What is ASTRA and How Does Beyond the Blackboard Fit In

Jacqueline Killian
Jacqueline Killian
June 24, 2018 3 min read

We have been posting on our social media for the past two weeks or so, photos and information from the ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailers Association) convention we attended. It has come to our attention that you, as a reader, might not know what ASTRA is or why it matters to us as a store. The purpose of this post is to provide new knowledge to our readers about ASTRA and how we as a local toy store fit in.

Here is some great information taken right from ASTRA’s website. “Founded in 1992, the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is an international not-for-profit trade organization that serves more than 1,800 independent retailers, manufacturers and sales representations of the specialty toy industry. ASTRA is a dedicated community of professionals committed to providing children with healthy, quality play materials that have high play value. ASTRA members build their businesses around specialty toys, which are designed with a focus on what the child can do, rather than what the toy can do. ASTRA members are leaders who have a positive influence the economy, culture and creativity of the communities they serve.

ASTRA provides members with access to networking, education, discounts, business products and services to assist our members as they grow their businesses. ASTRA Academy, which houses our education and training resources, was established to provide ASTRA members with on-demand access to up-to-the-minute training in an ever-changing industry. Marketplace & Academy is a four-day trade show and education conference featuring industry leaders and hands-on product demonstrations. The conference draws more than 450 exhibits and includes more than 30 hours of education.”

Here is how we fit in. To start off with, we believe in the power of play and healthy, quality toys with a high play value. As a committed leader in the industry, Beyond the Blackboard owner Jacqeline Killian has joined the board to create the biggest opportunity to be a difference maker in the growth of this category of retail. She is one of 14 retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives on a volunteer board that governs the association.

Next, we attend and learn from the workshops offered at the convention. Jean and Laura both took the class on Social Media Management to create ways to be best reach our audience with information that is relative and timely.

Carah Killian, our amazing store manager taught a workshop session (along with Peter Reynolds) at the ASTRA show titled “Certified Play Experts Present: Become a Community Resource Center” . There were over 60 participants who attended and walked away with tons of new knowledge. There is a plethora of indisputable evidence supporting the need for children to experience authentic, three-dimensional play to achieve their true potential intellectually, socially, physically and emotionally. Carah’s goal for this session was for the attendees to go away with the knowledge that will help them empower themselves and their teams to become messengers of play, advocates for healthy childhoods and advisers on appropriate toy choices in their communities. This commitment of time, planning and travel expresses Carah’s dedication to the toy industry as a whole.

Each year ASTRA hosts the conference in a different city. This year we got to go to the beautiful southern city of New Orleans. Our walk each day from our VRBO rental to the convention center was filled with wonder. Here are a few photos from the path along the way.

Next year the ASTRA conference will be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We are already talking about it and making big plans.

Cheers to the Toy Industry,

Your Friends at Beyond the Blackboard


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