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2006 Holiday gift guide

For this year's gift guide we gave our gift gurus a special challenge -- give us gifts that have a local connection and/or benefit a non-profit organization. As always, we looked for well-made gifts that fostered creative play or pampered hardworking adults. All of our picks can be found at the store that recommended them, but we've also included manufacturer's information so you can ask about them elsewhere.

Infants and their parents

Sky Flight Mobiles
-- Beautiful handcrafted mobiles made in Duvall featuring images of nature, including butterflies, orcas, birds and stars. $30 (Merry Go Round, Bellevue)

Rugged Idea Blankets -- These weather-proof blankies are super-soft and warm one side and the other side is water-resistant. They are machine washable and come in several sizes. $40 to $75 (Merry Go Round, Bellevue)

Postpartum fitness class -- New moms may feel overwhelmed and forget to take care of themselves.

A gift certificate to a fitness class with their special needs in mind would be a welcome gift. Several programs allow mom to take baby with her. (Discover Yoga in Redmond www.discoveryoga.com or 425-861-1318 and Stroller Strides, www.strollerstrides.net/seattle or 800-917-4592)

Books for babies -- Check out three charming titles: The First 1,000 Days -- Baby Journal and Awake to Nap, both by Nikki McClure, Peek-a-Who by Nina Laden, Where Do I Sleep by Jennifer Blomgren and Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky. (Lilypad Books, Issaquah)

Toddlers to kindergarteners

Emphasis lights
-- They look like cool flying saucers in toddler-pleasing colors, and can be used as a night light or flashlight. $36 (Merry Go Round, Bellevue and Clover Toys, Ballard)

Fantasy costumes -- Custom-made fairy skirts and tool belts -- complete with wands! -- and outfits for tiny knights made by local artist Natalie Kryger. $30 to $50 (order at 425-443-8773)

Animal finger puppetsby "the playful world" -- Super-soft, unique finger puppets handmade by a women's fair trade cooperative in Peru. $9 (Clover Toys, Ballard and All For Kids, Seattle)

Love=Creatures Hip Plush Animals -- Seattle mom and artist Dawn Ramerman creates one-of-a-kind bright and beautiful creatures, each with its own personality. $25 (Clover Toys, Ballard)

Teepees -- Kids love a special place of their own to play. Market Teepees offers colorful teepees that are easy to set up and store. $40 to $50 (www.galaxymall.com/shops/tps4kids or 206-325-7630, or at Seattle's Pike Place Market)

Bubble Wands -- Bothell-based Majic Bubble Wand offers giant bubble wands in a set with a pan and a bubble recipe. Kids will play with these for hours! $6 per wand and $20 for a set. (www.bubblewand.com or 425-486-4884)

Books -- I Have A Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Paschkis is a local Seattle artist whose work often graces ParentMap's covers. The book is a beautiful celebration of family ties and the Hanukkah holiday. Also check out Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger, Go to Sleep Gecko by Andrea Hellman and Art Wolfe and Catwalk by Jasper Tompkins.

Elementary school

Xeko -- Xeko is a card-based eco-adventure game for ages 8-11. Produced by Seattle-based Matter Group, which donates a portion of their profits to Conservation International. (Curious Kidstuff, West Seattle)

Wonder Chess -- Unique chess boards and other games that offer a "prize inside." The Seattle company sends a portion of their profits to non-profits, including El Centro De La Raza. (Clover Toys, Ballard, and Izilla Toys, Seattle; www.wonderchess.com)

Play-date cards and thank-you notes -- If your child has ever struggled to set up a play date or needs encouragement writing thank you notes, why not make it fun? Seattle-based Saturday Press offers a line of gorgeous stationary and bookplates just for kids as well as personalized rubber stamps. (www.saturdaypress.com)

Chihuly Art Kit -- A kid-size suitcase with an activity book inspired by the life and work of artist Dale Chihuly. The kid includes materials your child can use to create their own great works of art. $28 (Museum of Glass, Tacoma; Third Place Books, Seattle; and Borders, Redmond)

Dollhouses -- The Dollhouse Cottage in Kirkland offers several quality wood dollhouses made right here in the Northwest, including a Victorian summer cottage. (www.dollhousecottage.com or 425-821-1579)

Books -- For younger elementary-age children: Secret Chicken Club by George Sannon, Emperor Lays an Egg by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Joan Paley, Toughest Cowboy by John Frank and Frank and Issy Set Sail by Laura Kvasnosky. For older elementary children: Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, Thin Wood Walls by Dave Patneaude, Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret, Be Water, My Friend by Ken Mochizuki and Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman. (All For Kids, Seattle)

'Tweens and teens

Horses, horses, horses
-- Seattle's Hidden City Games offers Bella Sara, a whimsical collection of fantasy images of horses printed on cards, which can be collected or used in easy-to-learn game play, with an online environment that enables girls to activate, care for and play with a virtual horse. $1.99 per pack. (Target and Blockbuster)

Jewelry kits -- Teens love to make their own jewelry! Redmond-based Beads De Monde offers tons of beads and tools, easy-to-make bead kits, and gift certificates. (www.beadsdumonde.com)

Special times together -- Even if your teen doesn't want to be seen at the movies or the mall with you, they still long for your company. Make a book of coupons for uniquely Northwest adventures you can have together -- like renting a kayak in the summer from the Northwest Outdoor Center on Lake Union (www.nwoc.com or 206-281-9684) or tubing with friends at the Summit at Snoqualmie (www.summitatsnoqualmie.com or 425-434-7669 ex 652)

Books -- Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Coletti, Beast of Noor by Janet Lee Carey, Nothing But the Truth... Except a Few Little White Lies by Tina Chen Headley and Firegold by Dia Chahoun. (All For Kids, Seattle)


Games -- Seattle-based Front Porch Classics offers exquisitely made, heirloom-quality coffee table games that the whole family will enjoy including"Valley of the Pharaohs," "WordSpot" and "Discovery Edition Dread Pirate: Buccaneer's Revenge." $25 to $60 (Kusler's Pharmacy, Snohomish; The Iron Gate, Bainbridge Island and Elliott Bay Bookstore, Seattle)

Family giving
-- Give a gift as a family to a child in need. HopeLink's giving trees offer one way for your family to pick a gift together. (Trees can be found at various locations including at Bellevue's Child's Play Café)

A new pet -- Many children ask for a new pet this time of year. Eve Holt, Community Relations Director for the Humane Society, suggests a gift certificate instead. Package up a gift certificate with some pet supplies for your child to unwrap. Then, when the time is right, the whole family can visit the shelter to select a wonderful new pet. Adoption fees run from $80 to $100. (In Seattle: www.seattlehumane.org or Pierce County: www.thehumanesociety.org)

Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and mother of two.

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