About Dancing Bear

Behind the Scenes | How We Order Our Product

Ever wondered how we stock our store with awesome products? It’s a long process that includes researching companies, speaking to representatives, browsing catalogs, and testing every toy. We want to give you a behind the scenes look at a part of the ordering process. Watch as Lisa, manager and buyer, goes through a 3 step process of ordering the toys!

Ten Unique Gift Ideas for Kids


Story Book Games (ages 3-7)
-Three Little Pigs – spacial logic
-Red Riding Hood – maze logic
These classic stories are told through picture books with very clever illustrations. Help your little one read the stories, then watch the stories come alive by solving a series of puzzles that grow in difficulty over time. Not only are you fostering a love of literacy, but you’re helping your child solve problems before they know it.

The Big Dig (ages 5-12)
This is very reminiscent of playground equipment many adults will remember. Once assembled, you sit on the stool, which swivels 360 degrees, and control two “arms” that allow you to dig. As simple as it sounds, it can bring hours of outdoor fun in ANY season. Dig through the snow this coming winter, then through the mud when spring comes. Sturdy steel construction holds up to the elements. (weight limit of 100lbs)

Master Detective Kit (ages 8-14)
Who didn’t want to be a spy or detective when they were little? This kit offers everything necessary to spy on siblings or figure out just WHO stole the cookie from the cookie jar. Learn the techniques behind finger printing, coding messages, and more.

Rock ‘n Rody (ages 3-5)
This is a fun twist on a rocking horse. Our classic Rody, which is a bouncy horse, gets an update with a rocking and removable base.

Worry Eaters (ages 4-adult)
These adorable monsters are designed to ease your worries. We all have ‘em – these monsters will hold on to them for us! Simply write or draw what worries or bothers you, put it in your Worry Eater’s mouth, zip his mouth shut, and let him worry about it for you.

Roll & Play (ages 1 ½-5)
This is a watch and mimic game, where your little one is encouraged to copy what you say or do. Roll the giant, fuzzy dice, pick the matching color card, and act out what you see. The fun rolls on from there!

Action Princesses (ages 5-adult)
This is a get up and move game! Four princesses are attempting to rescue a prince who has been trapped in a tower by a giant, terrifying dragon. By following prompts on the cards such as “spin like a tornado for 10 seconds” or “do a conga line around the room,” you will make your way to the moat, where you’ll have to find a sword and a key to save the prince. This is a cooperative game where every player wins.

Modarri Cars (ages 8-adult)
Customize your own vehicle using swappable plates and wheels. Each kit comes with enough pieces to start swapping and customizing immediately, and each car has an individualized license plate that can be registered online for a digital experience!

Hugg-a-Planet (ages 3-adult)
This plush Earth will bring joy to any curious child. It’s a fun alternative to a globe that is equally as educational.

Pogo Jumper (ages 3-12)
This is a safer alternative to a pogo stick. With each jump you hear a squeak, and the pogo will grow with you, since it has an elastic band attached to its handle bar instead of a metal pole.

Shop Smart This Holiday Season


Never underestimate the importance of play—whether you’re 9 months, 9 or 90! For even the youngest kids, play is a way of figuring out the world around them, how to creatively solve problems, how to interact with others. As we get older, play is still vital to our mental health and overall wellbeing. You’re never too old to put some play in your day!

Get back to basics. Chances are if the toy or game you loved as a child is still around, then it’s still worth playing. Introduce your kids to some old-fashioned low-tech fun.

Plan to play “in.” Dig out the board games and add a few new ones to your collection. Resurrect Family Game Night and rediscover how much fun it is to spend time together.

Keep it open ended. Stay away from toys that can only be played one way or have predictable outcomes. Kids should tell the toy what to do, not the other way around.

It’s all in the cards. Card games are easy to transport, fun to play, and affordable—usually $10 or less for fun you can enjoy on the run and time and time again.

Look for what lasts. Before you check out at the counter, look at what you’re buying. Will it withstand enthusiastic play? Is it durable and safe? How will it hold up for the long haul?

Read all about it. Nothing beats snuggling up with a good book. Once you’ve finished, pass it on to a friend—or organize a book swap in your neighborhood.

Beware the “add-on.” That discounted toy might be inexpensive—but if it takes six C batteries (not included, of course) to rev up all the bells and whistles, is it really a deal?

Go for the green. Choose toys that are small on packaging and big on play value. Trade games with friends…or try creating your own game using ‘found’ materials!

Keep ’em talking. Look for games that stimulate conversation and keep kids verbally engaged. Rolling the dice and moving around a board is only fun for so long. Conversation “changes up” the game and makes play more interesting.

Buy something buildable. Research shows that playing with blocks, puzzles, and other construction toys helps build 3-D math reasoning, spatial, and problem-solving skills.

Give back. No matter how bad you think your situation is, someone out there has more worries than you. If you have a safe place to sleep and food on your table, you’re a step ahead of many in our community. Here are a few local agencies that need your family’s help this holiday season:

Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick Maryland, SHIP of Frederick County, Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, The ARC of Frederick County, Maryland, and Project Alive/Housing Authority of the city of Frederick

It’s Okay to Fail



Hi friends! This blog post features an article that Tom wrote for Frederick’s Child magazine this month. We hope you enjoy!its-okay-to-fail

Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Washington Carver, and Albert Einstein all had one thing in common: they had more failures than successes. And that’s a fact that we should not be afraid to teach our children.

When we fail we learn. Most importantly, we learn what didn’t work—and that leads directly to new ideas and innovative approaches to problem solving.

The old adage that we are born with a certain level of intelligence and that is all we will ever attain is now under fire, and it’s about time. We have all heard it: “I was never very good at math. My son must have gotten my genes.” “She gets her artistic ability from her dad. I could never draw a straight line.” We shouldn’t be so quick to give up and blame genetics, because research has shown that cognitive ability can be increased through practice, hard work, and realizing it’s okay—in fact, it’s necessary—to fail.

Several months ago, I introduced a logic game with different skill levels to a group of middle-school-aged kids. A few of them immediately said, “Oh, I’ve never been very good at this kind of game.” I suggested starting at the beginner’s level and then left them to figure out the ins and outs of the game on their own. Almost an hour later, I checked in on them again and—much to my surprise—they were all still playing the game. They were trying certain configurations, sharing suggestions with each other, and having fun figuring out what worked and didn’t work. They might not have realized it at the time, but they were learning too—not just how to play the game, but also how to think “outside the box,” increase their cognitive abilities, and prove that they could play a game they almost gave up on originally.

It is rewarding—whether you’re the participant, the parent, or as I was, just the casual observer—to see individuals challenge themselves to achieve a desired goal, whether it’s mastering different skill levels of a game, learning new information, or exploring new fields of study. Being willing to accept failure as a means of moving forward is a mindset that leads to success.

However, there is another mindset where individuals are so terrified of failure that they will not challenge themselves. Perhaps they have heard over and over again that they won’t do well in science because everyone else in the family excels in the arts. Or maybe they have been praised so profusely for being a fast runner that they are afraid trying out for weightlifting, and failing, might be viewed by their parents as a disappointment. This negative mindset stifles the creative nature that is innate in all of us, and squelches our desire to take chances, challenge ourselves, and learn from our mistakes.

Children who are terrified of failure tend to “play it safe,” never challenging themselves, and, as a result, never growing and understanding their true potential. When we as adults view failure as a weakness, we often communicate that in indirect, and at times very direct, ways. If we change our mindset to embracing failure and the good that can result from struggles and challenges, then we will see children become increasingly willing to try something new and out of their comfort zone—whether it’s a logic game, a school assignment, a new sport, or an activity that peaks their curiosity. Removing the stigma that failure is bad encourages children to respond positively to setbacks—to see challenges as opportunities to ask questions, try and try again, and grow their skill set—and their brains.

As the oft-repeated adage goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” There is great wisdom in these words—wisdom that we should be intentional about sharing with children.

Our Favorite Travel Toys for Kids

If you’re heading out on vacation or making the trip back home soon, traveling with the kids in tow is part of the adventure. A lot of our customers ask us for suggestions on good games and toys to keep the kids entertained while traveling. So, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite travel toys, plus a few bonus games!

To make it extra fun for the tots, consider putting together a few goodie bags with toys and snacks. Instead of giving them everything at once, surprise them every hour or two of the trip with a goodie bag!

  1. Mini coloring or activity books


These mini art pads are perfect for drawing scenes from outside the window, and the Scratch and Sketch books will give older kids hours of creativity.




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Summer Boredom at Its Finest


“I’m boooored!” Those two words that make parents cringe. After summer camps, dance lessons, kung fu practice, day trips, and play dates, the last thing we expect to hear from our kids is “What do I do now?”

Boredom is inevitable. But boredom is also a good thing! This might sound funny coming from a toy store, but boredom is just as important as play is for kids.

“Being bored is a way to make children more self-reliant.” -Lyn Fry

As adults we  sometimes (unconsciously) shield children from being bored by packing in their summer with camps and activities. However, psychologists and child development specialists warn against over-scheduling your child’s time. “I think children need to learn to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done,” says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist, in this Quartz article. “Being bored is a way to make children more self-reliant.” Giving kids the time and space to be bored and unoccupied motivates them to come up with a solution, get creative, discover their interests, and learn something new. Continue reading

Top 10 Fun Father’s Day Gifts


Instead of the usual socks and ties (necessary, but boring), consider giving Dad some fun toys for Father’s Day! We’ve gathered a few things we think Dad will love and perhaps will bring back fond memories from his childhood. Plus, these gifts are great for sharing, so Dad can have fun with the whole family!


1. All Queens Chess

A challenging twist on a classic game, All Queens Chess is perfect for the dad who loves a good test in his logic skills. Just like in Chess, the Queens can move any number of spaces in any direction, but they can’t capture the opponent. See if you can outwit Dad by getting four Queens in a row to win.

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Q & A: New Book Helps Parents to Foster Growth Mindset in Kids

Parents, do you wonder how you can help your children succeed in school, at home, and beyond, or encourage them to be resilient and self-confident in overcoming challenges? When it comes to such success, mindset plays an important part. That’s what educators Mary Cay Ricci and Margaret (Meg) Lee have written about in their new book Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids.

Mary Cay is an education consultant, speaker, and author of the New York Times best-selling educatiomindsetsn title, Mindsets in the Classroom and its companion book, Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom. Meg has been a teacher, professional learning specialist, and school administrator for the past 2o years.

Over at Dancing Bear we’re excited to be hosting a free book signing and author talk with Mary Cay and Meg on Sunday, May 22 at 4 p.m. Before that, though, we had a chance to ask the co-authors a few questions about their book, which was just released this May. Continue reading

Three Toy Companies That Are Making a Positive Difference

Because the Dancing Bear is a battery-free toy store, it’s safe to say that we have some pretty unique toys. But it’s not just the toys that are unique. The toy companies behind these products are, too.

These days the toy industry isn’t just about making great products for kids; it’s about making a social and ethical impact on the world. Here are three of those companies that we love because of their open-ended, make-a-difference toys (all of which you can find at the Bear!).




Pronounced “TAY-goo,” this toy company is based in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, where they manufacture their magnetic wooden blocks.

Their Toy

Each of their polarizing wooden building blocks has invisible north and south poles hidden inside, inspiring endless creative play. Children can not only build up but also out, working against gravity with the use of the magnets. The smooth, wooden blocks and planks come in natural wood grain stains and vibrant colors; some sets come with wheels, too. Continue reading

Reading, Writing, and Rolling: Teaching Literacy through Movement

Reading, writing, and…rolling? When we approach teaching children literacy, we usually don’t think of rolling around as something educational. However, when it comes to literacy skills, movement is a key element. In fact there are multiple links between movement and literacy, and some great benefits, too (which we’re sharing below).

Adrienne King, M.S. Ed., who teaches our Book Bop! and Baby ASL classes at the Dancing Bear, shared with us that there are many ways to learn and communicate, such as writing, hearing, or seeing something. But movement is an especially important way for children to learn. “Adding movement to literacy activities keeps children motivated to read and learn, it engages the multiple learning modalities, and it is fun,” she says. Continue reading