Making a list and checking it twice might be Santa Claus’ job, but it’s also a responsibility that falls to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. But while you don’t have the elvish assistance at the Big Guy’s disposal, you do have this: our comprehensive guide to what’s hot in Chicagoland this year. They’re all available at some of our favorite independent toy stores, and they all cost less than one bill with Grant’s face on it.
Top ideas for kids ages 1-3.
We all want to see ourselves in popular culture, and these gorgeous board books make it a bit more possible. These multicultural fairy tales give Cinderella a Mexican spin and set Snow White in a beautifully illustrated Japan. An Indian Rapunzel comes out in the spring.
Once Upon a World books, $8.99, 2-4 (P)
Trust us: You don’t want to know what they find in some of those ball pits. Bring home all the fun –but none of the germs — with this mini pop-up version. It comes with 10 colorful balls and a puppy face that’s cute enough to rival your little love’s.
Pop-Up Puppy Ball Pit, $29.99, 6m+ (G) (M)
An elephant never forgets, but she does provide hours of entertainment for little hands. This charming pull toy encourages fine motor skills and sensory learning through a shape sorter and a bead run, not to mention a tail that’s begging to be tugged.
My Pal Elly, $29.99, 12m+ (BB)
If you’re going to spend good money on a pull toy, you might as well get lots of bang for your buck. This vibrant bird is made with lacquered beechwood from sustainable forests, and its spring-loaded neck bobbles adorably when your little totes it along.
Vilac Bird of Paradise Pull Toy, $36, 1+ (M)
Each of these puppets is one-of-a-kind, making them fitting companions for your equally unique child. But what they all have in common is their high level of craftsmanship, whether you want a cross-eyed snake or a floppy-eared puppy. Plus, they’re made from recycled wool!
Linda Parthemer hand puppets, $45, 0m+ (M)
Your toddler takes their favorite doll everywhere, including spots that aren’t so doll-friendly. Good thing these beautifully designed plush dolls are meant for the bathtub. The filling is made from anti-microbial materials that can withstand its fair share of bubble baths.
Nici Wonderland Minilotta, $24.99, 2+ (BB)
Becky & Me Toys, Evanston
Building Blocks Toy Store, Lakeview and Wicker Park, Chicago
Galt Toys + Galt Baby, downtown and Lincoln Park, Chicago and Skokie
*play, Logan Square, Chicago
Moore Toys & Gadgets, Wheaton
Where we shopped