It’s unavoidable: the mad rush each holiday season to make sure you get something, anything, for the kids. But before you settle for the same old, same old, take a look at our lists for infants (0-12 months), toddlers (1-3 years), preschool age (3-5 years), elementary age (5-10 years) and tweens (10+ years).
It’s chockfull of some of the hottest toys for 2014 (and a few holdovers from Christmases past). They’ve all been chosen with input from owners and managers at independently owned toy stores in the Chicago area. And best of all, they all come with a pretty price tag—$50 or less.
Just be sure to remember us when you're dubbed the “best parent ever.”
Scream-worthy and wallet-friendly gifts under $50 for babies 0-12 months.
pipSquigz, $19.95, 6m+
Last years hottest toy comes in a baby version, too! These brightly colored toys are BPA-free, making them a safe option for teething. And the suction cups perfectly stick to high chair trays, keeping babies occupied while waiting for dinner to be served.
HABA Meadow Friends Activity Spiral, $29.95, 0m+
This mobile is perfect for on-the-go babies, thanks to a fun design that wraps around the handle of the car seat (it also works with playpens or cribs). The mirror and soft elements will keep them entertained and content, even when stuck in traffic on the Kennedy.
Oball 2-n-1 Roller, $19.99, 6m+
Transition is the name of the game with babies, and this brilliant toy takes them from crawling to walking with ease. Plus, the large rattle ball inside makes a fun sound to stimulate their imagination.
Sponsored – Presents that are o
ut of this world
Find everything on your young explorers list from unique stocking stuffers, such as moon nightlights, to fun and educational toys and books such as Bubble Blast Off Rockets, plush space shuttles and Lego Man in Space.
Adler Planetarium Store
1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Kushies Cha Cha Barbells, $22.99, 0m+
We all know that milk does a body good, and thats especially true for the infant set. Let them show off their super-strength with these adorable soft barbells that do double duty as rattles.
IQ Baby Busy Bee Baby Buzzr, $19.99, 3m+
Do you believe in miracles? This teether claims to calm fussy babies with a combination of classical music, vibration, textured surfaces for teething, and other sensory stimulation. Throw one in the diaper bag for your next extra-wiggly diaper change.
Sponsored – A gift that plays all year
Give a Chicago Childrens Museum family membership where play and learning connect and kids get to enjoy benefits such as free daily art classes for a year.
Chicago Childrens Museum
Navy Pier, Chicago
Baby Clemmy, $31.99, 6-18m
Traditional building toys have such sharp edges, parents like to keep them away from the age group that pops everything into their mouths. These building bricks make impressive towers but are soft enough for chewing, too.
earlyears My First Construction Play Set, $24.99, 6m+
Bob the Builder better watch his back. This soft construction set includes a rattle stop sign, crinkle boulder, dump truck with lift-up back, a mirror under the hard hat, and a squeaker safety cone.