Holiday Gift Guide 2015: The best gifts for preschoolers

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 preschoolers, 3-5 years old.

All of them are guaranteed to produce smiles, for gift giver and receiver alike.

Your favorite preschooler will squeal over these sweet, creative gifts.

Whether they’re more Taylor or Katy, your little performer can hog the spotlight in style with a microphone that’s compatible with your smartphone or MP3 player. Kids can record and play back their star-making turns, plus add echos and applauseas if Mom and Dad won’t already be clapping proudly. Find this toy locally at Becky & Me Toys in Evanston. $49.95, 3+.

Sing Star Microphone


Let’s face it: kids are practically made for theatrics. Let them put on a show in style with a puppet theater that’s got all the bells and whistles, from a velvet curtain that rolls up and down to a reversible backdrop. And it stores flat to help maximize your limited space. Find this toy locally at Galt Toys + Galt Baby in downtown, Lincoln Park and Skokie. $49.99, 3+.

Melissa &Doug Tabletop Puppet Theater


Kids can do their own exercises while parents squeeze in some reps with the help of this toy that gives 90 creative commands, from “strut like a duck” to “stomp like a dinosaur.” The music and light cues up the fun factor so much, you might just want to ditch the free weights and join in. Find this toy locally at *play in Logan Square. $24.95, 3+.

Magic Moves Electronic Wand


Pixies, ahoy! Attract a little magic to your house with a home built just for our fantastical winged friends. This kit comes with everything you need for a little otherworldly sparkle, from the house to a storybook, and even a pinch of fairy dust. Find this toy locally at *play in Logan Square. $24.99, 4+.

Dreamland Fairy


You’ll have the best snow fort on the street thanks to these tools that perfect the art of building the ideal block of snow. And if the sun ever comes out again, they’ll double as sand toys when you hit the beach next summer. Find this toy locally at Moore Toys & Gadgets in Wheaton. $10, 4+.

Flexible Flyer Snow Block Mold


“Honey I Shrunk the Kids” came out a lifetime ago, but the desire to see things from an insect’s point of view remains strong. Indulge that wish with prismatic lenses that let you experience what it’s like to be bug-eyed. The lenses are hinged, so your little love bug can go with or without compound eyes. Find this toy locally at Moore Toys & Gadgets in Wheaton. $10, 4+.

Mantis Buzzerks


Once they’re in school, the battle over waking up really hits its stride. Energize your mornings with an alarm clock that forces kids to wake up because they’re busy chasing it around their room. Sunny, Gilbert, Charlie and Rosie help get you up and up-and-at-`em in record time! Find this toy locally at Galt Toys + Galt Baby in downtown, Lincoln Park and Skokie. $24.95, 4+.

PopClocky


If your tykes beg for sugary cereal whenever you hit that dreaded aisle at the Jewel, here’s a brilliant solution: A game that lets kids scoop up brightly colored cereal pieces (and match them along the way), while never making you worry about the dentist bill. Sounds g-r-r-reat! Find this toy locally at Becky & Me Toys in Evanston. $24.99, 4+.

Crazy Cereal


In an age where even Superman’s cape occasionally gets a makeover, we’re all about the power of personalization. Kids can add their own touch to create custom-made heroes that are just as strong, spirited and special as you already know they are. Find this toy locally at Becky & Me Toys in Evanston. $22.99, 4+.

Colour a Cape


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