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Kids outgrow clothes so quickly that consignment sales are a great way to save money. (If you only pay $2 for a T-shirt, you don’t really care when it meets the business end of a marker.) Save on baby, kid, and maternity clothing as well as gear, toys, and furniture and/or unload the clothing and gear that your kid has outgrown. (Click on the links below for each sale to see consignment rules.)

Even if resale isn’t your game, the low prices make these sales worthwhile, especially for babies who can grow out of clothes in a month. But know that some moms take this very seriously. Plenty of diehards line-up early to get first pick. (There’s not a lot of smiling at these events. It’s all business.) If you’re just in the market for clothes and toys, being an early bird isn’t that necessary because there is usually plenty to go around. But if you’re looking for a high chair, stroller, or the ever-coveted double stroller? Show up early because those items go first.

Do:

-Bring a laundry basket to hold your goodies, the collapsible kind is best for your own convenience.

-Bring cash. It’s the easiest and fastest way to pay, and the best way to stick to your budget.

– Bring a cardboard cutout or foot measurements of your kid’s feet to check and see if resale shoes will fit.

-Come with a list, because these sales can be overwhelming. Know what you need and in what sizes.

Don’t:

-Bring your kid, if you can avoid it, unless it’s an infant in a sling. Kids aren’t allowed to play with toys at these sales and that’s hard to explain, let alone to enforce while you’re shopping. Plus, it goes much faster with out them.

-Bring strollers, they usually aren’t allowed at the sales.

Below is a roundup of the sales coming up around the area. Happy bargain hunting!

 

AUGUST

Lots for Tots Consignments

When: Friday, Aug. 14th from noon to 7 p.m., Saturday Aug. 15th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the half-price sale on Sunday, Aug. 16th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Libertyville Sports Complex (1950 N. Hwy. 45, Libertyville)

Admission: Free

Purchases: Cash, Visa, Mastercard and Discover accepted

Clusters Moms of Multiples

When: Saturday, Aug. 29th from 8 a.m. to noon

Where: Oak Lawn Community High School (9400 Southwest Hwy., Oak Lawn)

Admission: Free

Purchases: Cash and credit card accepted

 

SEPTEMBER

Babies, Tots n More

When: Friday, Sept. 4th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 5thfrom 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Most items half off on Saturday)

Where: Lil Kickers (2460 W. Bradley Pl., Chicago)

Other details: Large tote bags provided (no outside bags permitted). 

Step by Step PTA resale

When: Saturday, Sept. 12th from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.; half-price sale starts at 11:30 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m.

Where: DuPage County Fairgrounds (2015 Manchester Rd., Wheaton)

Admission: Free.

Rhea Lana’s of West Chicagoland

When: Sunday, Sept. 13th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 14th through Wednesday, Sept. 16th from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursday, Sept. 17th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with half price days on Friday, Sept. 18th from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 19th from 9 a.m. to noon.

Where: 1199 E. Ogden Ave., Naperville

Admission: Free

Purchases: Cash or credit

Bugaboo Children’s Consignment Sale

When: Friday Sept. 18th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday Sept. 19th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the half price sale

Where: Kendall County Fairgrounds (Route 71 and E. Highpoint Rd, Yorkville)

Admission: Free

Purchases: Cash and check accepted

Other details: No large bags allowed; strollers checked on the way in. Cloth bags, rolling carts, and laundry baskets permitted for shopping.

The Lake County Mother of Twins Sale

When: Saturday, Sept. 19th from 8 a.m. to noon

Where: Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center (2007 Civic Center Way, Round Lake Beach)

Admission: $2

Purchases: Cash only

 Other details: No strollers permitted.

Park Ridge Newcomers Club Spring Kids Sale

When: Saturday, Sept. 19th from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Where: St. Andrews Lutheran Church (260 N. Northwest Hwy., Park Ridge)

Admission: $2 cash

Purchases: Cash or credit card; minimum $50 purchase for credit cards. Sales tax charged on all purchases.

Other details: Bring a laundry basket to shop; no strollers or carts allowed.

Babies 2 Kidz

When: Thursday, Sept. 24th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 25th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, March 26th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Most items half off on Saturday)

Where: Kane County Fairgrounds (525 S. Randall Rd., St. Charles)

Purchases: Cash and credit cards 

Posh Tots Upscale Resale

When: Sept. 25th through 27th

Where: Location TBD – check Web site for details

Purchases: Cash and credit cards

Moms of Multiples

When: Saturday, Sept. 26th from 9 a.m. to noon

Where: Unitarian Church of Evanston (1330 Ridge Ave., Evanston)

Admission: $1

Purchases: Cash only

Other details: One laundry basket allowed; no strollers permitted

Babies, Tots n More

When: Saturday, Sept. 26th

Where: The Accelerated Center (1900 Old Willow Rd., Northbrook)

Other details: Large tote bags provided (no outside bags permitted). 

 

OCTOBER

Tri-Cities Mothers of Twins and Triplets Club 

When: Saturday, Oct. 3rd from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (The half price sale runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

Where: Mooseheart Field House (Rt. 31 and Mooseheart Rd., between North Aurora and Batavia)

Admission: $1

Purchases: Cash or check only.

Other details: No laundry baskets or strollers permitted.

Growing Cents of Style

When: Saturday, Oct. 10th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 11th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Canlan Sportsplex (28156 W. Northpointe Pkwy., Lake Barrington)

Admission: Free

Purchases: Cash and Visa/Mastercard accepted

Other details: Bring your own bag.

Here Whee Go Again South

When: Thursday, Oct. 15th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (half off most items)

Where: 780 W. Euclid, Palatine

Admission: $5 on Thursday, otherwise free

Purchases: Cash or credit for purchases over $30

Millburn Kids Resale

When: Friday, Oct. 23rd from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 24th from 8 a.m. to noon

Where: Millburn West Middle School (640 Freedom Way, Lindenhurst)

Purchases: Cash only

Other details: No strollers

 

Contemporary Art for Kids

I was screwing around on Houzz.com (I’ve lost hours of my life this way) and came across ArtStar.com, a site that offers limited edition work from contemporary artists (completed with authenticity card.) The best part? They have a sub-specialty in art for kids. See my favorites below, and then check out the site for yourself.

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Excessive, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

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’69 Cougar, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

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Merry Go Round, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

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Baby Leopard, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

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A Child’s Bookshelf, starting at $105.

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Animal Stack, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

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Up to the Challenge, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

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Trains #1, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

1124-raw-rkiraly_onedayinthecity-1-for-web_4_large

One Day in the City, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

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Kiss Me, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

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Fisher Price People, $55 to $700, depending on size and framing options.

 

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Oh, how I love this modern tree bookcase. Available for $169 at babyletto.com.

Crazy About BabyGanics

I love BabyGanics. This is my new go-to for baby-safe cleaning and personal care products, and I wholeheartedly recommend the entire line.

BabyGanics, a New York-based line of 60-different plant-based products, ranges from floor cleaner to sunscreen. I have switched over completely from The Honest Company. I don’t doubt the organic safety of the line, but their cleaning products were only so-so. (Plus, the way they have treated the hilarious Honest Toddler blog really turned me off.)

So over the course of the last few months, I have tried a lot of the BabyGanics products, and I’m crazy about them. The foaming hand soap (available in fragrance-free and mandarin scent), multi-surface cleaner, and the shampoo and body wash are among my favorites. The cleaning products are excellent without leaving the sticky residue that many other sprays and floor cleaners do, and the dryer sheets are a great alternative for my family. We had stopped using dryer sheets altogether because the kids have sensitive skin, and now we’re back to static-free laundry, thanks to BabyGanics.

The line of products is available in stores such as Target and Walgreens, as well as online at Amazon.com at prices that are pretty comparable to the standard products. So if you’re looking for a line of reasonably-priced baby-safe and environmentally-friendly products, BabyGanics is definitely worth a try.

Custom Paper Dolls

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Check out these adorable, custom paper dolls. Send the artist a few jpegs of you (plus your spouse, kids, pet — choose your assortment) and four months later, she delivers these customized paper dolls. Prices start at $35. Available from JordanGraceOwens on Etsy.

Call Santa Directly

Can’t get the kids to write a letter to Santa? Have them dial “Santa’s Hotline” 1-605-47-SANTA. Children can call (for free) and leave a message for Santa describing their holiday wishes through Dec. 25th. Some of the most popular items requested so far? American Girl dolls, video games, and baby brothers and sisters. (As part of the service, FreeConferenceCall.com is making a donation to Children Today, providing childcare to homeless families.)

Keep the number on hand. It may keep the kids distracted while you’re trying to get your own holiday errands done. Maybe threaten to leave a message for the big man himself if that naughty doesn’t turn into nice.

Local Toy Store Guide

The holidays are just around the corner, which means family togetherness, festive music, and….commercialism. Many people poop out on holiday shopping because of hours spent in crowded malls with crabby people.

Enter the alternative. There are so many local shops that offer an inspired, well-curated selection of baby and kid merchandise that are also simply a pleasure to browse. There’s something about shopping for children that demands an in-store experience much more so than with adult merchandise because it’s all so cute, sweet, and fun.

So try shopping local this year. In my experience, people don’t do this more often because they just aren’t sure where the local shops are or what they carry. Maybe they’ve heard about that great toy store in the suburbs, but they end up back at Toys R Us because it’s the known entity.

So I did some of the legwork for you. Below is a guide to the locally-owned toy stores across Chicagoland, organized by neighborhood for easy planning. My hope is that it will inspire readers to check these places out in addition to the chain stores and online merchants. So scan the descriptions, visit the Web sites, and check out a new place this year!

 

MAGNIFICENT MILE 

Chicago Children’s Museum
Navy Pier, Chicago, 312-527-4276 

If you find yourself on Navy Pier, this gift shop has a small but decent selection of educational toys, puzzles, novelties like astronaut ice cream, and merchandise tie-ins to the museum’s exhibits.

Galt Toy + Galt Baby
The 900 Shops, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-440-9550
1915 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, 773-327-9980
Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie, 847-329-7712 

Known for furniture, strollers, and baby gear with a more modern bent than typical baby stores, also stop by for the toy assortment, which ranges from classic (arts and crafts, blocks, doll houses, train sets) to the truly inspired, like the Little Nest Giddy UP chair ($695), a replica of the 1973 Pony chair by Eero Aarnio. Check out the online outlet for deals. (Additional locations in Lincoln Park and the North Shore.)

Kooky Kidstuff
The Shops at North Bridge, 520 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-527-0552

A group of local designers first launched Kooky in 2009 as a holiday pop-up shop, and now it has found a permanent home in North Bridge. Most of the hip clothing designers still are homegrown, with old favorites like Melissa and Doug toys mixed in. Selections for little princesses include ruffle dresses ($42), tutus, and sparkly headbands; for little men, find capes and tees. The toy selection is well-edited and stocked with dollhouses, games, creative kits, toy food, and play sets. The North Bridge location has added a salon for kids, with hair styling and mini manicures.

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 312-280-2660 

The Museum of Contemporary Art shop, hands down the best museum store in the city, carries an unexpected, well-curated selection of home goods, jewelry, books, and gifts. The kid-appropriate stock includes art mobiles, portable ping-pong, 3-D dinosaur puzzles, nesting blocks, race cars, pull toys, wooden blocks, and Keith Haring chairs.

Spoil Me Kidz
Water Tower Place, Chicago, 312-448-8128 

Adorable jewel box of a shop carrying trendy wear from local and international designers as well as toys, books and other unique gifty items. Sizes run 0 to 10 for boys and 0 to 14 for girls.

 

LOOP/WEST LOOP

Cat & Mouse Game Store
2212 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 773-384-4454
1112 W. Madison St., Chicago, 312-465-2178 

This locally owned store carries every type of game imaginable: family and children’s games, checkers and chess, strategy and role-playing games, jigsaw puzzles, juggling supplies, and yoyos. The store also hosts game nights and Dungeons and Dragons events.

Chicago Architecture Foundation
224 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-922-3432 

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s gift shop is a no-brainer for the architecture buff but also carries a selection of creative toys for imaginative tots, such as 4D Cityscape puzzles, Krinkles, architecture-themed Legos for Willis Tower and Robie House, coloring books of Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass, and pinhole camera kits.

 

HYDE PARK

Toys Et Cetera
5311 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-769-5311
2037 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, 773-348-1772
1502 E. 55th St., Chicago, 773-324-6039
711 Main St., Evanston, 847-475-7172

More than 10,000 toys are available at these local stores, all chosen to build on a child’s creativity. Infant toys, walkers, arts and craft kits, Lego sets, wooden Beka blocks ($149.99), dollhouses, Playmobil sets, jump ropes, bubble machines, Thomas and Friends train sets, and much more in store.

 

LINCOLN PARK/LAKEVIEW/ROSCOE VILLAGE 

Galt Toy + Galt Baby
The 900 Shops, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-440-9550
1915 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, 773-327-9980
Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie, 847-329-7712

Known for furniture, strollers, and baby gear with a more modern bent than typical baby stores, also stop by for the toy assortment, which ranges from classic (arts and crafts, blocks, doll houses, train sets) to the truly inspired, like the Little Nest Giddy UP chair ($695), a replica of the 1973 Pony chair by Eero Aarnio. Check out the online outlet for deals. (Additional locations in Magnificent Mile and the North Shore).

Tye’s Toy Store
2238 W. Roscoe St., Chicago, 872-206-5597

Small neighborhood toy outpost emphasizing educational toys, including arts & crafts sets, wooden toys, science kits, puzzles, Playmobil sets and more. Special extras are the candy counter and a custom T-shirt service.

 

BUCKTOWN/WICKER PARK/LOGAN SQUARE

Building Blocks Toy Store
3306 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-525-6200
2130 W. Division St., Chicago, 773-235-1888

The emphasis is on the classics at these beloved neighborhood toy shops, which stock wooden toys, craft and science kits, educational toys—anything to engage a child’s imagination. Brands include Haba, Green Toys, Lego, Alex Toys, Playmobil, and Plan. Ask in-store or click around on the Web site to find excellent birthday gift suggestions by age. The plastic bins of small toys at the register are well-chosen and fun.

Cat & Mouse Game Store
2212 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 773-384-4454
1112 W. Madison St., Chicago, 312-465-2178

This locally owned store carries every type of game imaginable: family and children’s games, checkers and chess, strategy and role-playing games, jigsaw puzzles, juggling supplies, and yoyos. The store also hosts game nights and Dungeons and Dragons events.

The Land of Nod
900 W. North Ave., Chicago, 312-475-9903
Northbrook Court, Northbrook, 847-291-9902
Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, 630-368-9990 

This Northbrook-based baby and kid shop carries traditional furniture (cribs, beds, dressers) and whimsical accents like bedding, curtains, and lighting. The playroom furniture and toy storage are particularly great, such as tables with adjustable legs and optional paper rollers to grow with young artists.The toy selection includes dollhouses, puzzles, kits, plush toys, art supplies, play kitchens, instruments, and books. (See also, The Land of Nod Outlet.)

Play
3109 W. Logan Blvd., Chicago, 773-227-6504 

This locally-owned toy store blows big-box competition out of the water with its cheerful, well-curated selection of imaginative toys, and somehow it manages the impossible dream of being chock-a-block while still leaving room to maneuver a stroller. Find an equal mix of goodies for both girls and boys: blocks, puzzles, board games, eco-friendly toys, train sets, craft and science kits, costumes, ride-on toys, and stuffed animals. Books are stocked along one wall, a mix of classic and new favorites, and the register is surrounded by buckets of impulse buys—the toy version of penny candy—wind up toys, erasers, and the like. Toys top out around age 12.

 

LINCOLN SQUARE/ANDERSONVILLE

Building Blocks Toy Store
3306 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-525-6200
2130 W. Division St., Chicago, 773-235-1888

The emphasis is on the classics at these beloved neighborhood toy shops, which stock wooden toys, craft and science kits, educational toys—anything to engage a child’s imagination. Brands include Haba, Green Toys, Lego, Alex Toys, Playmobil, and Plan. Ask in-store or click around on the Web site to find excellent birthday gift suggestions by age. The plastic bins of small toys at the register are well-chosen and fun.

Enjoy, an Urban General Store
4727 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-334-8626 

A modern day general store with a children’s section that mixes quirk and function: snapsuits, Skip Hop diaper bags and backpacks, pull toys, books, blankets and swaddlers, Blabla dolls, and, of course, a Sock Monkey Kit.

Green Genes
5111 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-944-9250 

Green Genes is not only green, but one of the city’s best baby and kid stores to boot. Everything in store has passed an eco-friendly test, including bottles, infant carriers, and cleaning products. On the fun side, wooden blocks, Plan Toys dollhouses, Green Toys trucks, and a line of plushies—Sweater Gal and Sweater Dude, hand sewn by co-owner Heather Muenstermann from repurposed wool sweaters. Another bonus? The wonderful artwork, including a unique service that will turn your kid’s drawing into a sewed appliqué piece of art.

Lollipop Seeds
4726 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-769-3557

This Lincoln Park newcomer stands apart for its great variety of Chicago-centric merchandise, such as onesies adorned with the Chicago flag and toy CTA trains, as well as adorable clothes, books, toys and other goodies. A chalkboard wall in the rear of the store keeps kids occupied while mom and dad shop.

Quake Collectibles
4628 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-878-4288

Feeling nostalgic? This collectibles shop is as fun for kids as it is for adults looking to stroll down memory lane. (A Mayor McCheese figurine, a Spice Girls doll, Garbage Pail kids, etc.) Quake has been around for more than 18 years, and is literally packed from floor to ceiling with goods. Shop comics, Star Wars, Marvel, and DC comics, Transformers, action figures, vinyl lunchboxes, and Pez dispensers. The bargain bins are full of unboxed toys, and the best way to stumble upon a childhood favorite.

Rotofugi  Designer Toy Store & Gallery
2780 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-868-3308

Rotofugi has inspired a devoted following for its hip, artist-designed toys, most of which are limited edition. Shop vinyl and plush toys, blind boxes, and the do-it-yourself Munny series from Japanese line kidrobot. Local artists also get in on the fun: Chicago-based Shawnimals creates a plush line of ninjas, and the Rotofugi partnership with Squibbles Ink produces toys created solely by local designers. The adjacent gallery features exhibits from local and national artists.

Timeless Toys
4749 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-334-4445

A magical independent toy store that carries toys for all ages and is surprisingly large, given its prime Lincoln Square location. Shop puppets, art kits, Nanoblocks, Green Toys, train sets, costumes, plush toys, dolls, and tricycles—just row upon row of fun and educational toys. The friendly staff is always ready to make recommendations. 

Toys Et Cetera
5311 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-769-5311
2037 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, 773-348-1772
1502 E. 55th St., Chicago, 773-324-6039
711 Main St., Evanston, 847-475-7172

More than 10,000 toys are available at these local stores, all chosen to build on a child’s creativity. Infant toys, walkers, arts and craft kits, Lego sets, wooden Beka blocks ($149.99), dollhouses, Playmobil sets, jump ropes, bubble machines, Thomas and Friends train sets, and much more in store.

 

NORTHWEST SIDE

American Science and Surplus
5316 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-763-0313
33W361 Roosevelt Rd., Geneva, 630-232-2882

When it’s raining and you need to occupy the kids for an afternoon, American Science and Surplus is the perfect place to while away the hours. The product mix is hard to define—some scientific and educational, some oddball and funny—but it might be the only place in the city where you can find a crystal ball, rubber chicken, and acrylic skeleton mold all in one spot. Also on the shelves? Fiber optic lamps, robots, origami, sound machines, hobby supplies, and art and science kits.

Chicago Kite
5445 N. Harlem Ave., Chicago, 773-467-1428

This shop is an explosion of color, with more than 400 kites in store. Experienced kite-flyers might want to know that Chicago Kite carries stunt kites, parafoils, box kites, and singleline kites, but kids will be more interested in the butterfly, clown fish, and dragon shapes that are available. Should your child’s kite meet an unfriendly tree, this store also offers repairs and parts. Remote control cars and planes, rubberband guns, balsa planes, boomerangs, yoyos, and juggling supplies also found here

 

NORTH SHORE

Beanstalk
654 Central Ave., Highland Park, 847-432-8300 

Beanstalk combines practicalities like strollers and high chairs with fun merch like pedal cars and Y Bikes. Shop strollers from Maclaren and Phil and Ted’s, Mamaroo bouncers, baby carriers, feeding and bath products, baby clothes from Hatley, and a great selection of toys like old school Paddington Bear and Raggedy Ann dolls. And feel free to bring the kids along—there’s plenty of room to maneuver strollers and children are encouraged to play with toys before buying.

Beat Street
1081 Gage St., Winnetka, 847-441-8580

Beat Street is happiness in a storefront. It may be slightly jumbled, but exploring the stacks of inventory is part of the charm. No joke—the merchandise is piled one on top of the other, so leave plenty of time to browse the Breyer horses, Happyland toy sets, Ugly dolls, retro Krinkle blocks, Rubbabu cars, Klutz kits, wind-up toys, candy, and so much more.

Becky and Me
620 Grove St., Evanston, 847-492-1030
1462 Waukegan Rd., Glenview, 847-729-8850 

Owned by a mother/daughter team, each of whom have experience in the education field, every toy in these stores is designed to promote play rather than staring at a video game screen. Check out baby gifts from Manhattan Toy, toddler toys from Melissa and Doug, puppets, games, puzzles, Lego, Playmobil, science and craft kits, dress-up clothes and costumes, Calico Critters (which parents of a certain age may remember as the Sylvanian Family), and Name Trains where each letter is a train car. The selection of books is particularly good, including a mix of board books, classics, and children’s anthologies. 

Galt Toy + Galt Baby
The 900 Shops, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-440-9550
1915 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, 773-327-9980
Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie, 847-329-7712

Known for furniture, strollers, and baby gear with a more modern bent than typical baby stores, also stop by for the toy assortment, which ranges from classic (arts and crafts, blocks, doll houses, train sets) to the truly inspired, like the Little Nest Giddy UP chair ($695), a replica of the 1973 Pony chair by Eero Aarnio. Check out the online outlet for deals. (Additional locations in Lincoln Park and the Magnificent Mile).

Oliver’s Trains and Toys
2002 Central St., Evanston, 847-424-1940
710 Main St., Evanston, 847-425-1155

Wilmette married couple Bogdan and Siri Rogalski started OliversTrains.com as a Web-only operation a few years ago when their older son Oliver, now 8, was obsessed with wooden trains. When space became available on Central Street, they decided to open a toy shop that carries a mix of toys for all ages and the trains where it all started, including cute little CTA trains, Lionel, and Brio, which has been hard to find in the United States over the last two years. On the toy side, shop Green Toys, organic and wooden toys, science kits, board games, all kinds of cars and trucks and things that go (some for less than $3 a pop), Hello Kitty toys, baby toys from Haba, and affordable impulse buys like balls. Nanoblocks, Ugly Dolls, Hex Bugs and a broader selection of books will be available in-store soon.

Tales and Toys
610 Central Ave., Highland Park, 847-433-2231 

A jam-packed toy store with a great mix of gifts for toddlers and older kids. For tots, there is an array of baby toys, train sets, and dolls, but what really sets this place apart is the extensive variety of personalized gifts, which include blankets, towels, stools, frames, and dolls. For older kids, there is a huge selection of board games, art kits, locker decorations, backpacks, and loungewear. 

Trendy Toys
Northbrook Court, Northbrook, 847-272-7009

A godsend for gift-giving parents (the mall location next to Gymboree and across from Hanna Andersson is handy for quick kid shopping), this cute but compact toy store packs in all the usual suspects like Green Toys, Haba, puzzles, dolls trucks, crafts, and plenty of other goodies.

Village Toy Shop
807 Elm St., Winnetka, 847-446-7990 

Village Toy Shop first opened on the North Shore in 1948, and customers still appreciate the old-fashioned one-on-one service. The toy selection is a good mix of old favorites and newer toys such as board games, Madame Alexander dolls, Playmobil, Steiff stuffed animals, train sets, and educational toys and games. Planning a birthday party? The owners can create goody bags and provide balloons.

 

NORHWEST SUBURBS

America’s Best Train and Hobby Shop
865 Maplewood Dr., Itasca, 630-467-1102 

Trains of all kinds, from Lionel and LGB electric sets to wooden trains like Thomas the Tank Engine and Nuchi. (Lionel Trains from any era are repaired on-site.) The rest of the product mix is a mash-up of hobbies and toys. On the hobby side, find slot cars, pinewood derby kits, and model cars, airplanes, and rockets. The toy assortment includes Lego, Playmobil, Breyer Horses, Lincoln Logs, K’Nex, and Erector sets.

Becky and Me
620 Grove St., Evanston, 847-492-1030
1462 Waukegan Rd., Glenview, 847-729-8850

Owned by a mother/daughter team, each of whom have experience in the education field, every toy in these stores is designed to promote play rather than staring at a video game screen. Check out baby gifts from Manhattan Toy, toddler toys from Melissa and Doug, puppets, games, puzzles, Lego, Playmobil, science and craft kits, dress-up clothes and costumes, Calico Critters (which parents of a certain age may remember as the Sylvanian Family), and Name Trains where each letter is a train car. The selection of books is particularly good, including a mix of board books, classics, and children’s anthologies. (Additional location on the North Shore.)

Kohl Children’s Museum Store
2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, 847-832-6908

The museum gift shop, accessible separate from the museum, carries educational toys that tie back into the museum exhibits for children aged 2 to 8, including costumes, puzzles, books, science kits, and toys from Fat Brain, Melissa and Doug, and Legos.

Toy Emporium
143 S. Vine Ave., Park Ridge, 847-292-8697

This small shop, tucked on the Vine Avenue shopping strip, has an excellent selection of toys such as costumes, Calico Critters, remote control cars, games, Alex crafts, and small impulse buys that make for great present toppers. Toy Emporium is ideally stocked for last minute birthday party gifts; toys top out around age 9.

 

WESTERN SUBURBS

American Science and Surplus
5316 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-763-0313
33W361 Roosevelt Rd., Geneva, 630-232-2882

When it’s raining and you need to occupy the kids for an afternoon, American Science and Surplus is the perfect place to while away the hours. The product mix is hard to define—some scientific and educational, some oddball and funny—but it might be the only place in the city where you can find a crystal ball, rubber chicken, and acrylic skeleton mold all in one spot. Also on the shelves? Fiber optic lamps, robots, origami, sound machines, hobby supplies, and art and science kits.

Geppetto’s Toy Box
730 Lake St., Oak Park, 708-445-9906 

Oak Park’s local shop carries toys to inspire young imaginations. Alongside Playmobil and plush toys are wooden toys like Educo dollhouses and kitchenettes, Plan Toys, Haba baby toys, and the truly great Citiblocs that entertain children from toddler to tween, as well as puzzles, games, arts and crafts toys, and more. Locals speak highly of the customer service and expert advice.

The Land of Nod
900 W. North Ave., Chicago, 312-475-9903
Northbrook Court, Northbrook, 847-291-9902
Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, 630-368-9990

This Northbrook-based baby and kid shop carries traditional furniture (cribs, beds, dressers) and whimsical accents like bedding, curtains, and lighting. The playroom furniture and toy storage are particularly great, such as tables with adjustable legs and optional paper rollers to grow with young artists.The toy selection includes dollhouses, puzzles, kits, plush toys, art supplies, play kitchens, instruments, and books. (See also, The Land of Nod Outlet.)

Magic Tree Bookstore
141 N. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, 708-848-0770 

This beautiful children’s bookstore has been keeping Oak Park kids in books since 1984, with a selection ranging from infant board books to teen lit. Weekly story times are Wednesday at 11 a.m., and Magic Tree hosts many other special events, including visiting children’s authors and readings.

Oak Ridge Hobbies and Toys
7511 Lemont Rd., Darien, 630-435-5900

This enormous but well-organized toy superstore is nirvana for kids. An aerial train runs around a track on the ceiling, hovering over the toys and hobby supplies. To wit: dolls, dollhouses, Playmobil, Lego, Lincoln Logs, erector sets, wooden toys, puzzles, kites, oversized stuffed animals, craft and science kits, model railroading supplies, Thomas and Chuggington wooden trains, and remote control vehicles. Oak Ridge is one of the largest slot car racing dealers in the nation with a raceway where kids can try before they buy.

Pumpkin Moon
1028 North Blvd., Oak Park, 708-524-8144 

A quirky novelty shop stocked with wind-up toys, bouncy balls, bobbleheads, T-shirts, retro candy, and The Simpsons and Betty Boop collectibles. Prices start at 10 cents.

Toynk
430 N. York Rd., Bensenville, 847-350-0108 

Somewhat hidden in an unassuming industrial strip by the airport, Toynk runs a storefront out of the 33,000 sq. ft. facility that also houses its offices and enormous inventory of collectibles and action figures for its online business. Specializing in new toys (not vintage or retro), the array of themes is astonishing. A sampling: Star Wars, DC and Marvel, Domo, Super Mario Brothers, World of Warcraft, Harry Potter, Twilight, Looney Tunes, and Thomas and Friends Trains. The store also carries costumes year-round.

Candy Turned Furniture

I came across this company Jellio, which takes retro whimsy and turns it into furniture. Want to sit on a Lego brick or have a chandelier made out of gummy worms? Well, you’re in luck. Check out their offerings below, which would be a playful (if spendy) addition to any playroom.

 

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Lego-style benches come in single ($550), double ($700) and triple ($850)

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Spinnable view frames to display your own photography, $99

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Light table with re-positionable pegs, $650

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Ice cream bench, $950

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Acrylic gummy bear chandelier, $6,500

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Cone counter stools, $750

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Button bench, $1,200

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Cupcake table, $750

 

Make-Your-Own Board Book

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These blank board books let children make their own custom creations or to make a gift for a sibling or friend. Each book comes with eight blank pages plus a front and back cover. Small books are 5″ square ($3.50), medium books are 8″ square ($5) and large books are 8″ by 11″ ($8).

 

Maternity Milestone Cards

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Here’s a cute gift for the pregnant lady in your life. The Milestone Pregnancy Cards are illustrated with messages like “Today You Kicked for the First Time” and “We Found Out You Were On the Way.” The idea is to take the card, write down the date and snap a photo of belly and card. 30 6″ x 4″ illustrated cards per box. Available for $26 at PerfectlySmitten.com.

 

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