White Rabbit Kids: It’s a store with hard-to-find toys and more

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Lauren Dannemiller opened White Rabbit Kids with cool toys, fun activities, and mindful growth in mind. She set out to make it the place in Lake County to find toys you won’t find anyplace else and create a space where kids can play together in both free play and planned activities. (Photography: Felicia Vargo)

By Mary Malik

The famous champion of the benefits of play for children, Mr. (Fred) Rogers once said, “Play is really the work of childhood.” Well, if that’s true, Lauren Dannemiller, owner of White Rabbit Kids, is one hard worker. Lauren grew up surrounded by four siblings, not a lot of television or store-bought toys, several rabbits the kids were raising as 4-H members, and an extremely creative and artistic mother. There was a lot of imaginative play going on.

“My mom was a true renaissance woman,” Lauren says. “She owned, and still does, a factory in Painesville, along with being an artist. We were constantly exposed to her creativity and, as it turns out, I am my mother’s daughter.”

Lauren worked in pharmaceutical research for 10 years before becoming an operations manager for a design studio handling the bookkeeping, budgeting and invoicing.

“I decided I should be doing all of this for my own business, not someone else’s,” Lauren says. “I just needed to figure out the business.”

It’s all about fun. White Rabbit Kids has toys for every age, every interest and every capability.

After struggling to find options for creative and educational toys for her own two children, and a fortuitous encounter with a little boy playing enthusiastically with a sword, the lightbulb went off and Lauren knew what she was meant to do.

“I was opening a toy store,” Lauren says. “And because of those rabbits from my childhood, I called it White Rabbit Kids.”

Located in the heart of downtown Willoughby, White Rabbit Kids is an active, engaging, welcoming environment for kids of all ages—and their grown-ups.

“Everyone loves to play,” Lauren suggests. “You just have to give people the opportunity, and that’s what we do at White Rabbit Kids. We have toys for every age, every interest and every capability. It’s all about fun.”

Lauren opened the store last September with three tenets in mind: Cool toys, fun activities, and mindful growth. She set out to make White Rabbit Kids the place in Lake County to find toys you won’t find anyplace else and create a space where kids can play together in both free play and planned activities.

“Cool toys plus activities lead to mindful growth,” Lauren says. “And it’s not complicated. It’s just simple playing.”

As all the experts will tell you, it’s in that simple playtime that children learn the lessons and life skills of things like patience, sharing, problem solving and so much more.

“There’s nothing like a board game to teach you the art of being a gracious loser,” Lauren says. “Simple games will teach you that.”

Costumes teach imaginative play, finger paints and crafts develop dexterity, and educational toys help with numbers, basic math, letters and sounds. But to kids, it’s all just play.

“And creativity doesn’t have to be expensive. We have items starting at 50 cents,” Lauren says. “So, bring the kids in and see what sparks their imagination. You can shop or just sit with a coffee and enjoy watching them play—and learn.”

Lauren takes care to research the companies she works with and offers products from many women-owned, USA-made companies. She carries the sought-after Hearthsong toys, along with Picasso Tiles and eeBoo toys and puzzles.

Activities and workshops include caregiver/child options or ones just for the kids. There’s always something fun and creative going on at White Rabbit Kids.

White Rabbit Kids is located at 4041 Erie Street in Willoughby. For more information, store hours and activities, check the website WhiteRabbitKids.com or call 440-567-9727.