Ten must-have gifts for Chicago kids in early elementary


We know how it goes: the holiday season has arrived, so you're in a race against time to find some gifts that a) your kids will actually like; b) fit your budget; and c) can be bought, wrapped and handed over to the munchkins sometime near the appropriate holiday.

So this year, we did the work for you. We visited 10 toy stores in and around Chicago to find this holiday season's hottest items. Best of all, every gift is less than $50, so you won't break the bank in order to see that awed expression on your child's face.

Here are the results for Early Elementary (5-7 years).

- Elizabeth Diffin


Monkeez Makes a Difference

Toys that give back-now that's something to love. These adorable stuffed animals-think hedgehogs, koalas and octopuses-come with a code for your child to use that supports one of three charities: Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, Samaritan's Purse and Best Friends Animal Society.

3+, $19.99-$33.99


Kaskey Kids NHL Hockey Toys

If your kids are a little Blackhawks crazy, they'll love these 2½-inch Blackhawks vs. Redwings hockey figures. Set up your own United Center using rink wall pieces and a faux-ice plastic mat, then let the puck fly! Stanley Cup not included.

3+, $28.99


Kidzaw MasterSculpz and MasterKitz

Art education just got a makeover. Kids can build their own modern sculptures in the style of Picasso or create a masterpiece to rival Van Gogh. All tools and instructions are included in the kits. Once they've made the final flourish, head to the Art Institute to see some originals.

6+, $14.99 and $29.99


Pet Science Dog School and Kitty College

Hand off the pet-training duties to the kids and watch as they learn a little about animal behavior at the same time. They'll build interactive pet toys, conduct intelligence tests and bake homemade training treats. You might want to start saving for vet school now.

6+, $19.95



For kids who think they're too old for a nightlight (but not being scared of the dark), this is the perfect solution. The funky plush robots transform from playmate to night pal with a simple swipe of the hand.

18m+, $34.99


International Playthings Ecotronic Flashlights

Light up your next campout (or blackout) with these battery-free flashlights. Kids can wind or squeeze the fun farm or zoo animal shapes to produce a beam of light. Just think how much you'll save on batteries!

6+, $10.99


Lille Huset

Kids can build and decorate the sturdy cardboard kits, then play with the stylish houses inspired by real designs from around the world. We love the Logan styles, designed after houses in Chicago's Logan Square (which happens to be the creator's home).

5+, $10-$35


Thinkfun Rush Hour Jr.

Kids steer an ice cream truck through a jumble of cars, trucks and buses in this single-player brain teaser game. It teaches logic and reasoning skills-and maybe even a little empathy for the next time you're stuck in traffic on the Ike.

6+, $19.99


OgoSport OGOBILD Kit Pod

Supersize your kids' fun with this construction kit that creates a perfect fort, yet is light enough to kick, roll or throw. The 42 pieces can be combined in any number of ways and are great for cooperative play.

6+, $49


MindWare Q-BA-MAZE 2.0: Starter Stunt Set

It's marble maze mania! This set uses interlocking colorful cubes and a few fun surprises to zig, zag, flip and twirl marbles in unlimited combinations. And the double-exit cubes mean you never quite know which way the marbles will go (kind of like parenting, huh?).

6+, $49.95


Where We Shopped:

  • Becky & Me Toys, Gleview (additional location in Evanston); beckyandmetoys.com
  • Building Blocks Toy Store, Lakeview neighborhood, Chicago (additional location in Wicker Park neighborhood, Chicago); buildingblockstoys.com
  • Cat and Mouse Game Store, Bucktown neighborhood, Chicago; cat-n-mouse.com/ocart/
  • Galt Toys + Galt Baby, Skokie (additional locations downtown and in Lincoln Park neighborhood, Chicago); galtbaby.com
  • Geppetto's Toy Box, Oak Park; geppettostoybox.com
  • Marbles: The Brain Store, Skokie (additional locations in Naperville, Schaumburg, and downtown and Lincoln Square neighborhood, Chicago); marblesthebrainstore.com
  • My Favorite Toy Store, Downers Grove (additional location in Elmhurst); myfavoritetoystore.com
  • *play, Logan Square neighborhood, Chicago; playlogansquare.com
  • Timeless Toys Ltd., Lincoln Square neighborhood, Chicago; timelesstoyschicago.com
  • Toys et Cetera, Andersonville neighborhood, Chicago (additional locations in Hyde Park and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, Chicago); toysetcetera.com
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