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Gift Guide: Tots and 'Tweens

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Believe it or not, there are toys that can hold a child's interest beyond Christmas day. All of the ones listed here can entertain a child. But more important than that, some of them can educate and encourage the development of motor skills. And a couple of them may inspire children to think.

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For Tots

My First Green Toys™ Shape Sorter is made in the USA from food-safe, 100% recycled plastic milk jugs. It helps develop recognition of shapes and colors while encouraging eye-hand coordination, problem solving, and fine and gross motor skills. The Shape Sorter and 8 colorful shapes (2 stars, 2 circles, 2 squares, 2 triangles) are the right size and weight for tiny hands. Each piece slides into the chute cut-outs on both the top and bottom of the sorter. The two halves of the sorter can separate, letting the pieces out again. No BPA, phthalates, PVC, or external coatings are used for this toy. This Green Toys product meets FDA food contact standards. It's dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Even the packaging is made from recycled and recyclable materials printed with soy inks. My First Green Toys™ Shape Sorter is recommended for babies 6 months old and up.

The RACE 'N DROP TRACK by B Kids is a toddler-friendly toy. It features a wooden frame with cushioned corners. This drop, roll, and race toy has curved ramps. It comes with two colorful cars and a light-up ball. The race track is colorful to stimulate the senses of tots, who will spend hours playing with this toy. The track set is recommended for toddlers 18 months old and up. View a video demonstration on YouTube.

The GoPillow! by Simply Necessary, Incorporated is portable, multi-use baby and toddler gear. Use it as a wearable cradler, nursing pillow with a built-in privacy cover-up, changing surface, infant pillow with attached swaddle blanket, toddler travel pillow, and more. A retractable blanket tucks neatly inside an invisible compartment. The blanket can be used to provide privacy during public breast feedings. The blanket also doubles as a changing pad for caregivers on-the-go. Supervised infants can be propped up on the pillow while lying on the outstretched blanket. The GoPillow! is a portable pillow and blanket combination.

For 'Tweens

The Beatrix Girls are new "pop-star" dolls. They have their own original music. Each member of the band sings, plays a different instrument, and writes songs. The four dolls (Ainsley, Brayden, Chantal, and Lark) have distinct personality traits. Like the 'tween girls that would enjoy receiving the dolls as gifts, the Beatrix Girls are into fashion and trendy hair styles. Their songs are available on iTunes. The songs are up-beat with a positive message.

Connexio from Leafcutter Designs is a game that requires the ability to use one's imagination and make less than obvious connections. Players can be silly or serious. The game would be an excellent brainstorming resource for creative writing in a classroom. There are over 80 object-based game pieces included. Players could add their own game pieces over time to keep it fresh. The play is designed to be open-ended. Each game is unique. Connexio can be played from ages 6 to adulthood.

The Thames Kosmos Crystal Growing Set is designed to be used by children 12 and older. It includes 15 experiments and comes with a colored 32-page manual. Children can experiment with four chemically different crystals, each with different properties. Children using the set will learn about crystallization and structures.

Please be advised that all product recommendations are solely personal opinions. In cooperation with the FTC's guideline regarding disclosures to consumers regarding the receipt of sample products from a company in connection with a review of such company's products and for services, please be advised that products reviewed in this article were provided at no cost for review purposes.

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