Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up? Was it a lion tamer or a schoolteacher, a pop star or a veterinarian? Everything was possible as a child – you could be anything. But how did you choose, how do you know what you don’t know? With endless possibilities, where do you start?

At American Girl and Melissa & Doug, the store is the gateway to that journey – the place where each story begins. With exploration and discovery, these brands have elevated what toys can do to educate and are bridging the gap between imagination and reality. The same can be applied for any kid’s environment. With peer play at the core, and the space conducive to it, studies have shown that a child will develop school adjustment skills and become better at social integration, emotional regulation, verbal communication and expressing creativity.

Most children don’t have access to online shopping. For a lot of kids, the store is the first introduction. We need the store to connect the product to the child. The most successful and engaging kids stores have a very literal customer journey (follow the yellow brick road) animated and storybook like. These imaginative environments can lead a child to discover new interests and these innovative products by American Girl and Melissa & Doug bolster the process of play to provide more possibilities closer to reality.

We can incorporate all these larger understandings into how we design a store. From prior experience (we were all young once), we know that kids are drawn to miniature expressions of grown-up apparel and products. These magnetic visual cues invite children to consider possibilities that they may not run across in their day-to-day life. In a store design, child-sizing is the way to put on kid goggles and change the point of view to 36” high. All they want to do is play. Play is planting the seeds and trying on is experiencing different possibilities. Together, these experiences created in-store can introduce an idea to a child that could grow into a career path.

Connecting the dots even further, the memories made (whether imaginative or real) create a lasting bond with the brands, much like a friendship. As a mom, I appreciate any opportunity that will help my kids become the best versions of themselves. Having enjoyed visiting these stores, and now being a part of the design process I have an even higher appreciation of what they can do to promote learning and enrich play. Let your imagination run wild like a child’s and come experience for yourself the wonder and magic of today’s kid’s store.

Can you come out and play?