The Oriental Institute (1155 E 58th St, 773-702-9509, oi.uchicago.edu) Named for the bustling, treasure-filled bazaars of the Middle East, the Suq gift shop has the goods to please the young Indiana Jones in your life. Spilling out of the shop is a trove of teachable, kid-friendly gifts including all things hieroglyphic (books, games, blocks), parchment kits, wee pewter gods and goddesses, and even plastic sarcophagi filled with goo (ewwwww! ). Get ’em hooked early with this rubber ducky sporting a pharaoh’s head ($11.50), perfect for a budding Egyptologist.
International Museum of Surgical Science(1524 N Lake Shore Dr, 312-642-6502, imss.org) Housed in the historic Countiss Mansion, the International Museum of Surgical Science fuses medical art, history and a collection of antique surgical instruments that will certainly make you thankful for advances in medicine. The wee shop (in what was formerly the mansion’s ladies parlor) sells brain hats, kneecap key chains and syringe pens—proving that at least someone in the medical field has a sense of humor. The happy-looking fuzzy Helicobacter pylori plush toy ($9) made by Giant Microbes means you can return all the agita from your kids by giving them an ulcer.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (800 S Halsted St, 312-413-5353, uic.edu/jaddams/hull)
In the late 1800s, social reformer Jane Addams campaigned for immigrant children to have the right to play and make art (sound familiar?). At the this museum on the UIC campus, the cozy second-floor shop sells toys representing typical Hull-House children’s activities. There are kits for whittling and weaving, wooden bird whistles, jaw harps and pick-up sticks sets. A Cessna 180 Airplane Kit ($12) promises to keep winter boredom at bay and reminds kids that even “old-fashioned” toys can still rock.
National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (1431 W Taylor St, 312-226-5566, niashf.org)
National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame founder George Randazzo, who owned A Little Bit of Nostalgia on Wells Street for decades, has put much of his personal collection of vintage sports-related ephemera into his museum’s shop. Hand-tinted photos of Joe Louis, signed baseballs and a photo of Joe DiMaggio slurping spaghetti can be scored here. The punchy graphics on this vintage 1980 Official Cub Program ($25) will be a big hit with young Cubs fans (it’ll look even better framed). Bonus: Until the end of the year, everything in the shop is 30 percent off.
Swedish American Museum(5211 N Clark St, 773-728-8111, swedishamericanmuseum.org)
Tucked inside this Andersonville institution is the charming Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration, where kids can explore immigrants’ experiences on a replica 20-foot steamship, look inside a century-old farmhouse, and play dress-up with period costumes. The street-level gift shop is filled with folk art, Swedish clogs, tasty goodies (such as Swedish fish) and Pippi Longstocking books and dolls. We especially love this plush Santa Lucia crown ($17.25) that girls can wear to (safely) mimic the Swedish Christmastime tradition of wearing a crown of candles during a December 13 nighttime procession.