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Travel Presents for Kids or Entire Families

When our oldest was four years old, he asked Santa for a ďglobe with all the oceans.Ē This was the same kid who loved looking at our Atlas, especially the pages with the gemstones, the stars and outer space. I guess itís no surprise then that 14 years later, this same kid can hardly wait to break out into the wide world. Last summer, he spent seven weeks backpacking across Canada with a friend on a Greyhound bus passóthey made it to the Yukon where they hiked the Chilcoot Trail and to Vancouver Island where they seemed to speed run the West Coast paths. Next month, he will be finishing high school and heís already dusting off his passport. I donít know how much this first globe from Santa prompted this love of traveling. But while we parents are running around town buying presents for Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanzaa, itís worth looking at gifts that may inspire kids to learn more about their world.

THE EARTH: Globes come in all shapes and sizes from a squeeze ball to relieve stress ($3.99, Canadian Geographic boutique at the Bay) to an inflatable ball ($9.99, Science City) or a real globe with mountain ranges and latitudes ($26.99 at Grand & Toy). Kindergarten kids would love the blow-up world decorated with dinosaurs ($9.99, Science City) while teenagers could cope with a circular jigsaw puzzle globe that you have to put together ($35, Game Trek). Every home should have an atlas too and not just a student version where the countries are usually so small, thereís no room for details. One of the best that Iíve seen is the new Readerís Digest Childrenís Atlas of the World ($29.95, The Toy Shoppe). With hands-on projects and more than 3000 illustrations, the book features attractive maps showing such well-known landmarks as the CN Tower in Toronto or the Big Nickel in Sudbury (although why a pig is pointing at London, Ont. is a puzzle).

CREATURES: Many zoos let you adopt a caged animal but there are at least two programs that let kids adopt a creature in the wild. Then you can take your child to visit. Through the Vancouver Aquarium, kids can join the Killer Whale Conservation Team and support transient whales that roam the British Columbian coast. Choose your whale from one of the family treesófor $49, you get an ID photo and biography of the whale, adoption certificate, a CD, a newsletter and a yearís membership (604-659-3430). Or what about supporting a manatee in Florida? A few years ago, we traveled north from St. Petersburg to Homassassa Springs where the large sea cows gathered in the fresh warm water. My daughter was so upset about the creatures being run over by boats that she wanted to adopt one immediately. Visit www.

TRAVELING CHARACTERS: Some favorite storybook characters are travellers too: Paddington Bear arrives in London via Peru. Pippi Longstocking travels to the South Seas. Tin Tin goes to Tibet and solves mysteries along the way. Every little girl over two will love being in Paris with naughty Madeline. With the success of the recent movie, there are poseable Madelines, rag doll Madelines, and pocket Madelines and Pepitos ($10.95, the Toy Shoppe). There are puzzles for preschoolers and tapes of her adventures in Paris, London and the Swiss Alps for ages three and up ($10.99, the Toy Shoppe). Another popular traveling doll is Linnea, the little sprite who sets off with Mr. Bloom to find painter Claude Monetís garden in Giverny, France. The story on film, Linnea in Monetís Garden, won Best Animated Film at the New England Childrenís Film Festival and a Parents Choice Gold Award. Itís $16.99 at the Childrenís Book Store. You could top it off with a ticket to see the upcoming Monet show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, showing 22 works he painted in the garden. Kids under 12 pay $1.95 per ticket. Call 1-800-678-5440.

OTHER PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: New this year in conjunction with the United Nations Childrenís Fund is Celebrations, a book that celebrates childrenís festivals around the world. This follows the popular and award-winning Children Just Like Me, filled with stunning photographs of real kids from countries around the world. The Canadian entry is eight-year-old Levi from Iqaluit who loves, what else, playing hockey (both $21.95 through UNICEF 1-800-567-4483.) For television watchers, a good bet might be snippets from Thirty Years of National Geographic specials ($26.95, Chapters), Hong Kong: A Family Portrait or Arabia: Sand, Sea and Sky. Iím debating about giving our oldest The Photographers, showing how National Geographic photographers risked life and limb for great pictures. Heíll love it.

PUZZLES: A Canadian success story is the 3-D puzzles from Wrebbit. You can build the Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral in Cologne, Germany or Tower Bridge in London ($31.95, the Toy Shoppe) right in your own living room. Mini-puzzles of the Empire State Building or the Leaning Tower of Pisa can be tucked into a stocking ($5.95). If you want to get really ambitious, get the family to build St. Peterís Basilica in Rome ($39.99), all in a day. But though these jigsaws are life-like, thereís no substitute to taking the kids to see the real thing. Happy Holidays!





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