Multitask at the museum
The kids have fun and you get holiday shopping done when you hit these museum gift shops for off-the-beaten-path finds.
The Big Idea, Museum of Science & Industry
Shop here for gifts educational enough to please Mom and Dad and clever enough to captivate kiddies through the long winter break and beyond. Budding scientists will love the My Senses Science Kit ($50) for making everything from perfume to stink bombs, sending messages in Braille and creating rainbows with a prism. We also like the Airzooka Air Gun ($20), which blows a surprise burst of air up to 30 feet to mess up a big sister’s hair or just freak grandpa out. 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive (773-684-1414).
Tienda Tzintzuntzan, The National Museum of Mexican Art
Kid-centric small toys and books make up more than half of the authentic offerings at this colorful gift shop. Look for small rag dolls ($6) featuring long braids with colorful bows and traditional Mexican dress; and Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros ($7), a bilingual story about a family with hair that’s different from everyone else’s (Hey, didn’t Chris Rock make a movie about that?). 1852 W 19th St (312-738-1503 ext 3920).
Museum of Contemporary Art Store
This aesthetically pleasing gift shop is a respite from the overly stimulating jam-packed aisles of many toy stores. You’ll find goodies savvy enough for even the most artistic offspring. Check out animal and monster body tattoos ($7.50) and stylish Play Forever iconic toy cars ($60–$65), both imported from the UK. We also love the ZomeTool building systems ($24–$100), perfect for your little architect-to-be. 220 E Chicago Ave (312-280-2660).
Chicago Children’s Museum Store
Look beyond all the hubbub that is Navy Pier to the Chicago Children’s Museum Store for holiday hits with an educational bent. The Design & Drill Activity Center ($50) lets kids create their own contraptions using plastic bolts. Digitells Read Along With Me audiobook creator ($30) combines music and sound effects with one’s own voice. Add bedsheets to the Crazy Forts construction kit ($60) so little builders can bring home the fun they had at the museum’s “Forts” exhibit. 700 E Grand Ave at Navy Pier (312-527-4276).—BW