This year's best picks from Chicago toy stores

 
 

By Sara Rontal Fisher

Contributor and blogger

Every October I think that I should plan ahead for what the kiddos might want for the holidays, and every November I panic because I have not gotten much farther in my plans in one short month.

Buying gifts for children, either yours or someone else's, for the holidays is an immense task. Big gifts may be reserved for relatives, Hanukkah lasts EIGHT ridiculous nights and therefore requires lots of presents, and on many occasions creativity is trumped by convenience. Case in point, the $35 plastic aircraft carrier I found in a toy catalog and got for my plane-loving 2-year-old that looked great in the glossy and crummy in person.

Because this column is about loving living in Chicago with kids, I called upon a few experts to help come up with the best Chicago toys.

Katherine McHenry is the owner of the venerable Chicago institution Building Blocks Toys, with two locations in Lakeview and Wicker Park. She knows kids' toys like no other and turned me onto a couple amazing gift ideas with local flair.

Art kits from local women-owned company, Kidzaw, really caught my eye. They help youngsters paint like the old masters Van Gogh, Matisse and Monet through a variety of tools and easy-to-use techniques. It's an interesting take on the typical kiddie art set. Plus, kids can see the artists' work in real life downtown when they're done with their own masterpiece.

McHenry also likes Magna-Tiles, created by Valtech, located in Midlothian. I'm a big fan of those little magnetic shapes.

Ann Kienzle, of Play in Logan Square, offered a few ideas, too. For the kid with a humor, she suggests a hilarious plush toy called Shawnimals Moustachio-it's a plush toy shaped like a mustache with a mustache. It doesn't get sillier than that! (And they're handmade in Logan Square.)

Kienzle also recommends Doodle Chicago, a big ol' doodle pad of our great city. I can't think of a better way to spend the holiday break.

The author will be at Play Nov. 10.

Happy holiday shopping!

 
 





 
 
 
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