Lapp’s Toys is a family business with a core desire to produce toys that offer the most value for the child and that capture the beauty and durability of old-fashioned playthings. The company, now owned by John and Mima Lapp and residing on Horseshoe Road in Lancaster, sells its wares under the brand name Clip Clop — a name that represents a familiar, homey sound that reflects the county’s heritage and embraces the youthful market the shop is dedicated to serving. Clip Clop’s classic toys — such as kitchen sets, doll furniture, trucks, tractors, rocking horses and wheeled riding horses — are all handmade from Baltic birch wood and finished with nontoxic paint.
The wooden toys, according to clipcloptoys.com, are crafted to “withstand the wear of play and be safely enjoyed from generation to generation.” Most of today’s toys are cheap plastic versions of the beloved toys of the past or are fancy-looking electronic gadgets that do nothing to facilitate healthy child development. The old-fashioned toys made by the Lapps are more durable and are designed to actually tap into what children instinctively want when they are playing — the toys promote creativity, social engagement and an exploration of the physical world.
In an interview with The Lancaster Patriot, John Lapp pointed out that in recent years toys have become detached from what children need for healthy development and instead reflect a flashy, consumeristic ideal that does not support learning and growth. The general public needs to be aware of the real value each toy should represent. “Typically, your perception of value when you buy a toy is pretty low, partially because we’re used to buying really cheap stuff from Target, Walmart,” he said. A truck from Clip Clop can cost twice as much as a truck with all the modern bells and whistles from a big retail chain, he explained. “But when you look at the actual play value, brain development, and so forth, it’s well worth it, in my mind.”
The passion the Lapps have for making toys goes back to the 1970s, when John K. Lapp — a cousin of John Lapp’s father — opened a small business making furniture and toys. In the 1990s, John Lapp joined the scene, starting in the assembly of small parts at the age of 15. Lapp took part in the business because he enjoyed designing and making his own toys, an interest that continues to this day. When John K. Lapp retired, John Lapp convinced his father and brother to join the family business, and each ended up helping in different aspects of toy production and sales. Eventually Lapp’s brother left to pursue other interests, but Lapp and his father continued the toy business, which was quickly expanding. Due to increasing popularity and the need to produce on a larger scale, Lapp’s Toys moved its workshop and storefront to the bigger location where it is today.
There is little wonder why the demand for Clip Clop toys has only grown. The products from Lapp’s Toys remain strongly rooted in family values and quality, with every item in the store handmade and rigorously tested so as to meet every standard. This high quality of production is coupled with the toymakers’ mission to create toys that contribute to healthy child development.
Lapp is the father of three young children, and the lessons he learns from observing his own children play and seeing what engages them most influences his designs and helps him improve the function of different toys. Years of design have also taught Lapp plenty, including how important the ability to touch and manually affect a toy is for children’s interest and growth. He learned this lesson when he designed a marble roller. Since parents are concerned about choking hazards, he enclosed the marbles behind plexiglass to keep them safely out of reach on the wooden track. However, this meant that children could only play with the toy by letting the marbles run down the track, then turning the toy upside down to roll the marbles back again. Although the design addressed the parents’ concerns, the toy sold poorly, since kids were not interested in a toy that prevented them from getting to handle everything.
Since young children learn best and tend to play with toys longer when they can get their hands on them, now all of his toy designs embrace this concept. He also works to infuse the toys with an educational value that is obvious to parents as well. Selling toys involves both parents and children, so he must consider the visual styling, the interactivity, and what each toy brings to the table for learning experiences.
Every year, Clip Clop produces a few new designs to continue finding the best ways to appeal to parents and to challenge children to play and think creatively. The handcrafted toys are available for purchase online and at Lapp’s Toys, an inviting shop decorated in cheerful pastels, with natural lighting, play areas, and a train winding its way through the shop on an overhead track. The store is open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.