Best products of 2011 (so far) and where to buy in Chicago

The new year is only a few days old, but already chock full of futuristic fun, like waterless showers, stay-put socks, and more.

Blindmice, creator of children’s socks that mimic technical running socks for adults, has expanded its crew and lo-cut styles to include newborns and kids up to age 6. All socks are designed to stay put, with unique qualities like cushioned soft soles, hand-linked toe seams, articulated heels and soft tops that don’t impede circulation. Thirty-nine whimsical color and pattern combinations result in a collection that coordinates, but does not match. Sold in sets of three and five (a pair and a spare). $9.50-$14.50

Where to get it:The Red Balloon, 2060 N. Damen Ave., Chicago.

Stay-put socks


Adorable appliqués and charming trompe l’oeil come together in high-quality Gymboree fashion-think sweater dresses, puffer vests, fringed boots, cloche hats, tulle skirts, skinny corduroy pants, embroidered sleepwear and more. The St. Jude’s partner showcases ever-changing collections from season to season with darling themes that take kids effortlessly from day to night. $5.99-$59;

Where to get it: Gymboree, 4999 Old Orchard Center, Skokie.

Day-to-night fashion


Award-winning Hearts for Hearts Girls from Playmates teach children that they can make a difference. The newly launched collection of six dolls represents an international community-Mexico, Belarus, India, Ethiopia, Laos and the U.S.-where everyone belongs and each girl is working to change her community in unique ways. A portion of sales from each doll goes directly to help children from that doll’s country. Each girl includes a friendship bracelet and story booklet. $29.99;

Where to get it: Target, 4466 N. Broadway St., Chicago.

A doll with heart


Let little ones discover their wild side with the 3-in-1 Learning Zebra Scooter from VTech Toys. It converts easily from a push walker to a ride-on scooter, allowing babies and toddlers to explore new territory with a walkie-talkie, compass and flashlight. The zebra’s mane features five light-up buttons that teach colors, animals and destinations, and its fun horn keeps parents in mind with a handy volume-control switch. $44.99;

Where to get it: Walmart, 1300 Des Plaines Ave., Forest Park.

Toys of all stripes


Learning Curve has everything your little conductor could possibly want, need or dream about in its collection of Chuggington die-cast trains and playsets featuring characters from the internationally broadcasted TV series. The durable die-cast construction, realistic decoration and secure front-and-back couplings, along with moveable track, encourage young train enthusiasts to exercise their fine motor skills and spatial planning. $5.99-$24.99;

Where to get it: Toys R Us, 4070 Fox Valley Center Drive, Aurora.

Chugga-chugga choo-choo!


Save space with the StrollAway from Metrotots. The mom-invented gadget simply hooks over the back of any door, getting strollers off the floor and out of sight. The heavy-duty steel hook is compatible with most brands of foldable strollers up to 35 pounds and adjusts to nine different positions. A suburban garage-friendly version is in the works, as is a multi-stroller wrangling model.

Where to get it: Galt Baby, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

Stow your stroller in style


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