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As Martha says, "the best children's gifts involve teaching." These 20 gifts aim to thrill little ones of all ages through imagination, smart design, and good old-fashioned play.
Whether your little one is partial to cowboys, aliens, mermaids, or pirates, she'll find a finger puppet friend in Cate and Levi's jaunty collection. Bonus: Each sweet character is made from reclaimed wool.
$30, Cate and Levi
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The Littlest Naturalist
Go forth, young naturalist, into the wilds ... of your backyard or local park. A wooden compass-plus-sundial will guide you (and get you home in time for lunch), while an analog microscope and flower press will let you examine and preserve your findings.
$24-$25 each, Nova Natural
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A Timeless Classic
Previously available only via eBay scouring, this re-released version of the 1939 children's book conjures nostalgia for grown-ups and Christmas spirit for kids. Red-nosed Rudolph and fat-bellied Santa make for sweet illustrations and the cheerful text rivals the rhythm of Dr. Seuss.
$15, Applewood Books
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Karen Hewitt's resume includes the jobs of artist, early childhood educator, and toy historian. Among her latest award-winning creations is Coloraturo, a stunning blocks set comprised of 36 notched wood units and 18 prisms. A perfect gift for kids ... and architects.
$75, Dwell Studio
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Beginner Baking Set
Piquing a child's interest in cooking is easier when he has his own set of tools. Martha's set includes all of the essentials: animal cookie cutters, a rolling pin, pastry bags, cupcake liners and recipe cards.
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Every creative kid needs a great apron -- for helping out in the kitchen, art projects, and serving up haute cuisine at make-believe restaurants. This adjustable dotted number, made of durable linen with bright orange ties, will keep them looking adorable throughout.
$36, Studio Patro
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Wood and Magnet Town
The components of this set are simple: chalk, two magnetic chalkboards, a dozen or so magnetic wooden figurines (miniature homes, trees, mountains, cars). But put them all together and you've got the makings for hours of imaginative fun as little minds create and recreate tiny worlds.
$58, A+R Store
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A Game of Memory
Prolific illustrator Lorena Siminovich -- known for her posters, prints, and wall decals -- carries her signature collage style to a new line of toys and games for wee ones. The Modern Menagerie memory game's large pieces and bright, eye-catching graphics add up to a set that's perfect for preschoolers.
$15, Petit Collage
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DIY Snow Globe
For glitter-loving little girls, what's more enticing than a sparkle-filled snow globe? How about one they create themselves, right down to the miniature sculpture within. This unique craft kit includes everything they'll need, including plenty of the shimmery stuff.
$21, Good Things for Kids
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Dutch Building Set
With Dutch-designed building set Woodmobiel, junior engineers can assemble life-size toys, including wagons, trikes, and cranes. The starter kit comes with instructions for nine models (or get creative and design your own).
$165-$300, Made by Oots
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Far more flexible than Legos and the like, Danish-designed Plus-Plus sets let you build up, down, out, and around, for any 3D formation your little builder can dream up.
$10-$60, Geared for Imagination
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This simple gadget will give those iPads a run for their money. Using the wood voice recorder couldn't be simpler: hold the red button to record, the black to play back, and the knob to tinker with speed and pitch. Giggles guaranteed.
$48, MoMa Store
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This set of stacking and nesting cylinders provides endless opportunity for kids aged 2 and up to flex their burgeoning motor skills while exploring shapes, colors, and spatial relationships. Plus, its eco-friendly rubberwood construction and rainbow-dyed pieces make it a looker on the shelf.
$24, Guide Craft
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Birds of a Feather
Whether you know a budding bird lover, or just a curious kid with an affinity for animals, this oversize interactive book will keep them engaged and entertained for hours with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, and fascinating facts.
$25, Chronicle Books
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Kitty Knitting Kit
School-aged would-be knitters may not get too jazzed over scarves or mittens (boooring), but how about the opportunity to craft their own lovable little kitty pal? This kit, designed by a Waldorf School teacher, includes bamboo knitting needles, wool yarn, wool stuffing, and hand-drawn instructions aimed at beginners.
$26, Romp Store
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For Jingle Bell Rockers
Musical instruments will be sure-fire hits with the youngest folks on your list. This beechwood percussion set hales from Japan, and delivers cool-meets-cute modern style in addition to satisfying beats, jingles, and scrapes.
$46, Acorn Toy Shop
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Artists have been using fruit, vegetable, and flower pigments to mix paint since ancient times. Glob, a new California-based line of art supplies, channels that age-old method with vibrant concentrated paints that yield bright and beautiful colors when mixed with water.
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Pattern Coloring Book
You encourage your kids to color outside the lines, but here are some worth working with. The Organic Patterns coloring book, created by multidisciplinary graphic designers and illustrators Kapitza, features dozens of dynamic motifs -- equally informed by geometry and nature -- just waiting for your child's colorful take.
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