Lauren Dannemiller was born to play, and now she is going to make a living from it at her new Willoughby storefront, White Rabbit Kids.
The idea struck while struggling to find toys for her two children (ages 5 and 2) in a department store.
“It’s a lot of licensed stuff, and we don’t really watch a lot of television, so my kids would stand around looking at these things like ‘what is this?’” Dannemiller says. “It was hard to find good toys for them, so I said ‘you know what? I want to open up a toy store,’ but it’s going to be centered around being mindful about what we’re presenting to our kids.”
From that day, White Rabbit Kids started coming together. The project — named for Dannemiller’s time as a 4-H kid, raising rabbits and an “unhealthy obsession” with Alice in Wonderland — received funding July 26 and was open just two months later on Sept. 24.
Upon opening the wooden door off Erie Street, the store envelops guests into a world of color and wonder. An intentionally calming presence takes over, one that invites creativity without overwhelming visitors.
“We’re overstimulated constantly. And we’re going to take that down a notch here at White Rabbit Kids,” says Dannemiller. “What if we engaged our kids mindfully from the beginning in a way that they can live a lifestyle where they are empowered to live a fun life [while] perpetuating the idea of wellness.”
Among the array of mindful toys are drawing books, word cards, maker kits and dress-up clothes. Even if customers are not in the market for toys, they are still welcome in to play.
“We had somebody come in and get out of the rain this morning with their little one,” she says. “They came in, colored a couple of pictures and played with a couple of toys. That’s what it’s here for.”
With a drawing table up front, bouncers on the carpet for kids to hop on around the store and hopscotch in the back, this is not your average toy store. In the future, Dannemiller is prepared to prove that further with weekly story time, craft sessions and family-oriented yoga classes.
“We’re here to encourage a lifetime of mindfulness,” Dannemiller says. “It’s what we do.”
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