The space is wide open and serene, with wood floors, lovely lighting and walls painted a soft white. Huge picture windows stretch along one wall. Around the edges of the room are big abstract sculptures made of little, uniform pieces of wood. And in the middle of the space is a large square rug covered with thousands of little wooden blocks and the crazy creations visitors have left there.
It's a toy store like no other, and my kids understood that far more quickly than I did. They immediately plopped down on the carpet in the middle of the store and began building things. I watched them for a few minutes and took some pictures. And then I sat down, too, and picked up one of the odd little plank-like blocks.
The manager of the store explained that these were Kapla blocks. They're little wooden planks, all the same shape and size, cut in the ratio of 1:3:15. This ratio makes the little blocks particularly balanced, and they're perfect for building enormous things. The blocks were invented by a man named Tom in France, but Tom's Toys is the only Kapla block store in the US.
Before I knew it, I began building, too. I began to try to build a long bridge, trying to figure out how to balance and weight the blocks so that my two-foot-long bridge wouldn't collapse. That feeling of being completely engrossed is so weirdly enjoyable, and far too rare. Before we knew it, more than an hour had passed.
Several more families with children had come in and joined us on the carpet, but the store remained quiet and peaceful. Everyone was so into what they were building - from six-foot-tall towers to spaceships to long, winding roads stretching out across the rug.
Tom's Toys welcomes families to come in from the hustle and bustle of downtown Charleston and spend a while playing. There are so many wonderful things to do in Charleston, but a visit to a toy store like no other should be on your list if you're traveling with kids.
Tom's Toys is located at 125 Market St. in Charleston. For more information, contact Tom's Toys.