Mid City’s newest toy shop, The Modern Munchkin Co., promotes open-ended play

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the current business hours.

It’s all work and all play for The Modern Munchkin Co. owner Whitney Tiemann. Her free-play storefront opened this past weekend inside Electric Depot with plenty of products and activities that delighted both parents and their kiddos. 

Inside the spot formerly occupied by Sweet Baton Rouge, Tiemann covered blank walls with colorful painted arches and murals, including one featuring little pink fuzzball creatures, or “munchkins,” in a sea of jungle leaves painted by Tiemann’s brother, graphic designer Alex Major. Along with toys, books, stuffed animals and other kid-friendly displays, the shop has plenty of activity sections and demo stations for open-ended play. 

“When I go to a toy store, it’s hard for me to bring my kids,” Tiemann says. “I want to but, it’s crazy. They want to grab everything. I’m there with a mission. They’re distracting me, and it’s all over the place. That turns a lot of people away from bringing their kids to toy stores. So, the idea here is to bring your kids and let me entertain them. We’re going to play. We’re going to set them up with a little nook, and you can shop and find that gift you need or maybe get something new for your kid.”

The space allows for tiny customers to try out different items in sensory bins, play stations, reading nooks and more. Tiemann says it’s important for parents and children to learn how to use the toys before purchasing them. One of the missions of The Modern Munchkin Co. is to get parents and children to play together with fun and engaging items. 

“I want to get people in the store and show them that it is actually easy,” she says “Your kids, as young as they are, will do it for you. You don’t have to be able to show them how to use (the toys). It’s intuitive for them to understand things like, this block fits in this hole and this one doesn’t.”

Courtesy The Modern Munchkin Co. Mural by Alex Major.

Tiemann will also offers curated gift baskets. Customers can give Tiemann an idea of what they’re looking for, the age of the child and their budget for the gift. Aside from gifting, she’s also available for general ideas of what to buy for kiddos and hopes to add workshops in the future. And, she’s not afraid to bust open a new toy, so the customer can see how it works.

Tiemann is intentional when curating items to sell at The Modern Munchin Co. She favors functionality, and almost all the products in the store do not require batteries, except for a display of light-up bath toys. Instead, she says she looks for products that promote creativity and learning instead of items that grab attention for momentary distraction. 

“It’s meant to be almost Montessori-style, open-ended play,” she says about the store. “And, the toys will grow with the kids, or they can be passed down because they’re made really well. (The toys) are either sustainable or eco-friendly for the most part, whether we cut down on packaging to the best I can, or the toys are made sustainably. And, they’re just more fun and mind-engaging for kids.”

The shop has shelves and displays full of toys for infants up to children about age 9. Tiemann says a lot of items are geared toward the toddler age, but there are even some things made for parents like “mommy and me” jewelry, children’s room decor and memory books. 

The Modern Munchkin Co. started as an online shop back in 2021 while Tiemann was also working a full-time corporate job. As a mother, she wished she could find well-made items for her children in Baton Rouge, so she started the online store to bring them here herself.  

By attending markets with her mother, Tiemann would find all kinds of Montessori-style toys and items geared toward children. She would then host pop-ups at her mother’s decor shop, Artvark Ltd

She became so busy with work that she later had to put The Modern Munchkin Co. on hold. But, late last year, Tiemann decided to leave her normal 9-to-5 job to work on relaunching her shop in a brick-and-mortar. She signed the lease at Electric Depot between Christmas and the new year and has been transforming the old Sweet Baton Rouge shop into her dream storefront since January. 

“I want to bring these really cool, unique toys to Baton Rouge,” she says. “I want to have an interactive store. I want to be able to engage with kids and show them that you don’t need batteries to be able to have fun.”

The Modern Munchkin Co. is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. The new shop is at 1509 Government St., Building B, Suite D.  Find it online at modernmunchkin.co