Chicago Children's Museum opens toy store without the toys

The Chicago Children's Museum is opening up a toy store in Wicker Park: All you have to do is make the toys. Piggy-backing on the museum's new "Unboxed" exhibitwhich we really liked—CCM is opening "Mr. Imagine's Toy Store," a shop filled with with more ideas than toys. According to CCM Director of Public Relations, Chad Mertz, the store will be stocked with flat cardboard boxes, and "customers" can come in and build toys in a cardboard studio workshop. The museum will provide some 27 examples of the kind of toys that could be built, but kids will be encouraged to go wherever their imaginations take them.

"We feel like for kids these days—never mind all the screen time—their toys come very packaged, commercialized and structured," says Mertz. "We wanted to highlight creativity and imagination."

The shop is actually a collaboration with ad agency Energy BBDO, who took CCM on earlier this year as the firm's pro bono client. Mertz says the agency found the space, got it for CCM rent-free and is putting in off-hours volunteer work to make the store happen. The idea is to replicate the retail experience, though shoppers will build the merchandise, and any sales—i.e. what the toy-builders want to take home—will be on a donation basis. Another cool aspect of the shop: There will be an augmented-reality component to each item. So kids can hold a box up to a camera installed in the space, and on a nearby monitor, the box will morph into a potential toy.

"As a museum, this is a big social experiment, so we'll see how it goes," says Mertz. "We have no idea what's going to happen, but we hope that people show up and tell their friends."

Mr. Imagine's Toy Store, 1371 N Milwaukee Ave, is open Saturday, October 13 from 9am–9pm, and will be open every day through Sunday October 21, 10am–6pm.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)