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While it may seem like boxes and gift bags with nothing inside would make the perfect Christmas or Chanukah present for the toddlers in your life (and that thought might have quite a bit of wisdom to it), there are some wonderfully imaginative toys available at small shops throughout the Chicagoland area. Read on to garner gift ideas for your favorite toddler this holiday season.
Melissa and Doug Dress-Up Sets
With their larger-than-life imaginations, there’s nothing better than a good tool for aiding toddler brains into a pretend world. Little ones often become fascinated with heroes like firefighters and love to morph into their favorite role models. Chef hats, police officer garb and pirate gear give our favorite little people ways to bring their dreams to life. Also, because toddlers love dressing themselves and experimenting with clothes that are not from their drawers, costumes make for gifts that will be used time and time again.
The Dancing Alligator
Early walkers and new runners especially love toys like the Dancing Alligator because they are highly interactive and able to be used while doing a most favorite activity: running around! Pulling the toy around the house and across surfaces gives large motor skill practice. Little ones tend to love that they can manipulate sounds, and this alligator makes a clickity-clack noise as it’s dragged around the house.
HaPe Gourmet Chef Cuisine Kit
Because toddlers are master imitators, they love to feel like they are doing the same activities their favorite adults do every day. A play-food set, like this HaPe Gourmet Chef Cuisine Kit, allows little ones to safely create their own kitchen masterpieces while mom or dad makes meals. Little ones love to share when it’s on their own terms, so expect to be whipped up and served some tasty concoctions. Play along by naming the food, tasting it and giving a worthy reaction to the prepared meal, and the little people in your life will likely continue to create with their own kitchen tools. (Note that this specific set is recommended for older toddlers and early preschool, while other brands of play food sets can be used as early as 18 months.)
Melissa and Doug Stacking Train
Things that go vroom and block stacking, this toy features these two toddler favorites and does it very well. The train can be stacked in multiple ways and it even has hitches so little hands can attach or disconnect at whim. There are enough train pieces to keep building the train interesting but not so many that mom or dad will be driven bonkers trying to locate said pieces after a hefty play session. A big bonus: the sturdy wood stands up to the banging, crashing and chugging that often comes when being manipulated by small people.
The Monster or Cupcake Personalized Name T-Shirts
Can’t fathom the thought of adding to the kid’s toy collection or picking up a run-of-the-mill outfit from one of the big-box stores? The Monster or Cupcake custom name shirts are a wonderfully fun personable gift for the cutest shorties around. My boys were through-the-roof excited about their monster shirts, and we spend time each time they wear the shirts identifying the letters of their names. Truly a win-win present because they look forward to wearing them, and I like sneaking in educational lessons when they are least expecting it.