Ten must-have gifts for Chicago preschoolers

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 Preschoolers (3-5 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 your on-the-go preschoolers.

Go up, up and away with the help of some fun reversiblesuperhero capes. They come with a mask, belt and wrist guards for atotal head-to-toe look. Or make up your own creative, wackysuperhero with a unique craft kit. Just add one super-kid!

3+, $35 and 4+, $39.99

Great Pretenders Reversible Super Hero and Super Girl Sets and Seedling Design Your Own Super Hero Cape

This holiday season, it’s all about the Squigz. Kids can buildodd-looking structures with the suction construction set, then makea satisfying “pop” when they pull the pieces apart. Squigz stick toall kinds of surfaces, so don’t be surprised to find them in everyroom of your house.

3+, $24.95-49.95

Fat Brain Toys Squigz

Combining construction trucks and dinosaurs into one brilliantproduct-why didn’t we think of that? A Brachiosaurus Backhoe andTriceratops Bulldozer are just two of the ingenious hybrids thatmake for hours of sandbox fun.

3+, $39.99

Educational Insights Dino Construction Company

Storytime just got a lot cuddlier with these adorable stuffedanimals that have a blanket inside. Read along to favorites likeGoodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Llama Llama RedPajama with their main characters right by your side.

3+, $29.99

Zoobies Storytime Pals

Bring some hometown to your train table with these CTA trainsand bus. They include the Blue, Red, Brown, Green and Pink lines,so no matter where you live, you’ll find one to call your own.

3+, $12.99

Munipals CTA Wooden Trains

This sand isn’t quite what you’ll find at North Avenue Beach! Itlooks like your average seashore sand, but moves and molds likesomething completely different. Plus, it’s great for kids withgluten allergies or sensory needs.

3+, $14.95

WABA Fun Kinetic Sand

If your little one tries on five crazy outfits a day, this isthe game for them. Help the raccoons get dressed for a costumeparty, while rolling dice and matching cards. But be prepared forlots of giggles if they roll the underpants! This darling game wasinvented by a Chicago resident.

3+, $14.99

Educational Insights Raccoon Rumpus

Kids won’t even mind that they’re working on their letters whenthey’re using this fun magnetic product. Helpful arrows directtheir movements, and a magnetic stylus pulls the metal beads up tocreate lines.

3+, $28.00

Kid O A to Z Uppercase Magnatab

Kids love to have places to hide their treasures, which is whatmakes these stuffed animals so popular. The seven secret pocketsare perfect for stowing tiny toys, and they’re super-soft andsnuggly, too. And each character comes with its own storybook.

3+, $29.99


Art can be messy, so why not combine your kids’ painting withtheir time in the tub? The five different colors wipe right offwith the fish-shaped sponge, so they can create masterpiece aftermasterpiece without ever investing in a frame.

3+, $13.95

ALEX Toys Paint in the Tub

  • 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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