Tis the season to scout out the best toys for your children for the holidays. ‘Tis also the season to exhaust your patience and creativity with long checkout lines and overpriced plastic. If you’re sick of shopping at the big-box stores, or need a zap of something a little more unique, we have alternatives to the typical toy store haunts.
Our guide of out-of-the-box suggestions for the hippest and hottest stores and toys for the 2011 holiday season.
Billing itself as a “modern baby lifestyle shop,” Galt Toys hasbeen offering baby gear and toys to Chicago families for more than30 years. A staple for baby gift registries, Galt Toys + Galt Babyalso has one of the most extensive selections of gifts for babiesup to age 12.
1915 N. Clybourn Ave., 900 N. Michigan Ave., Old Orchard Shopping Center galtbaby.com Holiday toy pick: P'kolino Art Easel, $98.99
Gatl Toys + Galt Baby
If you’re looking for that unique gift no other child, orperhaps anyone of any age, will have this holiday season, then lookno further than Rotofugi. This world-class retailer of “designertoys from all over the world” specializes in unique vinyl figures,capsule toys and plush toys.
“We typically tell our customers to ‘buy what they like,'” saysKirby Kerr, co-owner of Rotofugi.
Kerr and his wife and co-owner, Whitney Kerr, stock their shopwith the unusual, but also carry some popular brands such asUglydolls and Shawnimal. In 2007, the Kerrs partnered withSquibbles Ink, a local product development specialist to producecustom artist-designed figures.
2780 N. Lincoln Ave. rotofugi.com Holiday toy pick: Uglydolls Citizens, $15 each
Aiming to “leave the planet a bit better, if not a whole lotbetter, than its current state,” owners Heather Muenstermann andChristina Isperduli help shoppers make smart choices for theirfamilies and friends when it comes to toy buying. The extensiveselection of organic and natural toy products will leave the littleones happily playing, and you’ll be happy knowing that you gave notonly to your child, but to the larger world as well.
5111 N. Clark St.
Holiday toy pick WITH LOCAL FLAIR: Pizza Parlor by Green Toys,$25
More than just a toy store, Play in Logan Square offers acustomized experience in addition to fabulous toys. Owner AnnKienzle is also a toy industry consultant and caters to clients byoffering personal shopping, call-ahead ordering and even a giftbasket option. Kienzle selects everything in the store with “play”in mind and prefers her customers “go for a quality product thatwill last over time, rather than getting caught up in thehype.”
3109 W. Logan Blvd. playlogansquare.com Holiday toy pick: Tobbles Balancing Toy by Fat Brain Toys, $24.95
Play Logan Square
Parents who want classic playthings with a “twist” will findtheir best match at Timeless Toys, a longtime outpost in theLincoln Square neighborhood. The store carries everything fromorganic toys for infants by MiYim to a wide selection of sleds foroutdoor play this Chicago winter (see our story on sledding in thisissue for a guide of where to go). Shopkeeper Martha Burrows givesparents this advice when shopping for toys: know the ages andinterests of the children you are shopping for and talk to the toyconsultants.
4749 N. Lincoln Ave timelesstoyschicago.com Holiday toy pick: Nanoblock Space Shuttle, $34
A veteran toy shopkeeper of 15 years, Katherine McHenry knowshow to stock her beloved Lakeview and Wicker Park spaces with themost coveted-yet-hard-to-find goods kids will cherish. She knowsbecause she gets a lot of inspiration from her clientele.
“The most valuable source of my considerations come fromcustomers to my store,” McHenry says. “Through personalinteractions, I am able to get feedback on what parents like andkids want.”
In her store, McHenry carries national brands such as Bruder,Haba, Uglydoll and Alex Toys. But she advises against buying forspecific model and brand.
“It’s fun to explore all the different options that you have,”McHenry says.
3306 N. Lincoln Ave., 2130 W. Division St. buildingblockstoys.com Holiday toy pick WITH LOCAL FLAIR: Chicago 4-D Puzzle, $39.99