Envious of the shelves full of great games, books and learning toys at your pumpkin’s preschool? Dream of owning cupboards overflowing with art supplies that would make Bob Ross jealous? Stave off the summer doldrums by stocking up at Bellevue’s Lakeshore Learning Store—our area’s biggest and best educational source for teachers and parents.

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All in the Family
Lakeshore was started by single mom Ethelyn Kaplan, who bravely picked up her family, moved to California and opened a toy store in 1954. Her sons eventually took over, and now her grandson Bo Kaplan is the president and CEO of the company, which has spread to every corner of the country, from Washington to Florida. Lucky for us, we’ve had the location in Bellevue since 1986 for all our art and educational needs. And with the goal of creating innovative educational materials that spark young imaginations, instill a sense of wonder and foster a lifelong love of learning—we’ll be right over!

Teacher Quality, But for Parents Too
Lakeshore strives to provide educational materials that will make any teacher happy, and is the go-to store for everything your favorite teacher stocks in his or her classroom. It’s also where parents can buy supplies too! From math workbooks and dry erase easels to cooperative games (you know, the kind where everyone wins!) and craft supplies galore, Lakeshore will keep your future Picasso, Stewart (as in Martha), Einstein or Jennings (as in the local guy who won Jeopardy) and every kid in between busy all summer long!

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Quality Comes First
Let’s face it—our kids manage to collect a ton of less-than-quality toys, whether it be from that four-year-old birthday party goodie bag or the enticing dollar bins at our favorite chain store. So it’s always nice to know when a company provides toys that come from reputable sources, free of harmful chemicals. Lakeshore has stringent safety and procurement policies, including an in-house Quality Assurance team, and their supply chain teams oversee every one of their vendors to make sure they’re abiding by local and international labor laws. That’s one less thing to worry about, busy parents.

Art-Tastic Adventure
Does your kiddo go through paint by the pound? Check out Lakeshore’s extensive selection of high quality, washable tempera paint, available in sizes from ounces to gallons. Do those rolls of easel paper seem to disappear in days? They have that too, not just in white, but in a rainbow of colors. Tired of cleaning the paint off the floor (and walls)? This is the place where you can get those awesome no-spill paint cups you’ve seen at your tot’s preschool. Add to the selection, dozens of paintbrush styles, crayons, stencils, markers, aprons, playdough, paper and art drying racks (for your especially prolific artist) and you may be able to open an art studio after you stock up!

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Gettin’ Crafty
This place is a crafty kid’s nirvana. Lakeshore stocks all sizes, shapes and colors of googly eyes, pom poms, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, stickers, beads, tissue paper, yarn, foam shapes, feathers, buttons, felt, glitter, clothespins…and yes (thank goodness), containers to put them all in. Need a little crafty inspiration or a fun activity for a birthday party? The store has ready-to-make craft kits too, from Design Your Own Dinos to Train Shapes Instant Craft Kit. You have absolutely no excuse to start your summer vacation without a plan, thanks to Lakeshore!

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Get Your Game On
Board games… these can be tough for the little ones, especially when big brother beats them in the third consecutive game of Candy Land. Luckily, Lakeshore has a fantastic selection of educational and fun games and puzzles. From learning puzzles for babies to learning games for preschoolers, kindergarteners and beyond, Lakeshore offers a variety of fun choices for everyone in your brood. Many are award winners, and their knowledgeable staff are happy to walk you through the options for each member of your gaming crew. And yes, they do have “cooperative” games for the extra-competitive kindergartener in your clan. It’s literally a win-win for everyone!

Summer School
Worried your kiddo might suffer from summer learning loss during vacation? Not sure if your little one will love kinder? Never fear—channel your inner Alex Trebek and check out Lakeshore’s Are You Ready? Game Shows—the perfect way to keep little brains active (when they’re done enjoying some Seattle sun). Available for kids going into kindergarten through 5th grade, these teacher-created games bolster math and language skills. Your kids win pretend money and a prize coupon, and best of all, you can input the results online, and Lakeshore will give you an assessment pinpointing any areas where your child might need help. Score! They also sell lots of other educational and entertaining software that you can try out on their in-store computer. We’ll take “learning is fun” for $100, Alex!

Bonus: Head to the store now and pick up a coupon good through July 31, 2014 for $10 off any Are You Ready? game.

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Rad Resources
There are tons of teacher resources on Lakeshore’s website and in the store. (Psst… Parents, you can use them too!). They have handy practical guides on subjects ranging from Common Core Standards to Autism. Plus, all their free, in-store teacher workshops are open to parents too—just RSVP at least two days in advance. Online, they offer crafty creations, flash card and word search printables as well as outdoor learning tools—right at your fingertips when the kiddos get a case of the summer squirrlies.

Membership Has Its Benefits
Lakeshore’s Teacher’s Club is 100% free and gives you awesome 15% discounts on hundreds of in-store items, self-service laminating at 29 cents a linear foot, plus coupons via email or snail mail—whatever floats your boat. But wait—you’re not a teacher? Well, the smart folks at Lakeshore believe all parents are teachers, so the discount is open to anyone with the title Mom or Dad (or Auntie, Uncle, Grandma…you get the drift). Simply fill out an application online or in store, hand it to a store associate (or just sign up at checkout) and start saving. Prefer not to sign up for yet another membership? Then opt for getting their coupons via text, and you’ll get one a week, ranging from 20% off one non-sale item to buy one item, get one 50% off. With savings like these, you may make visiting Lakeshore a weekly thing!


Mark Your Calendar
Is crafty inspiration waning after the long, winter months? Then head out to the Bellevue store when they host Free Crafts for Kids every Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. No reservations are required, and their friendly employees will provide all the materials needed to create whatever crafty fun they’ve come up with. They also have larger in-store events about five times a year, including their upcoming Summer Learning event on June 7, 2014. From holiday decorations to creative keepsakes, Free Crafts for Kids at Lakeshore is sure to keep your kiddos occupied while you make your list and check it twice. Click here for a schedule of upcoming craftiness.

Bonus: Check out their Back to School Sale starting the July 4th weekend—it runs all summer and is a great time to check out all of Lakeshore’s great deals on awesome, educational and entertaining stuff for every kid in your family!

Good to Know: If you prefer to shop online, shipping is always free to their Bellevue location. Just browse the website, call them at the Bellevue store and if they don’t have it in stock, just place an order—your gear will arrive with their weekly in-store delivery.

Lakeshore Learning Store
11027 N.E. 4th St.
Bellevue, Wa 98004
Online: lakeshorelearning.com

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Have you shopped Lakeshore before? Are you planning on visiting this summer? Let us know what you think of this store in a comment below!

Erin Cranston, words and most photos

Photo credit: Lakeshore Learning Store