Ten must-have gifts for Chicago preschoolers


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 Preschoolers (3-5 years).

- Elizabeth Diffin


Great Pretenders Reversible Super Hero and Super Girl Sets and Seedling Design Your Own Super Hero Cape

Go up, up and away with the help of some fun reversible superhero capes. They come with a mask, belt and wrist guards for a total head-to-toe look. Or make up your own creative, wacky superhero with a unique craft kit. Just add one super-kid!

3+, $35 and 4+, $39.99


Fat Brain Toys Squigz

This holiday season, it's all about the Squigz. Kids can build odd-looking structures with the suction construction set, then make a satisfying "pop" when they pull the pieces apart. Squigz stick to all kinds of surfaces, so don't be surprised to find them in every room of your house.

3+, $24.95-49.95


Educational Insights Dino Construction Company

Combining construction trucks and dinosaurs into one brilliant product-why didn't we think of that? A Brachiosaurus Backhoe and Triceratops Bulldozer are just two of the ingenious hybrids that make for hours of sandbox fun.

3+, $39.99


Zoobies Storytime Pals

Storytime just got a lot cuddlier with these adorable stuffed animals that have a blanket inside. Read along to favorites like Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Llama Llama Red Pajama with their main characters right by your side.

3+, $29.99


Munipals CTA Wooden Trains

Bring some hometown to your train table with these CTA trains and bus. They include the Blue, Red, Brown, Green and Pink lines, so no matter where you live, you'll find one to call your own.

3+, $12.99


WABA Fun Kinetic Sand

This sand isn't quite what you'll find at North Avenue Beach! It looks like your average seashore sand, but moves and molds like something completely different. Plus, it's great for kids with gluten allergies or sensory needs.

3+, $14.95


Educational Insights Raccoon Rumpus

If your little one tries on five crazy outfits a day, this is the game for them. Help the raccoons get dressed for a costume party, while rolling dice and matching cards. But be prepared for lots of giggles if they roll the underpants! This darling game was invented by a Chicago resident.

3+, $14.99


Kid O A to Z Uppercase Magnatab

Kids won't even mind that they're working on their letters when they're using this fun magnetic product. Helpful arrows direct their movements, and a magnetic stylus pulls the metal beads up to create lines.

3+, $28.00



Kids love to have places to hide their treasures, which is what makes these stuffed animals so popular. The seven secret pockets are perfect for stowing tiny toys, and they're super-soft and snuggly, too. And each character comes with its own storybook.

3+, $29.99


ALEX Toys Paint in the Tub

Art can be messy, so why not combine your kids' painting with their time in the tub? The five different colors wipe right off with the fish-shaped sponge, so they can create masterpiece after masterpiece without ever investing in a frame.

3+, $13.95


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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