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The best books and toys: great gift ideas for your kids

Life Skills

It's never too early to teach children how to navigate their world. These innovative options cover everything from career aspirations to money management.

Pretendables by M.O.G. Kids ($29.95): The kits mostly focus on careers, like firefighter (right; hat sold separately), veterinarian and explorer. They include a costume, storybook, CD-ROM and toy that allow kids to role-play their dream jobs. Ages 3-6; available at mogkids.com.

ATM Machine by Small World Toys ($49.99): Children learn the value of a dollar (and coins) with this savings bank (below), which functions like a real ATM machine, complete with an ATM card. The item will recognize your child by name and respond only to her PIN. Ages 8+; visit smallworldtoys.com for store locations.

The Sims 2 Nightlife by Electronic Arts ($34.95): Teens get an interactive lesson in social and driving skills (bottom) in this latest update to the best-selling computer game. (Requires The Sims 2 software to play.) Ages 13+; at eastore.ea.com.


These items will feed your young children's imagination.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99): The noted spiritual comes to life with beautiful illustrations. Ages: 4+; at bookstores nationwide.

Little Stevie Wonder by Quincy Troupe (Houghton Mifflin, $18): This ode is as engaging as Wonder's music. Ages 5-9; at bookstores nationwide.

Jazz ABZ by Wynton Marsalis (Candlewick Press, $24.99): The author pays tribute to 26 music icons. Ages 12+; at bookstores nationwide.

YPT-300 Digital Keyboard by Yamaha ($149.95): Designed for the beginner, the keyboard has built-in software that includes interactive "listen and learn" exercises. Ages 8+; at Toys R Us.

Ultimate Pottery Wheel by Discovery Kids ($79.95): Budding artists can throw clay like a pro with this perfectly-sized pottery wheel and accessories. Ages 8+; at Discovery Channel stores.


Children should always feel good about themselves, and these esteem-building books can help.

Girls Hold Up This World by Jada Pinkett Smith (Scholastic, $16,95): Each inspiring photograph captures the beauty of African-American girls and women. Ages 4-9; at bookstores nationwide.

What I Like About Me! by Allia Zobel-Nolan (Reader's Digest Children's Books, $14.99): Touch-and-learn details play up each person's uniqueness and help children understand that it's cool to be different. Ages 3-7; at bookstores nationwide.

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler (Chicago Children's Museum, $14.95): By celebrating our different hues, the book teaches valuable lessons about self-acceptance. Ages 4-8; at bookstores nationwide.

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