National toy retailer Toys R Us is offering a shopping experience this holiday season that focuses on helping children with cerebral palsy, autism, and other specials needs feel comfortable while shopping.
The Mighty reports that the popular toy chain is offering a quiet and relaxing way for children with special needs and their parents to shop by creating an idyllic atmosphere that allows kids with sensory issues to feel safe. According to Toys R Us spokeswoman, Candace Disler, the project is currently being tested at a local level but if all goes well, it will become a nationwide shopping experience.
“We’re working on a plan to test these types of opportunities on a local level — pairing our stores with local organizations to create an event for kids with special needs and their families, and will also assess opportunities to scale it nationally.”
The shopping event for special needs kids originally started in the UK, where a Toys R Us store hosted a “quiet hour” shopping event for children with autism. The event had dimmed lights, no loud speaker announcements, and no music. Per UK Toys “R” Us marketing director Mike Coogan, the small changes to the store enables anyone to enjoy the store, regardless of disability.
“Making slight adjustments to stores and creating a quiet shopping period allows children and young adults to experience the fun in a toy shop, regardless of their disability.”
The U.S. Toys R Us story in Lafayette, Louisiana, followed the UK store’s lead. The first shopping event will take place on November 13, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Similar to the UK, the event will offer dimmed light without distracting announcements or music. Additionally, the store will offer an area for children to color with store employees while parents shop. The store mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, will serve orange juice, milk, and donuts, and will also take photos with the kids.
Although it’s not required, the store asks for anyone wanting to attend to RSVP by calling 337-235-4425 by November 9.
“The Lafayette event is a great example of the localized opportunities we’re testing to make it more convenient and comfortable for families and children with special needs to shop our stores,” said a representative of the Lafayette store. “And, as we continue to plan these types of events on a local level, we are assessing the best way to scale them nationally.”
The shopping experience will be held on a case by case basis for each Toys R Us store that participates. It’s up to each individual to decide what kind of special services to offer.
Most Toys R Us stores also offer numerous types of toys specifically geared toward disabled children, including the type of disability they have. For instance, auditory, creative skills, gross motor, fine motor, and self-esteem games and toys are among just a few of the toys offered at the stores. If your local isn’t participating in a special needs shopping event, or if you’re unable to make it to a local event, you can see all of the store’s offerings on the official Toys R Us website, under the “Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids” section.
“We’re making a bigger commitment,” said Ron Boire, the president of Toys R Us. “It’s an important piece for us and the parents in our stores. There’s a lot more awareness that many different toys can help differently abled children with everything from motor skills to fundamental learning. Parents really appreciate an organization helping them make smart decisions.”