It’s the most wonderful time of the year … that is, if you relish tracking every cent that’s being spent on holiday gifts for each person on your too-long list. But if you’re like most of us, finding gifts that won’t break the bank (or make you lose your mind) is a task that’s dreaded each and every holiday season.
That’s why we’ve taken some of the pain out of holiday gift-giving with our annual list. Here are gifts under $50 for kids, 7-10 years old.
All of them are guaranteed to produce smiles, for gift giver and receiver alike.
These gifts are super fun and wacky additions to your kids’ wish list.
Forget all those crazy apps and boring music books. Kids can master the guitar strings with these brilliant blocks, which give 54 different chord diagrams and can be used to build some tuneful towers. Next thing you know, you’ll be yelling “Free Bird!” Find this toy locally at *play in Logan Square. $34.95, 2+.
Junior James Bonds, Jason Bournes and Sydney Bristows can test their spy savvy with this creative game that’s like Twister by way of the CIA. Kids use clamps and string to create a “laser field” to crawl through in order to defuse a bomb before it’s too late. Find this toy locally at Building Blocks Toy Store in Lakeview and Wicker Park. $34.99, 7+.
“Waste free is the way to be,” but it can be hard to make that motto part of your life. These adorable sewing kits make it a little easier, with an assortment of reclaimed wool that ultimately becomes a dog, giraffe, monkey or unicorn. And if you don’t know a pleat from a pocket, don’t worry: all instructions are provided. Find this toy locally at Becky & Me Toys in Evanston. $19.99, 7+.
Cate &Levi Puppet Making Kit
At least this wrecking ball has nothing to do with Miley Cyrus! This kit taps into your kiddo’s power of destruction, while also teaching them some basic physics principles, as well as how to read blueprints. Just be sure to hide the breakables. Find this toy locally at Moore Toys & Gadgets in Wheaton. $40, 7+.
KEVA Wrecking Ball
Remember Frogger, Pong and Tetris? Now gamers can create their own old-school arcade fun using this kit, which simplifies some pretty complicated science. It has instructions for more than 20 games, plus 200 electrical projects to try, so they’ll spend way more time there than in front of the TV. Find this toy locally at Galt Toys + Galt Baby in downtown, Lincoln Park and Skokie. $34.99, 8+.
Snap Circuit Arcade
Mortgages and work deadlines are in the future, so why not let them be just a little irresponsible while they still can? This kit shows them how to make soda bottle rockets, kitchen avalanches and DIY blubber with items found around your homeall while mixing in a healthy dose of learning. Find this toy locally at *play in Logan Square. $22.95, 9+.
Totally Irresponsible Science Kit
If mom and dad are hooked on “The Americans” (and why wouldn’t you be?), this is the perfect game to play with your offspring. Everyone assumes a secret identity, then must collect code books, disguises, keys and passwords without giving it away. It’s kind of like Clue, but with a possibly fake Russian accent. Find this toy locally at Building Blocks Toy Store in Lakeview and Wicker Park. $19.99, 8+.
One man’s trash is another man’s robot? Kids can find new uses for everything from paper cups to action figures, turning them into the homemade cousins of C-3PO. The good news is we’re pretty sure these robots can’t talk back! Find this toy locally at Moore Toys & Gadgets in Wheaton. $24.95, 8+.
The days of taping a friendship bracelet to cardboard are long gone. Nowadays, kids can make jewelry with the help of their iPad and this nifty tool, which lets them create customized patterns, follow step-by-step instructions, and share them with friends. Talk about redefining “screen time”! Find this toy locally at Building Blocks Toy Store in Lakeview and Wicker Park. $39.99, 8+.
Pair this kit with your next visit to the zooafter visiting the orangutans, your kids are going to want to make one of their very own. The eight animal models are adorable on their own, but after you realize how educational they are, you’ll really fall in love. Find this toy locally at Building Blocks Toy Store in Lakeview and Wicker Park. $49.95, 8+.
Remote-Control Machines: Animals
It might seem like Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty comes in every shade, sparkle and special effect possible, but now there are even more options. Kids can create their own version of the gooey gunk, mixing colors and adding just the perfect amount of shine, shimmer and glow. Bonus: The mini tins are perfect for gift-giving! Find this toy locally at *play in Logan Square. $19.95, 8+.
Mixed by Me Thinking Putty