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Wednesday, Dec 19, 2018
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New gifts for kids combine learning with fun

A lot of us want to give gifts that reap some benefit. And for the children on our holiday shopping list, we very likely demand that presents from us promote learning along with the fun. Holiday gifts this year bridge those two realms, from building creativity and multi-sensory skills to all-out frivolous amusement. Consider the benefits of some of this year's new products: using up energy on a new three-wheeler, learning patience and following instructions while building a race car model, and discovering a world of information, knowledge and entertainment through touch-screen technology. There's plenty that is useful, and fun, to be found.
Infants to Preschool Green Toys, a socially responsible toy line made in the United States, means a smaller carbon travel footprint. Limited designs of an airplane, a seaplane and a submarine are made from recycled plastic, and are in recycled packaging. You can buy online (greentoys.com), but local retailers include Whole Foods in Tampa (Carrollwood at 3802 Northdale Blvd. and South Tampa at 1548 N. Dale Mabry Highway), and Learning Express (Hyde Park in Tampa at 800 S. Village Circle and Tyrone Square in St. Petersburg at 6797 Tyron Square), among others. Look on Green Toys' website for more local locations. The ELC Musical Garden (age 18 months and older) hits all the senses and is fun, too, said Susan Foster, co-owner of the Learning Express in Tampa (Hyde Park at 800 S. Village Circle), which carries the learning toy. It has lights, sounds and manipulatives. "Parents want toys that build a multitude of multisensory skills," she said. (southtampa.learningexpress-toys.com) Mobo Mini and Mobo Tot are specially designed freewheeling cruisers for preschoolers. The Mini is great for kids age 2 ½ to 5 years, and the Tot is for age 2 to 5. (asaproducts.com) Elementary school For mobility, there's also the PlasmaCar, which requires no batteries, pedals, gears or electrical parts to propel the car but uses inertia, centrifugal force and friction from the rider turning the steering wheel. (age 3 and older and supports up to 220 pounds). (plasmacar.com) Interactive Bluetooth® remote-control cars (age 5 and older) are controlled through your iPhone, iPad or iTouch. By Silverlit (silverlit.com). Ralph's Hobbies in St. Petersburg (5208 66th St. N., Suite D) is the perfect place to introduce (re-introduce) a generation to the fun and creative world of model building (age 10 and up). Owner Ralph Waespe has been in the same location for more than 18 years and keeps model building alive with lots of new kits. "Because of computers, new models fit together much more perfectly," he said. His shop also offers books and amateur radio kits, as well as make-it-yourself kits of the solar system and volcanoes (age 8 and older). There's another use for duct tape. All Duct Out makes kits for creating wallets, purses, head bands and more in all kinds of designs and colors using duct tape (age 7 and older). Available locally at Target and at Learning Express (Hyde Park in Tampa at 800 S. Village Circle). There's more for the arts with About Digital Light Designer by Crayola (age 6 and up). Draw anywhere on the round surface with the stylus and your marks light up. You can add other effects or create animations, as well as save your drawings and messages to display later. There's also a game and activity mode. Available at Toys R Us in Brandon, Clearwater, Lakeland, Port Richey, St. Petersburg, and Wesley Chapel. (toysrusinc.com). Middle school Interactive Bluetooth® remote control helicopters and airplanes (age 10 and up) are controlled through your iPhone, iPad or iTouch. By Silverlit (silverlit.com). For the gamers on your list, several new consoles are being released for the holidays: the WiiU ($299 for basic, $349 for deluxe), the handheld PS Vista, and the Nintendo 3ds ($169 for regular, $199 for larger screen XL). Available locally at Target, Walmart and Best Buy. The Nuclear Cowboyz 2013 Freestyle Motocross tour is an amazing show full of freestyle motocross tricks meshed with pyrotechnic and laser displays, all synchronized to music. The event is Feb. 15-17 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tickets are $10 and $20 (for ages 2 to 15) and $20 and $40 for adults. Visit tampabaytimesforum.com for more information. High school Tablets offer the versatility of being both an educational tool and a gaming console. "Everyone is using tablets," said Phillip French, sales support supervisor at the Best Buy in Citrus Park. "It's one device that offers the web, TV, a computer, music and movies, all in one. And it offers the portability and touch-screen interface that is standard and expected." Keep them fishing with a fishing license. Available in one-year ($17), five-year ($79) and lifetime durations ($301.50), licenses are for freshwater or saltwater. A one-year freshwater/saltwater combination license also is available ($32.50). Licenses are available locally at Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Offices, as well as at Dick's Sporting Goods, K-Mart, Sports Authority and Walmart. Go to myFWC.com for more information. For music, laptop homework and gaming, good headphones can make a difference. Try the earbuds or full headphones from Coloud Colors, available at Target from $14.99 and $24.99.
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