Ten must-have gifts for Chicago kids in early elementary

We know how it goes: the holiday season has arrived, so you’re in a race against time to find some gifts that a) your kids will actually like; b) fit your budget; and c) can be bought, wrapped and handed over to the munchkins sometime near the appropriate holiday.

So this year, we did the work for you. We visited 10 toy stores in and around Chicago to find this holiday season’s hottest items. Best of all, every gift is less than $50, so you won’t break the bank in order to see that awed expression on your child’s face.

Here are the results for Early Elementary (5-7 years).

– Elizabeth Diffin

Our toy expert visited 10 local stores to bring you the hottest gifts for the holiday season. Here are Chicago Parent’s picks for kids in grades K-2.

Toys that give back-now that’s something to love. These adorablestuffed animals-think hedgehogs, koalas and octopuses-come with acode for your child to use that supports one of three charities:Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, Samaritan’s Purse and BestFriends Animal Society.

3+, $19.99-$33.99

Monkeez Makes a Difference

If your kids are a little Blackhawks crazy, they’ll love these2½-inch Blackhawks vs. Redwings hockey figures. Set up your ownUnited Center using rink wall pieces and a faux-ice plastic mat,then let the puck fly! Stanley Cup not included.

3+, $28.99

Kaskey Kids NHL Hockey Toys

Art education just got a makeover. Kids can build their ownmodern sculptures in the style of Picasso or create a masterpieceto rival Van Gogh. All tools and instructions are included in thekits. Once they’ve made the final flourish, head to the ArtInstitute to see some originals.

6+, $14.99 and $29.99

Kidzaw MasterSculpz and MasterKitz

Hand off the pet-training duties to the kids and watch as theylearn a little about animal behavior at the same time. They’llbuild interactive pet toys, conduct intelligence tests and bakehomemade training treats. You might want to start saving for vetschool now.

6+, $19.95

Pet Science Dog School and Kitty College

For kids who think they’re too old for a nightlight (but notbeing scared of the dark), this is the perfect solution. The funkyplush robots transform from playmate to night pal with a simpleswipe of the hand.

18m+, $34.99


Light up your next campout (or blackout) with these battery-freeflashlights. Kids can wind or squeeze the fun farm or zoo animalshapes to produce a beam of light. Just think how much you’ll saveon batteries!

6+, $10.99

International Playthings Ecotronic Flashlights

Kids can build and decorate the sturdy cardboard kits, then playwith the stylish houses inspired by real designs from around theworld. We love the Logan styles, designed after houses in Chicago’sLogan Square (which happens to be the creator’s home).

5+, $10-$35

Lille Huset

Kids steer an ice cream truck through a jumble of cars, trucksand buses in this single-player brain teaser game. It teaches logicand reasoning skills-and maybe even a little empathy for the nexttime you’re stuck in traffic on the Ike.

6+, $19.99

Thinkfun Rush Hour Jr.

Supersize your kids’ fun with this construction kit that createsa perfect fort, yet is light enough to kick, roll or throw. The 42pieces can be combined in any number of ways and are great forcooperative play.

6+, $49

OgoSport OGOBILD Kit Pod

It’s marble maze mania! This set uses interlocking colorfulcubes and a few fun surprises to zig, zag, flip and twirl marblesin unlimited combinations. And the double-exit cubes mean you neverquite know which way the marbles will go (kind of like parenting,huh?).

6+, $49.95

MindWare Q-BA-MAZE 2.0: Starter Stunt Set

  • Becky & Me Toys, Gleview (additional location in Evanston);beckyandmetoys.com
  • Building Blocks Toy Store, Lakeview neighborhood, Chicago(additional location in Wicker Park neighborhood, Chicago);buildingblockstoys.com
  • Cat and Mouse Game Store, Bucktown neighborhood, Chicago;cat-n-mouse.com/ocart/
  • Galt Toys + Galt Baby, Skokie (additional locations downtownand in Lincoln Park neighborhood, Chicago); galtbaby.com
  • Geppetto’s Toy Box, Oak Park; geppettostoybox.com
  • Marbles: The Brain Store, Skokie (additional locations inNaperville, Schaumburg, and downtown and Lincoln Squareneighborhood, Chicago); marblesthebrainstore.com
  • My Favorite Toy Store, Downers Grove (additional location inElmhurst); myfavoritetoystore.com
  • *play, Logan Square neighborhood, Chicago;playlogansquare.com
  • Timeless Toys Ltd., Lincoln Square neighborhood, Chicago;timelesstoyschicago.com
  • Toys et Cetera, Andersonville neighborhood, Chicago (additionallocations in Hyde Park and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, Chicago);toysetcetera.com

Where We Shopped:

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