It’s difficult to believe that *play only opened in Logan Square nine years ago, since it is such a mainstay of the neighborhood. Between its varied selection of toys and books to its regular event centered around play and child development, *play (3109 W. Logan Blvd.) has become a vital source of fun and support for families in the area.
For founder Ann Kienzle, creating her own toy store not only felt like the “next logical step” in her life but also for the Logan Square. After working in the toy industry for 23 years, Kienzle was ready to put down her roots and open a store that would use all that she learned on the manufacturing and sales side of the profession.
“I looked around and saw the neighborhood was growing and changing [to being more family-oriented], she said. “That’s where *play came from.”
The Mr. Rogers quote “Play is really the work of childhood” was Kienzle’s driving inspiration behind the store and can be felt throughout. She wanted to create a place where each toy and book is designed to help children do their “work” and parents can find an exceptional selection of hand-selected merchandise.
“I pick out everything that goes in the store, I read every book,” she said, as she spoke of her integral role at *play. “It’s been really fun identifying the personality of Logan to find the books and toys that make everyone feel like they have a place in our store.”
Along with her vision for the store, Kienzle wanted *play to become a community resource for child development so that all children would have access to the positive, long-term impact of playing.
“We do this with our story time and music events that bring people together, and our donations to all the local schools and non-for-profits fundraisers,” she said.
And still for Kienzle the question remained about how to expand her reach even wider to help those most in need of the power of play for child development. “The people who need the anthem [of Mr. Rogers] the most are the people who don’t have the resources to provide it,” Kienzle noted.
“What if we try to give away a toy for every day?” was the big question brewing in Kienzle’s mind for years as she put down her roots in the toy store and connected with the community.
“It ate away at me,” she said, while the idea grew bigger and bigger, sitting on the back burner.
After opening her second location in Lincoln Park in October last year, Kienzle felt like it was finally time to move this idea to the front burner and make *play’s impact even wider. Her creation of *play every day is centered around the goal of providing at least 365 toys or books a year to children and families in need.
Within just a few months of its creation, *play every day just completed its first donation of 55 books to a local high school that caters to young mothers. Their hope was to rejuvenate the resources at the school’s day care as well as provide books to support the new parents at home too.
Kienzle and her sister Amy are working together to set up their next donation as well as a variety of workshops to help explain the connection between play and healthy child development.
Since *play every day is not yet a 501(c)(3) organization, they cannot take physical donations of toys and books. However, the team would love to hear from the community about local organizations that could benefit from *play’s charitable giving! To nominate an organization in need, email [email protected]
Featured photo courtesy of *play.