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Internet for the very young

Comfy 2 - Internet surfboard for children. Manufacturer: ComfyNet. Price: NIS 400 (available at Superpharm in 10 monthly installments of NIS 40).

This surfboard for navigating the Internet is designed for children aged two to four but, as always, is most suitable for the youngest members of the target age group. It looks exactly like the company's first Comfy interactive keyboard, which was well received. This does have different stickers on the keys. Comfy 2 lets toddlers play an almost unlimited number of computer games and is protected from the pitfalls of the Internet. In December youngsters using this keyboard will be able to access Israeli and Jewish Web sites in Israel and around the world that offer special activities and games for Hanukkah, in addition to all the regular children's sites.

For infants and toddlers

Weebles. Manufacturer: Playskool. Price: 2 characters for NIS 25, accessories, NIS 50-90.

Baby Mega Bloks. Blocks and characters. Recommended for children aged three months to two years. Available at Shilav stores. Price: NIS 25-90.

Weebles are adorable egg-shaped characters painted in soft pastel shades. The rounded lower half of the dolls is heavier than the upper part, so they wobble but don't fall over. They are easy to roll but stand up when they run out of momentum. Babies just learning to crawl love them. Older toddlers will enjoy Weebles accessories, which include a playground with a slide, merry-go-round and trampoline.

Other chubby plastic dolls that very much resemble Weebles are Baby Mega Bloks characters, which are sold separately from the well-known Mega Bloks building blocks sets, but which are compatible with them. Accessories include a hobbyhorse and an engine with flatbed cars.

Activity books

Hashavua Hanehedar Shel Pinuki (Pinuki's Wonderful Week). Activity book for toddlers. Published by Schocken. Price: NIS 80.

Lemacy Yomuledet (Macy's Birthday) and Macy B'Kfar (Macy in the Village). A book of games, fun and activity by Lucy Cousins. Published by Daniella de Nur / Hakibbutz Hameuhad. NIS 66 and NIS 90.

Pinuki, the frolicking puppy, has been loved by children for years. His activities, friends and family are taken from the child's world and children can identify with him. The books, many of which are pop-ups, always provide interesting activity. Pinuki's Wonderful Week comes with a musical keyboard. This new book tells the tale of Puniki's vacation at his grandparents' home. When Pinuki rings the doorbell, the child presses the picture of the bell and hears it ring; when Pinuki visits the pond and feeds the ducks, the child presses a picture of ducks to hear them quack. There is also a picture that emits the sound of a camera in action for when Pinuki takes souvenir pictures of his vacation. A very cute book and the sounds are not at all annoying.

Macy, who is also the heroine of activity books, continues to capture children's hearts. In Macy's Birthday children can celebrate the occasion along with Macy by pulling tabs that open birthday presents, opening doors to reveal children playing hide-and-seek, etc. Macy in the Village opens up into an adorable cardboard dollhouse full of accessories.

Books

Olivia by Ian Falconer. Published by Mahbarot Lesifrut. Price: NIS 49.

Dita Do'eget (Wemberly Worried), by Kevin Henkes. Translated by Irit Erb. Published by Hed Arzi. Price: NIS 47.50.

Two books about heroes from the animal kingdom. One lacks self-confidence and the other has just what it takes. Dita is a mouse who will always find a reason to worry. What would happen, for example, if everyone were supposed to dress up as a butterfly for Purim? If nobody else did, she would worry why she was the only butterfly. She is cute, the illustrations in the book are enchanting and in the end she too is happy.

Olivia, the heroine of the book that bears her name, is a piglet who always knows exactly what she wants. She learns quickly, bothers her brother, but is charismatic and heartwarming (she's also a bit exhausting). Some of the illustrations are hilarious.

Dolls

Groovy Girls. Manufacturer: Manhattan Toys. Available at museum gift shops and upscale toy stores. Price: NIS 80.

Groovy Girls are a nice alternative to all the blue-eyed blondes that dominate the dolls shelves in the toy stores. They are soft, their hair has a warm fuzzy feel to it, they have different skin tones and facial features and their clothing is in good taste. They are 30 centimeters (12 inches) tall and are easy to hold.

Gifts for four- to seven-year-olds

The Wizard of Oz. Manufacturer: D-K Interactive Learning. Marketed by Hed Arzi. Price: NIS 150.

An extraordinarily beautiful computer game - very colorful and with meticulous details. There is a wonderful variety of activities in this game, with various levels that blend well with the story and which are quite entertaining. This one, so unlike many other computer games, is also suitable for girls and more importantly is quite different from the activities offered by other games of this type.

DVD Disney

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Full-length animated cartoon movie by Walt Disney. Distributed by Forum Film. Price: NIS 130.

An upgrade of the original Walt Disney feature. It won't fit in with feminist films, but how many classic movies from 30 years ago will? It is innocent, pleasant and enchanting. The DVD version of the movie is enriched with an interactive game operated by the television's remote control. The song, "Some Day My Prince Will Come," is sung by Barbra Streisand. After the movie itself there is a documentary about the making of the movie.

Action dolls

Max Steel. Manufacturer: Mattel; Imported by Sakal. Price: NIS 50-160.

Action Man. Price: NIS 80-170.

Will Max Steel do to the image of the male physique what Barbie did for the woman's image? Perhaps. This is a modern trend of the world of advertising and marketing, which produces unrealistic male models instead of making female models more realistic. Let everyone suffer - why not?

In any event, Max Steel, the male doll made by Mattel (which also makes Barbie), looks as if he was born in an exercise room and transferred from there to a tanning salon. He is the new Ken, and it is reasonable to assume that Barbie lovers will be happy with the new dating option.

Max, whose many accessories remind us of Action Man (this hero of the television series broadcast by the Fox Kids channel is also on sale with a host of accessories), loves extreme sports and is ready for anything. Each Max doll comes with an armload of accessories. The mountain-climber, for example, is equipped with a hammer, rope and rappelling gear; the motorcyclist has a special wind-breaker, helmet, motorcycle and even a pistol.

The enemies

Rahi - evil beasts from the Bionicle series by Lego Technic. Price: NIS 110-646.

After the Bionicle gang - the Lego robots that connect with one another to form even larger robots - made many children happy last year, you can now enlarge the imaginary world Lego has created for them and even introduce some enemies. The Rahi are easy to assemble and contain a mechanism that lets children move their arms, wave a sword, etc. Each monster has its own characteristics - one has pincers, another lethal spines, etc.

Book

Ze Haya B'hanukkah, oh: Nes Gadol Haya Po (It All Happened at Hanukkah or A Great Miracle Happened Here), by Nathan Alterman. Illustrated by Dani Kerman. Published by Hakibbutz Hameuhad. Price: NIS 48.

What could be more fitting for a gift than a nice book about Hanukkah written by one of Israel's finest poets, especially after the recent television screening of the documentary film Altermania, which has caused such a stir?

Like a classic fairy tale, full of anticipation and excitement, this book opens as the first candle of Hanukkah flickers in a silent room after all the children have gone to sleep and the dishes in the cabinet begin to shiver, partly from the cold, partly from fear. It All Happened at Hanukkah, like Ma'aseh B'fey Sofit (the tale of an end letter P), another of Alterman's stories that was published about a year ago, also beautifully illustrated by Dani Kerman is still read with enthusiasm in our home. This new book will not disappoint.

For 7- to 12-year-olds

Bop It Extreme. Electronic toy. Manufacturer: Parker Brothers. Imported by Hasbro. Price: NIS 180.

This electronic toy consists of a plastic steering wheel with a soul and the voice of a typical American high school student. Attached to the central circle are arms that end in colorful plastic tabs, each labeled with a command: Flick it, Pull it, Bop it, Twist it. When you bop the middle of the steering wheel, the music begins and the device starts barking orders in time to the music's beat. You have to do what you're told with the appropriate tab. This game is somewhat annoying to anyone in its immediate vicinity, but when you are holding the wheel, it is hard to stop playing.

Hebrew Pictionary

Manufacturer: Hasbro Israel. Price: 130.

In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie "When Harry Met Sally," the characters played Pictionary one evening, trying to guess what one another was drawing. A Hebrew version of this game was made into a TV game show and has been broadcast by the Educational TV channel for years. Now Hasbro has produced a boxed version, called "Tofsim Kav" (Catching a Line). The game cards contain some 2,000 words, concepts and definitions and players are supposed to make drawings that will give their partners hints to help them guess what is written on the cards before the sand runs out of the hourglass timer included with the game.

Lego

Harry Potter construction sets. Prices: NIS 50-800; Lego Team Alpha. Price: NIS 170

This company's computer games are just as good as its construction sets, which justify their good reputation (and almost always their high prices too, because they last a lot longer than most other toys). Sets of Harry Potter Lego combine to form the Hogwarts school and will most certainly be the next hit. (Pokemon is passe.)

For variety's sake, Lego Team Alpha is an excellent choice. This is a 3D strategy game in which Dash, the game's hero, has to free members of his team in stages, each of which includes the addition of new pieces of equipment (swings, trampolines, bombs), to help him achieve his goal. Every 10 stages another team member is freed and they continue their quest together. Even after months of playing this game quite intensively, younger children in this age group will not have completed all the stages and will continue to enjoy it.

Harry and friends

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Manufacturer: Electronic Arts. Imported by Hed Arzi. Price: NIS 200.

In one room the player has to get keys, in another room he plays chess, and in a third he must avoid capture by a meat-eating plant. The transition to the computer did not require a lot of imagination, but the game's designers still managed to add some nice elements. Animated figures of Harry, Ron and Hermione do things together with the help of the players outside the computer.

A kitten of a doll

Hello Kitty brand name products. Price: From NIS 2.50 and up.

This broad-faced white cat with the tiny mustache, black eyes, a yellow nose, no mouth and the body of a girl is called Kitty, or to be more precise, Hello Kitty. Loved by girls in a wide range of ages, who love anything pink, red, sparkling, furry or feathered - pure kitsch.

A number of stores stocking products made by Sanrio, the Japanese company that owns the Hello Kitty brand, will soon be opening in Israel. Prices range from NIS 2.50 for a Hello Kitty pencil to NIS 12 for notebooks, NIS 30 for bags, and NIS 40 or more for dolls and larger items. One store has opened in the Elram (Schuster) center in Ramat Aviv, and a second store will open soon in the Renanim mall.