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Holiday gifts to learn with

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By GreatSchools Staff

Toys that made the cut

From the San Francisco Museum of Art:

Uglydoll Card Game

An awfully fun, awfully funny card game. For two to six players. Ages 6 and up. ($12)

Gordian's KnotGordian's Knotpad

The world's most difficult brainteaser! Perfect for puzzle enthusiasts and players who enjoy a challenge — everyone will want to solve the mystery of Gordian's Knot. It takes 69 different moves to dismantle the puzzle, so a handy solution book for perplexed players is also included. ($12)

Wrap'n Ribbon

Just wrap the bangle with different ribbons and stick down with double-stick tape! It's so easy and oh, so fashionable! Comes with five plastic bangles, lots of ribbon, double-stick tape and glue. Ages 7 and up. ($20)

From the Exploratorium:

Photon Solar Racer

Build your own Solar Racer and tap into the power of the sun! This easy-to-assemble kit comes with everything you need including a sleek, transparent plastic body (made from recycled soda bottles) that looks great as is, or add your own custom paint job. The Photon can travel 10 feet in three seconds on a smooth, flat surface, when exposed to full sun. ($36.95)

Jiggly Gems and Crystal Creations

This kit includes the materials to make three kinds of crystals and one jelly-like substance in a rainbow of colors and a variety of textures from faceted to rough to squishy. Adult supervision required. Ages 8 and up. ($19.90)

Physics Workshop

Sure, you've probably heard of a chemistry set. But how about a physics set? This kit by Thames and Kosmos gathers plastic building pieces, gears, pulleys, string, and a motor to provide all of the parts for 36 different models to demonstrate a range of physics concepts. A well-illustrated and detailed experiment manual not only shows how to build experiments but also gives real-world examples and explanations. Ages 8 and up. ($49.90)


This interactive hardbound book from the Exploratorium is filled with ideas, hands-on experiments, fascinating facts, detailed diagrams and eye-popping photos. Want to learn how to mummify something? Break secret codes? Launch a rocket? Detect counterfeit money? Build a motor? From physics to forensics, from clouds to ants, from Isaac Newton to elephant droppings, Exploratopia overflows with things to explore using the simplest everyday objects. It not only shows you how, but it explains the ideas and background behind each exploration. Ages 8 and up. ($29.99)

From Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products for 2008:

Wise Alec

Wise Alec is the all new multi-generational, family party game of trivia, tongue twisters and sassy social strategy. The game is a great variety of brainteaser challenges, silly-natured abstracts, and personal behaviors that allow players of various ages and abilities to play together, because in Wise Alec there is a choice of two levels of difficulty on every turn. Since Wise Alec was created as a total forum for wholesome fun, it incorporates positive lifestyle habits and encourages good manners that can continue in between rounds of the game. When families play Wise Alec on a regular basis, everyone will think twice about holding the door for someone or eating a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar, because next time the game is played your recent actions can help you out. Ages 9 to 12. ($24.99)

Creative Writing Story Kit

This is a great new product to help children to think and write. It is a write-your-own creative writing story kit for kids that can be completed in soft cover, and online, that is transformed via the Internet into a young author's very own hard cover, professionally illustrated book. There are five blank wordless creative writing story kits to choose from, all available from the Web site. Selections are appealing to both boys and girls. They come with creative writing tips and vocabulary help. Young writers fill the creative writing story kits in with their story using a pencil and Post-its (supplied for drafting) or they can work online, using their own imagination. The following titles are available: Bees, Cat and Dog, Monkey, Red Alien, and the most recent, Katrina. The innovative book enables children to share their story and be published. Children can write about the tree house, the community coming together to rebuild it, or they can tap into their experiences with Katrina. Ages 4 to 12. ($9.95)

Comments from readers

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