It’s that time of year where kids are excitedly making their Christmas lists (and checking it way more than twice). We can guarantee all their biggest wishes can be found on the shelves of a local Chicago toy store. To keep shoppers safe, many are offering online ordering, curbside pick-up and personal shopping. Scroll through to see our favorites and be sure to check with each directly for any COVID-related procedures.
Featured photo: Nathan Legakis via Pixabay
Toys et Cetera
Learning and play intertwine at this shop, which is located in the historic neighborhood of Hyde Park. It's big on safe, eco-friendly fun that's also educational, developmentally and culturally sensitive. They've been going strong since 1976, so they have their finger on the pulse of what kids like. They seek out good craftsmanship and clever toy inventors.
1502 E. 55th St., Hyde Park; Online: toysetcetera.com
This hotspot is full of fun and educational finds, and it has a sweet nostalgic twist. Owner Ann Kienzle has worked in the toy biz for eons and stays on top of the latest innovations. She has a passion for the importance of play in a child's life and has created a well-designed space that inspires awe in all who step into one of Play's three shops.
3 locations in Logan Square, Lincoln Square & Andersonville; Online: playtoysandbooks.com
Cat & Mouse Game Store
With a focus on games, puzzles and brainteasers, this West Loop shop has grownups hooked, too. Everyone that works there is seriously addicted to games and puzzles and the huge selection in the store reflects that. Staff members are always willing to demo a game and introduce your family to something new.
Shipping and pickup is available for online orders, walk-in shopping available Tues.-Sun and personal shopping appointments can be scheduled.
1112 W. Madison, West Loop; Online: cat-n-mouse.com
Berwyn’s Toys & Trains
Have a wannabe conductor on your hands? This specialty shop is worth the trip. Follow the glowing neon sign to a train lover's dream that has everything from collectibles to Thomas merchandise. Its specialty is O-Gauge electric engines, which were popular in the mid-1900s, from makers like Lionel and Mike's Train House. There's a separate toy room that has LEGOs, Playmobils and slot cars.
7025 Ogden Ave., Berwyn; Online: berwynstoytrains.com
Building Blocks Toy Store
Saying this old-fashioned toy store is packed to the rim isn't an exaggeration. Its three locations fill every nook with play-rich, high-quality toys and books. You'll find everything from developmental playthings for babies to science kits that grandparents can't keep their hands off of. Building Blocks is known for its deep selection of Thomas, Brio and Chuggington trains, but you'll also discover lesser-known finds. Owner Katherine McHenry is passionate about supporting small, local companies.
3 locations in Wicker Park, Lakeview & Lincoln Park; Online: buildinblockstoys.com
Geppetto’s Toy Box
Like Pinocchio, your kiddo will want no strings to hold him down at this Oak Park treasure. Cut him loose to explore art kits, building blocks, puzzles, developmental diversions and lots more. The owners of Geppetto's stand behind "slow toys" — back-to-basics playthings that children need time to explore and grow from. To that end, you won't see a lot of beeps, flashes and electronic brouhaha on the shelves.
730 Lake St., Oak Park; Online: geppettostoybox.com
This Lincoln Square mainstay is what we think Santa's workshop looks like—toys, toys, everywhere. Also, a big air of whimsy. Timeless Toys has been around since 1993 and is known for championing educational play. Go for games, puzzles, puppets, trikes, dolls, outdoor games, books and just about anything else your little tinkerer's heart desires.
4749 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Square; Online: timelesstoyschicago.com
Becky & Me Toys
This North Shore shops were started by a schoolteacher and her daughter, who try every product before they order it for the store. They encourage non-virtual playtime and stock tons of toys for make-believe. We're especially impressed by the selection of puppets (for fingers and hands) and puppet theaters.
620 Grove St., Evanston; Online: beckyandmetoys.com
Oakridge Hobbies & Toys
This mom-and-pop creation offers over 250,000 products via their online store, but they have the best-of-the-best on display in their Lemont showroom. You'll find a sampling of hobby, craft, gift, toy and home & garden decor products offering on their website.
15800 New Ave., Lemont; Online: oakridgestores.com
— Kelly Aiglon & Maria Chambers