Kids in Villa Park

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For more than 60 years, Toys“R”Us has been helping kids be kids and grown-ups to revisit their childhoods by providing one of the largest selections of top-brand toys, electronics, games and everyday baby essentials. Founder, Charles Lazarus, revolutionized the toy business by modeling his stores after supermarkets, providing a variety of options to suit varying ages and interests and offering customers to help themselves and have fun in the process. Today, that sense of playfulness is evident at nearly 600 stores in the United States alone, including a flagship location in Times Square where kids are greeted by a 60-foot Ferris wheel, a 5-ton animatronic T-Rex, and a life-sized, 4,000-square-foot Barbie house.

Beyond everybody's favorite bikes, trains and video games, each Toys“R”Us store keeps its shelves stocked with the season’s must-have toys as well as nostalgic standbys that never go out of style. Time-tested brands such as LEGO, Radio Flyer, NERF and Fisher-Price share the shelves with an expansive selection of electronics for older kids, including Wii U and tablets. And though the company has inspired generations of boys and girls to try their hardest not to grow up, it also strives to ensure budding brains develop right on track by devoting a significant portion of its stores to “smart-play” with a wide selection of electronic learning toys and software.

Toys“R”Us—whose extended family of brands includes Babies“R”Us and FAO Schwarz—has earned a number of awards and recognitions through the years, including a spot on Fortune’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies in 2012. The company has also drawn considerable recognition for its expansive charitable efforts, which include partnerships with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Save the Children. This year also marks the tenth consecutive year that the company has partnered with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to collect new, unwrapped toys and monetary donations in its stores to benefit the organization.

1500 75th St
Downers Grove,
IL
US

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.

800 West 79th Street
Burr Ridge,
IL
US

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7000 N Austin Ave
Niles,
IL
US

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.

600 W. Chicago Ave
Chicago,
IL
US

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.

1657 N Elston Ave
Chicago,
IL
US

The team at Designer Maid tidies up homes and commercial facilities with unusually meticulous care?which makes sense when you consider that the owners also run an industrial janitorial business. Running that business has armed Michael and Shirley Wells with the know-how to tackle the grimy kitchens, messy living rooms, and unkempt commercial work sites they encounter each day. The team shows up to each location wielding environmentally friendly cleaning products designed to vanquish dirt and odors without leaving behind any caustic fumes or inappropriate thought bubbles.

600 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago,
IL
US