Local Shopping: learning tree - MetroFamily Magazine
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Local Shopping: learning tree

by Lindsay Cuomo

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

January’s chill is here in full force. While the temperature may limit time for outside play, it does nothing to the levels of energy kids need to expend each day. After days or weeks of being forced indoors, you may start looking for a solution to your family’s cabin fever. A trip to learning tree offers an experience far beyond the usual big-box store visit.

Either alone or with the entire family, you can easily spend a chilly afternoon discovering all the treasures in stock at learning tree. You’re likely to come home with something new to occupy your kids’ curiosity for many days to come. 

Learning tree is a specialty toy store with two locations on the north side of the metro, one in the Wilshire Village Shopping Center and one in the downtown Edmond store Cinnamon Bears. You can’t help but feel like a kid again as you walk into the quaint shops, especially when you find that perfect item you had no idea even existed like a weedeater that looks just like dad’s or a cooking set with real utensils made for little hands. At the Wilshire Village location, the entire 2800-square-foot store is filled from front to back with toys, books, games and more, many of which are on display for hands-on exploration. 

“It is important for kids to play,” said Patti Tepper-Rasmussen, learning tree’s owner and former Montessori teacher.

Tepper-Rasmussen opened learning tree in 1985 with Kathy Carey, a fellow Montessori teacher. The pair opened their doors wanting to offer parents something different, something beyond what they see in television toy commercials. When Carey returned to teaching 10 years ago, Tepper-Rasmussen continued to manage the store.

The owners’ backgrounds are reflected within the beliefs of the store. The decisions on their approach, services and merchandise follow their beliefs that each child is unique, that children learn through activity, that they need time to explore and experiment and that adults can better nurture children if they understand how a child’s uniqueness fits within patterns of growth and development. As a result, learning tree has a diverse line-up of products, ranging from small toys to imaginary play and beyond. The scope of what’s available is extensive, offering something for every aspect of play. 

Learning tree started with products from just 25 companies. Now, the walls are lined with products from 450 different manufacturers including Brio, Hape, Quadrilla, Alex, Playmobil and many more. Though the majority of the toys learning tree carries are not ones likely to be found at major retail stores, it isn’t hard to pick out characters from hits like “Star Wars” or “Frozen.” Some collectable brands, such as Thomas the Train and Breyer’s Horses, have an entire dedicated section offering shoppers plenty of variety.

Tepper-Rasmussen said her goal is to find the products that are high-quality, durable and developmentally-appropriate for all kinds of children. Shoppers can find the newly-popular toy trends like balance bikes and Ezy Rollers as well as classics like the Flying Turtle scooter that many are likely to remember from their own gym classes.

Tepper-Rasmussen makes a point to purchase from manufacturers who are socially responsible, and many of the products in the store are made in the U.S. Their unique assortment goes far beyond the most popular themes. Whether you have a budding artist, chef, beautician, builder, scientist or even a train enthusiast, learning tree has something to spark interest and imagination. 

You won’t see any pink or blue aisles in the store, which is laid out by developmental sections to guide visitors towards the right toys to meet each child’s developmental skill. While shopping, there is little need to consult the packaging for the right age. As you walk through the aisles there is a consistent flow along the developmental curve. No matter where your kids are on that curve, the shop has something for every child, from the book worm to the most active child. Toys and games match developmental milestones for kids from birth to age 14.

Tepper-Rasmussen is proud of her products that can grow with children, offering many years of developmentally-appropriate play in one toy. Many of the items the store carries will continue to entertain and educate well past one particular age. Your older kids are not left out, either, with plenty of puzzles and games for more mature learners in stock.

For all the busy families out there, learning tree offers a few great time-saving perks: complimentary gift wrapping and free assembly of ride-on toys. If an item is not in when you arrive, the staff will contact you when it does. These perks can really help knock a few things off that to-do list in no time. 

In search of a one-of-a-kind gift for the kid who seems to have everything? Consider dropping by learning tree on a Saturday. Most Saturdays, a different local author will be on hand to offer shoppers the chance to purchase their books. All profits directly benefit the author, said Tepper-Rasmussen, and the store usually purchases a few extra copies for people who may have missed out on the event. 

Learning tree is exactly what you would expect from your neighborhood toy store and more.  It is a truly unique, truly local shopping experience with quality you can count on. The Learning Tree is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

[Editor’s Note: Be sure to take advantage of the discount programs available at learning tree. The shop has a frequent shopper program called Leaves of Gold that allows shoppers to earn store credit. Store employees track your first 15 purchases and after those purcahses, they average the amount spent and give the shopper store credit in that value. Learning tree also offers a 15 percent discount with the Keep it Local card and Allied Arts OKCityCard.]

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