Teeter Totter Toys in Vernon has held steady despite staffing and supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely on the back of three-dimensional games such as puzzles and board games. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Teeter Totter Toys in Vernon has held steady despite staffing and supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely on the back of three-dimensional games such as puzzles and board games. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Too much COVID screen time? This Vernon business has your kids covered

Kelowna optometrist finds worsened eyesight in children during pandemic; Vernon’s Teeter Totter Toys aims to help

Staffing and supply shortages have been offset by strong sales at Teeter Totter Toys of late, as parent and kids reach a new stage of COVID-19: from HD to 4K to 3-D.

Three-dimensional board games have been selling by the armful during this latter stage of the pandemic. The Vernon toy store of more than 20 years even managed to sell a 40,000-piece Disney puzzle last month.

Staff were “ecstatic,” but owner Lynne Taylor said the $700 sale was barely worth the effort when you have to lift it.

“It was really, really heavy,” said owner Lynne Taylor.

Teeter Totter’s manager, Susan Phillips, said they hadn’t even meant to order the mammoth puzzle.

“The whole problem with online ordering is it’s easy to make a mistake,” she said.

That’s part of what makes stores like Teeter Totter stand out in today’s local business scene. Like other Vernon toy stores, Teeter Totter has been a bastion of the pre-pandemic days of brick-and-mortar commerce. Online shopping may be booming but two-day delivery doesn’t always fit the bill, and locals still need gift advice on the day before their niece’s birthday.

As Taylor told the Morning Star March 26 — exactly one year after closing due to COVID in 2020 — nine times out of 10 customer service wins the day.

“So many people come to our store for the service, they come in and right away they’re looking for something, or they have a child who is a certain age and they go, ‘I haven’t a clue what to get them.’”

If they can’t find a good fit for the customer in-store, they refer them to another shop in town. It’s a display of local gamesmanship during tough times for businesses across the board.

But games involving the physical world — at a time when kids have been forced out of in-person activities and into virtual classrooms — have helped the business soldier on.

“Business-wise this past year has been really, really good,” Taylor said. “We had a real surge in puzzles, selling games (and) anything for kids to do at home, to be outside.

READ MORE: Expert roaster plus ‘numbers guy’ equals early success for Vernon coffee company

Parents may be seeking out ways to cut down on their kids’ screen time, which many experts are now attributing to a rise in eye-sight issues in children during the pandemic.

Dr. Paul Rollett is an author and optometrist at Okanagan Vision Therapy in Kelowna, which opened a Vernon branch a year and a half ago.

In the COVID period, Rollett estimates referrals for kids dealing with headaches, tension around the eyes and other signs of nearsightedness have gone up by about 25 per cent over 2019.

“It’s probably multi-factorial because we’re a growing company,” he said.

But there is some compelling literature to demonstrate this advance of near-sightedness, says Rollett, citing a JAMA journal article, ‘Progression of Myopia in School-Aged Children After COVID-19 Home Confinement.’ JAMA is considered one of the world’s leading medical journals which publishes research that shapes public policy, the New York Times said March 25.

“Home confinement appears to be associated with a significant near-sighted shift in children aged six to eight, according to school-based photo screens,” Rollett said, pointing to a medical journal report titled Progression of Myopia in School-Aged Children after COVID-19 Home Confinement.

“That sort of near-sightedness is certainly on the rise.”

He also said the JAMA research “is not a small cohort study,” with 123,000 kids involved.

“We’re definitely advocates of the three-dimensional brain-building activities when possible.”

Rollett’s vision therapy team has used LEGO in the past to help kids aged six to eight develop stronger links between the eyes and the hands.

“It forces them to integrate vision and fine-motor skills.”

It could explain why LEGO is annually among Teeter Totter Toys’ top sellers.

That was until recently, when the supply of the coveted toy bricks completely dried up from November 2020, over the Christmas season and through to the end of February.

Instead, the business has stayed buoyant thanks to over-the-top sales on puzzles, board games and other 3D activities during the pandemic.

“A gal that was just here, she came from Kamloops just for puzzles,” Taylor said. She described a trend of more people leaving the store with five or six puzzles at a time, “whereas in the past they might get one, some might get two.”

Whether or not parents are catching on to the problem of ramped-up screen time, Taylor says grandparents are already on the same page as the ‘fine-motor activity proponents.’

“They don’t even believe in screen time,” she laughed.

READ MORE: Vernon company a People’s Choice favourite


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

BusinessCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Somewhere in the pack being celebrated by his teammates is Vernon Vipers forward Zack Tonelli, who scored in overtime Wednesday afternoon, April 14, to give the Snakes a 6-5 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in B.C. Hockey League pod play at Kal Tire Place. (Liza Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers bite Salmon Arm Silverbacks in OT

Snakes blow 5-3 third-period lead, rally in extra time for 6-5 pod play result over rivals

This is what a new city hall in Armstrong will look like if tender bids come in under $4 million. Council unanimously approved the design and the borrowing of up to $4 million for the project. (MQN Architects)
Armstrong approves designs for new city hall

Council approves borrowing bylaw up to $4M; selects wood-first design to fit scheme with arena, swimming pool

(Pexels photo)
Okanagan film boom owes to industry’s strong pandemic response: Sandhu

Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu lauded the local film industry’s adaptation to the pandemic

The City of Vernon is still taking applications for council discretionary grants until April 30. (File photo)
Funding available to Vernon non-profits, societies

Grants awarded to organizations that ‘contribute to the general interest and advantage of the city;’ deadline is April 30

A sani-dump station is coming to the frontage road off Okanagan Landing Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
New Vernon sani-dump station raises a stink among neighbours

Temporary relocation to Okanagan Landing with future plan at former Kin racetrack

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

New parking meters have been installed on Main Street, Ellis Street, Front Street, Nanaimo Avenue and Padmore Avenue in Penticton. (City of Penticton photo)
Pay parking now in effect in downtown Penticton

A spot downtown will now cost you $2 per hour

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department, photo from Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page
The Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department. (Facebook)
South Okanagan fire crews battle two blazes one-after-another

The two fires were likely caused by discarded cigarettes according to the fire department

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Most Read