everything from Brio's to Teletubbies)

  • Back to Basics Toys: 1-800-356-5360 or
  • Constructive Playthings: 1-800-832-0572
  • Gifts for Grandkids: 1-888-472-6354
  • Hand in Hand - At Play: 1-800-872-9745 or email: hinh [at]
  • Hearth Song: 1-800-325-2502
  • Play Fair Toys: 1-800-824-7255
  • Troll Learn & Play: 1-800-247-6106
  • Toys to Grow On: 1-800-542-8338
  • Lakeshore Learning Materials: 1-800-421-5354 (teaching supplies, equipment, toys, etc. Also has stores in Walnut Creek and San Leandro)