Kiddywampus Ignites the Young Imagination

    An interactive toy store where kids can ignite their imaginations, and paint on the walls ala Jackson Pollock?
    Parents: when was the last time you were inspired walking into a toy store? Would you like a new, creative way to throw your child’s next birthday party that will make a lasting impression? Would you like to spend quality time with your child and relax in a place surrounded by originality?  

    There’s a new concept in children’s stores that is capturing the attention of parents throughout the Twin Cities. It is a completely kid-centric explorative environment where young children are encouraged to touch absolutely everything, and to discover imaginative ways to view their world. 

    "Kiddywampus is totally interactive," says owner Amy Saldanha. More than just a retail store, kiddywampus is a destination where children learn through art and design. "There are activity stations throughout the store where they are encouraged to create and sign their own art masterpieces." Also offered are art classes, children’s art parties, and a sought-after play area like no other in town.

    Located on France Avenue in Edina, kiddywampus has been filled with happy children and enthusiastic parents since it opened in June 2006. Its shelves are lined with unique, high quality, yet reasonably priced toys, books and furniture that can’t be found in typical toy stores. "We look for niche suppliers," explains Saldanha. "Our merchandise doesn’t just occupy children’s minds, it engages them."  

    A mother of three, Saldanha co-developed the kiddywampus concept because she wanted someplace fun and inspiring to take her own children. She is particularly proud of the retail part of kiddywampus because the toys are out and available for the children to play with. She says, "Parents enjoy watching their children interact with the toys and discovering how they use them."

    That discovery experience is extended to art parties, classes and a creatively-inspired play area. In January, Saldanha introduced an art exploration curriculum for 2 to 5 year olds, developed and conducted by a licensed art therapist, which introduces toddlers to different art mediums. Structure and guidance within the class gives children the freedom and confidence to create while maintaining a safe and orderly environment. "Engaging in this creative process increases self-esteem, encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and helps children to begin defining a sense of self," says Saldanha. 

    There also is a drawing class called Young Rembrandts for ages 3 to 9, and knitting classes for children ages 6 through 9. "Most of our art classes are process-based. We don’t care what the outcome looks like," she adds. "The Young Rembrandts is the exception. We want to show kids that with just a little training, they can learn to draw."

    For parents who want something unforgettable for their child’s next birthday party, kiddywampus offers an entirely new concept. Its weekend art parties are held in a large studio area, with two walls covered floor to ceiling in paper, transforming the entire studio into a huge blank canvas. It’s an opportunity for kids to get active and create their own world. They can do things that they aren’t allowed to do anywhere else like pour, splatter and drip paint on the walls. "It’s a larger than life experience," says Saldanha, who adds that the staff uses the occasion to teach children about Jackson Pollock, other artists and the concept of getting inspired. 

    "The children discover that art doesn’t have to be about being able to draw," she adds. "It’s an incredible experience in which the kids take the lead."

    During the week, the studio area is used by parents, babysitting co-ops, play groups, mom’s clubs, home-schooling groups and others who bring in their cup of coffee to enjoy while their children play around them. The aesthetically pleasing, interactive area has a king-sized chalk board and a huge supply of stimulating toys and activities. For $5, plus $2 for each additional sibling, parents can spend an hour chatting while the children explore.

    In addition to inspiring children, Saldanha also places tremendous importance on supporting children’s causes. She’s already had one fundraiser benefiting the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, and the store is a drop off point for the Junior League book drive. 

    For more information, visit Kiddywampus is located at 4402 1/2 France Ave. S., behind the Convention Grill and Bruegger’s Bagels.



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