Old-fashioned fun

. October 31, 2012.

Today’s toys have all the electronic bells and whistles but they often lack something special – the ability to inspire imaginative play. Judy Alexander wants to fill that void. Alexander operates Camden Rose, a company that offers toys, clothing, furnishings and more to encourage “inspired natural living.” She sells everything online and at her brick and mortar store, called Palumba, inAnn Arbor.

What makes the cloth dolls, puppets, tabletop kitchens and other playthings Alexander sells special? “They’re created with natural materials, USA-made, and they’re open-ended,” Alexander explains, a Northville wife and mother of three boys. “They’re toys that give children the tools to create what they want. It’s like going back to the basics. Our toys are designed to pass down to other children.”

Back to the basics

Come to Palumba and you’ll have your choice of craft supplies, including everything from a flower press and a Ukrainian Easter egg decorating set to a miniature teepee model and a solar science kit. Alexander offers merchandise constructed with a nod to Mother Earth. “Where do toys go when you’re done with them? The landfill,” she says. “Classic wooden toys are a good thing.” Alexander, a former project manager for a recruiting agency, came up with the idea for her online presence and storefront when she tried unsuccessfully to get organic children’s clothing for her newborn son, now 13. “For the last 30 years, I’ve been buying natural food, mattresses and furniture, why not toys?” she said. “I grew up in Livonia and had to drive to Ann Arbor to get organic food. 20 years ago, you never heard of it.”

Creating a world of their own

Palumba’s shelves are stocked with drums and lyres, gloves and slippers for adults and children and books, including an extensive section on fairies. “We have a little playroom that gives parents an idea of what a natural playroom could look like,” she said. ”The toys come to life in the child’s hands.” Alexander’s primary goal is to make her toys magical. “My son may play with blocks, but it’s a castle to him,” she says. “Watching him create his own world is what’s interesting.”

You’d think having a mom who owns a toy store would be three little boys’ dream come true. “They can take it or leave it, but they are aware of what I do,” she adds. Saving the Earth is important to Alexander’s youngsters. “The other day my son was here and a customer bought a pom-pom maker. It was plastic,” she said. “He said, ‘Mom, what are you doing?’” While many boys still ask for wooden swords for their knight in shining armor and Viking games, the genders tend to gravitate to one plaything, Alexander said. “Both boys and girls go for cooking toys. That’s the main thing that has changed,” she said.

 If you’re searching for non-toxic, organic, children’s toys, musical instruments, art supplies and clothing made from natural materials, you may want to give Palumba a try. Palumba is located at 221 Felch St. 866-725-7122. www.palumba.com