Like a playroom still under quarantine from a massive imagination explosion, the shelves of My Favorite Toy Store overflow with colorfully packaged toys of every size and shape. Throughout the two stores—located in Elmhurst and Downers Grove—several play sets provide hands-on demos, from the classic building blocks fortifying castle keeps to the wooden tracks helping toddlers to reenact scenes from Strangers on a Train. Meanwhile, helpful staffers provide advice on appropriate age ranges for each toy in stock, gift wrap any purchase for free, and host kid-friendly events such as youth art festivals that line the walls with the works of young Picassos.
Inspired by their mutual passion for babies, sisters Jackie Wilkinson and Debbie Feiler set out to apply their experience raising 11 children by opening Beautiful Beginnings in 1995. Bright lights twinkle from the high ceiling, illuminating high-end colorful wares designed to outfit youngsters or decorate nurseries. A design team aids parents in selecting all the pieces to create a custom space for a baby, from pairing complementary wardrobes and cradles to matching beds with the perfect size boogey monster. For parents-to-be, attentive designers stand at the ready to assist them in creating a registry.
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Rainbow Play Systems’s expansive showrooms introduce kids aged 2 to 10 to a wonderland of gym equipment, all of which is available for purchase. A multitude of swing sets with spiral slides, trapeze rings, and tire swings exercise tykes while preparing them for the physics portion of the SAT.
Celebrated in Creative Child Magazine, Handstand Kids fosters a sense of global community by introducing children to the languages and cuisines of Italy, China, and Mexico. Cookbooks brim with designated cultural recipes, which also provide translated words for each ingredient and utensil so that tots can learn to speak a new language while they learn to cook in a way that doesn’t involve microwaving play-doh. Recipes are rated by difficulty, allowing kids aged 3¬–12 a chance to whip up edibles perfectly suited to their age and skill. They’ll prepare items ranging from the easy Year of the Monkey smoothie to the more difficult There's a Meatball in My Soup soup and Oh My Pizza Pie pizza. Accompanying the recipes, the illustrated Handstand Kids characters share tips that increase kids' awareness on food-related issues, such as information on special dietary needs or ideas on the various ways cooking can be used in the community.
Inside a bustling factory and design studio in Chicago, needles embroider children's names on rocking chairs, receiving blankets, and mammoth toy boxes. Nearly every Hoohobbers item is highly customized—whether with monogramming, personalized color and pattern options, or a choice of fabrics. This feature isn't the only one that appeals to design-minded parents. Furniture, accessories, and household goods for babies, toddlers, and children are portable, lightweight, and durable. Unfortunately for neglected screwdrivers, allen wrenches, and stress balls, the items require no assembly. Their practical yet modish designs often appear in magazines, including Chicago Parent, Life & Style, and People and regularly win awards, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Best of Chicago title for infant and toddler gear in 2009 and 2010.