It’s not only Borders (per our story last week) that is dedicating more space to educational toys. Late last week Barnes & Noble announced that it has begun testing what it calls “the ultimate play room,” or 3,000 sq. ft. toy and game boutiques, in five New York-area stores—Enfield and Manchester, Ct.; North Brunswick and Holmdel, N.J.; and the Bronx. In addition, the retailer expanded the Toys & Games departments in all its stores nationwide, which now carry 2,000 products for children from birth to 12 years old. The departments also offer “adult” puzzles and toys, for ages 13 and up. Customers can shop by category, brand and age.

The expansive play spaces in the mega play rooms are designed to encourage young children to play with toys and games, as well as to interact with Barnes & Noble’s newly introduced NOOKcolor eReader. The play spaces have five activity areas: Building, featuring LEGO and Rokenbok; Learning, with a NOOK kids interactive station and products from LeapFrog; Imagining, with products from Playmobil, Calico Critters and Puppet Theater; Creating, with Crayola and American Girl craft; and Playing, which features book products, including Thomas the Tank Engine, Olivia, and Curious George.

“Barnes & Noble has always been a destination for families who want to foster a lifelong love of reading,” says chief merchandising officer Jaime Carey. “We’re enriching that experience even further in five key stores with these expansive play areas, and fun and interactive activities. Just as Barnes & Noble has always helped customers pick quality books for themselves and their children, we want to help parents and their children choose quality educational toys and games in a very fun and hands-on way.”

Both Borders and Barnes & Noble are also reaching out to customers who prefer shopping online. Both have signed with ShopRunner, an online shopping program that gives members free two-day shipping. Borders also launched a significantly revamped Web site on Sunday with more products and about 20 times more discounted books. According to Borders spokesperson Mary Davis, the site has lowered the prices for more than 100,000 titles, from 50% to 20%. There is also more information on each book through its new partnership with PowerReviews. And it is tapping its 19,000 employees for additional reviews.