by Gayle Faulkner Kosalko
Mind Benders – Puzzles & Games, one of Whiting’s newest shops, was definitely meant to be. First of all, the owners’ last name is Bender and both Joel and Amy have been game players their whole lives.
Joel is a natural for this kind of work. Although he was in sales in Chicago for years, when his company was bought out, he took his severance and made the leap of going into business for himself. “It was a giant step and my wife Amy was behind it 100%,” he said. “I always had the idea if I’d ever open a game store, it would be called ‘Mind Benders’ because of our last name.”
Joel said that throughout his life, he’s always been loved games. At family holidays he’s the master of ceremonies, dividing everybody into teams, ready to play. Even when he had a part time job as a bartender, he’d bring games to the bar, divide up the clientele, and proceed to lead them in a game. “Sometimes people would come in and just drink water because they wanted to be there for the games,” he said.
“You won’t find most of these in the big box stores,” Joel explained. And more importantly, you won’t have somebody explain to you the intricacies of the game or give you a chance to play it. But at Mind Benders, you’ll find these two people more than happy to find something very specific to your needs.
MB is not a toy store per se, but it has something for everybody, starting with infants. There’s an entire wall dedicated to developmental items for children. “We brought in more learning essential and developmental games for children,” explained Amy. “We thought it was important and had the need to give back to the community, to offer that in town and we have had a lot of feedback from teachers and parents and homeschooling parents that they need these things….they use them as a fun way of learning at home.”
And Amy is proud to carry toys and game brand names that are chemical free, non toxic, water based and plant based so they are definitely safe when your little one wants to chew on his toy. They carry safe teethers, rattles and shakers and “touchy feely” pieces that will help with tiny little fingers’ dexterity.
These items are truly important for baby and toddler development. From building toys to unusual musical instruments, Amy says that their developmental games and toys feed a child’s learning and stimulates their senses. Puzzles are always terrific. And while they carry a states puzzle and an alphabet puzzle, they also carry something called a Latch Board which is truly unique. Your child figures out how to open the latches and the locks and part of the overall learning experience deals also with numbers and colors as well.
“For them to figure out how to work this, they’re troubleshooting and figuring things out for themselves,” Amy said. In addition to the puzzle and placement games, there are also hands on craft items such as building your own birdhouse, easy to do crochet, cross stitch and knitting kits. “We have adults who buy these for themselves because they enjoy doing them too,” she said. And of the projects where you make your own hand soap, perfume or lip balm, Amy says that these three are actually science labs that the kids are experiencing.
With the big coloring craze going on, here’s where you can find Faber-Castell color pencils in metallic, water color, and regular grip pencils. “We also carry black construction paper which is normally hard to find,” Joel added. Aside from all the fantastic kids’ games, there are even more family and adult games. There are magic kits for kids starting at 4 years old to the Penn and Teller Magic Kid (Even (Whizzo) Marshall Brodien’s Magic Set is there). And there are tons of pocket magic tricks which would make great stocking stuffers.
There are kits for building a Crystal Radio, one that doesn’t need a battery of electricity. The crystal radio was invented in 1901 and Joel says many of his customers remember having them in the 1960’s. There’s even a kit for making an FM radio. Such parlor games as “Escape the Room” are great for the entire family. As players you’re given riddles and you have to figure them out as a group to “escape.” And you’re playing against time as well.
Joel is particularly proud of what he refers to as his “coffee table games.” They’re beautifully hand-crafted wooden handcrafted puzzles which would be fun to have out all the time. “They’re crafted by a gentlemen in Florida,” Joel explained. There are puzzles for cat or dog lovers, brain teasers, police or firemen puzzles. Joel’s favorite though is a Cubs against Cleveland puzzle that he had the faith to order BEFORE the World Series. It looks like a scoreboard and you have to put the pieces in correctly to have the Cubs win.
And what’s here for your teenager? Joel says that variations on the concept of the old Rubik’s Cube are particularly popular. “High school kids love the cube and we sell 15 different kinds. It’s really the next challenge beyond Rubik’s Cube,” he said. “The Ghost Cube is one of the most challenging.”
When asked if today’s puzzles and games are more sophisticated in the sense of what or how they teach, Joel looked at his wall of game boards and pointed out the following: “Clue taught problem solving – Scrabble taught you spelling- Chutes and Ladders taught you to count- Risk taught you geography and Candy land taught you colors.”
But at Mind Benders, the best thing they offer is personal service. They sincerely want you to find just the right match for your game player and offer you their thorough knowledge of what’s out there. They’ll even play the game with you to help demonstrate and there are always games out for your kids to come in and try. The right game for the right age is very important and that’s where the Benders’ expertise can help.
So there’s still plenty of time to check out Mind Benders for the kids. Their hours are Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday from 10:30a.m. to 6:30p.m. – Thursday & Friday 10:30a.m. to 8p.m. – Saturday 10a.m. to 7p.m. and Sunday from 11a.m. to 3p.m. and they WILL be open part of the day on Christmas Eve. Call them at 219-237-4386!
“If the light’s on, stop in,” said Amy. “We often stay later than our hours are.” As for Joel, it’s obvious that he delights in his new vocation. “When you like your job, it’s a lot easier to go in,” he said. “I work seven blocks away from home and my day consists of me playing games with customers.”
FIND OUT MORE . . .
While coming to Whiting you can also visit Mindbenders puzzles and games, Mascot Hall of Fame, Region Escape Room, Hoosier Theatre Whao Zone, Oilmen Baseball and J & L This and That Consignment Shop.
Whiting, Indiana –