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 preschoolers ages 3-5.
Robot Turtles, $24.99, 4+
Theres no doubt that programming is the way of the futureand this game teaches the fundamentals to preschoolers in a sneaky way! We just hope that by the time they become computer science majors in college, theyll stop making the silly turtle noises.
Groovy Girls 12, $20, 3+
Barbie might have gone on a mission to Mars, but these soft-bodied dolls are ballerinas, princesses and athletes. Best of all, they embody the girl-next-door look with brightly colored clothing, funky yarn hair, and not a curve in sight.
HABA Doorway Puppet Theater, $49.95, 18m+
Its time to put on a show! This set adjusts to fit different doorways and has a porthole window for puppets to make surprise appearances. Just set it up and let their imaginations go wildno Muppets required.
A wordly gift
Give the kids in your life a second language. Language Stars offers top-quality, year-round fun foreign language immersion programs for children ages 1-10 in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Mandarin Chinese.
Many Chicagoland locations
(866) 55-STARS (557-8277)
Teeter Popper, , 3+
Fidgeters, unite! This toy is perfect for kids who just cant sit still in front of the TV or while reading a book. Instead, they can rock back and forth on the snowboard-esque toyand enjoy the fun popping sound it makes every time.
Dino Constructables Set, .99, 3+
Dinosaurs are already pretty cool in kids eyes, but these motorized versions will elevate them to awesome status. Just combine the chunky plastic pieces and hook up to the battery pack, and youll be transported directly to Jurassic Park.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site Matching Game, .99, 3+
The classic matching game gets a construction (and literary!) twist with this take on the New York Times Bestseller. And it features the same charming pictures you love from local illustrator Tom Lichtenheld.
Gift certificates are always perfect
Downtown Oak Park has something for everyone, with more than 70 shops and restaurant. Treat the people on your list with a gift certificate that lets them pick what fits.
Buy at the Oak Park Visitors Center
1010 Lake St., Oak Park
Great Pretenders Crystal Queen Dress, .99, 3+
Your resistance to buying some Frozen-themed gifts? Just let it go. This ice blue gown bears a striking resemblance to a certain snow queen we know and will make your little princess sparkle all over.
Lyla Tov Monsters, .99, 3+
Meet Forrest, Charlotte, Madeline and Squonkfour friendly monsters who help protect your little ones sleep. The funny looking stuffed friends were created by a 3-year-old girland a portion of the proceeds go to a childrens charity.
Holiday gifts that keep on giving
A gift certificate or subscription to Drury Lane Theater makes a perfect holiday gift! Dont miss Billy Elliott, White Christmas, Bye Bye Birdie or Beaches.
Drury Lane Theater
Crazy Legs, .95, 4+
Kids are notoriously limber, so its no surprise that theyre tailor-made for yoga poses. This game gets them up and moving with 60 action cards divided between traditional exercises and poses like downward facing dog. Perfect for those days when youre stuck inside this winter.
Mix It Up!, .99, 3-5
Following in the footsteps of family favorite Press Here comes Herve Tullets latest, an exploration of colors and color-mixing. Plus its a way to get your little one following directions without having to play another round of Simon Says.