BC Playthings is my family’s neighbourhood toy store in Edgemont Village full of wholesome, quality toys for kids that last for generations. The store’s founder, Pat Gallaher, and his dedicated daughter, Bree, are an important part of our community and we hope you’ll watch the video above and read my interview with Pat below about how the store has evolved from his kitchen table in 1976 to the fantastic little gem that it is today. Then head on over to the store to pick up amazing goodies for your kids for under the tree and to fill those stockings! Support local!
Me: Why did you start BC Playthings?
Pat: Well, I had been part of a group, and we were trying to start a buying co-op, for preschool teachers and daycare teachers. When the support for that fizzled, I found myself alone, but still motivated to continue. I searched out information on hundreds of potential sources for products for children. There was so much out there, it seemed like someone should try to help make them available for teachers and parents.
Me: Where was BC Playthings first location?
Pat: In my house. There were books in the kitchen cupboards, toys in the front room, toys in the back bedroom and art supplies in the basement. I had a catalogue in which people could order, by mail or phone, and if people wanted to come by in person, they would call ahead to see if I was home, and then come visit the house. I didn’t know what I had started!
Me: I know you have 4 daughters. How has being a Dad inspired your career choice?
Pat: I didn’t really choose my career, it kind of chose me. When it came to my home life, wanting a fulfilling wholesome childhood for our daughters has reinforced and spurred my inspiration to help create positive play environments for other children. Friends of our children would come over for play dates and expect oodles of toys because we had a toy store but it was the opposite… we had lots of arts & crafts, a few core play items, and our backyard!
Me: You are also a Grandpa. How is it watching your 5 grandchildren grow up in this time where technology is accessible everywhere?
Pat: I find it frustrating that they are so distracted by the lure of fancy electronic gadgets.
Me: Why do you believe in not carrying anything battery operated?
Pat: Most importantly, because such products do something for themselves and the child is a spectator. It’s been proven over and over again that children need physical interaction in the real world to develop healthfully. As Raffi tells us, children need to live in the real world and in their own imaginary worlds. Toys that are operated by internal motors or computers (and by extension, screen activities), promote a kind of play that is not imagined by children; it’s given to them, already conceived. The creativity developed by real imaginative play is essential for healthy development, and this is what BC Playthings aims to promote.
Me: On your website, you talking about participating play. What is that?
Pat: Participating play is such that the play does not exist without the active participation of the child. The child imagines what he is going to do, creates the environment in which it will happen, and executes it using his own physical resources. Participating play involves children interacting with the environment using their own five senses.
Me: What is the most popular product you sell? Toy? Art supply? Other?
Pat: Art supplies.
Me: I didn’t expect that answer. So you don’t have a ‘hot’ seller in the store?
Pat: We don’t tend to carry hot sellers. We tend to carry traditional tried and true and toys which have been around for generations. We do carry some new toys but the kind of fads which tend to surround hot, trendy toys, tend to be created by supped up ad campaigns that are often made more expensive by their allegiance to licensing. If Donald Duck is emblazoned on the side of your sand pail, he doesn’t help you put the sand in your pail, but his presence costs up to 35% of the value of the product, so you’re either paying 35% more than you should or you’re buying the product which has had 35% of what should have gone to its quality and manufacture, go to Donald Duck.
Me: Bree told me you used to be a Dudy Dad at Norgate PPP when Bree and Mischa attended. Did experiences such as this away you to select certain products, or not?
Pat: Working side by side the other duty parents and our children’s preschool teacher gave me the opportunity to confirm that other people’s families also sought sources for good, basic, wholesome and creative play for their children.
Me: Christmas is coming and I have two daughters, aged 1 and 3. What can you recommend as a great gift that promotes both play and learning?
Pat: My recommendation would be miniature wooden trains or an art easel and paints for them to share. If you choose the trains, make sure you get two engines and enough track to permit two to play at once. When our daughters were growing up, they enjoyed playing with trains, and could set them up in a new configuration every day. Their favourite layout was down the hall, around the corner, towards the bathroom. Both easels and trains are also lasting toys, that children (and often parents!) enjoy using for many years.
Me: Lastly, tell me what its like coming to work everyday in this beautiful community of Edgemont Village?
Pat: Having the store in Edgemont Village is truly a privilege and a blessing. We can walk out of the store, look up at the mountains, surrounded by trees, and two thirds of the people who pass me on the sidewalk, are familiar faces. It’s like paradise.