Hovering Joy -- A go-anywhere, play-anytime hovercraft in bright colors will be a hit with boys and girls, with a air-cushion lift with three motors that allows the craft to go anywhere the "driver" steers it on the nine-function radio control. It can travel on land, water, ice and snow for a year-round experience, plus it includes a 9.6-volt rechargeable battery pack and charger included, $80, from Discovery Channel Store (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 831-3201; 1 Poydras St., Riverwalk Marketplace, 523-2981).
Toys -- Kids will have so much fun playing
with these developmental toys that they won't realize they're learning. Clever
Catch inflatable balls make learning a game by posing questions (this one about
measurements, but others cover states and capitols, world geography, match and
time and other subjects) on an invitingly bright ball; the answer sheet is separate,
$10.95. Hone motor skills as well as reinforcing multiplication (or other subjects)
with Wrap-Ups, plastic keys with a cord that wraps around from questions to
answers; a raised design on the back makes it self-checking by showing the player
the correct path of the cord, $7.99. For teachers, coaches or anyone who needs
to gain kids' attention quickly, the Attention Getter by TAG has a stopwatch,
alarm and display for time and date as well as pre-recorded racetrack, rooster
and Tarzan yell sounds that are sure to grab attention, $18.95. Circular two-sided
puzzles have questions and problems on one side, and when the player lines up
the right answers, the flip side forms a puzzle of an animal or other objects,
making it self-checking. These puzzles cover subtraction and addition, but puzzles
also are available for other math functions, $14.95 for pack of 10 puzzles.
All from Teacher's Stop Inc. (4315 Bienville Ave., 483-7867; www.teachersstop.com).
Bowl Them Over -- All ages will be fascinated with the meditation "singing bowl," a lovely mixture of bronze, iron and zinc fashioned for harmonic tones that can be played with the carved wooden pestle like a gong or if you run the pestle around the outside rim for a harmonic singing sound. The bowls originally were used as meditation devices, $65; with woven fabric pillow base, $9. Don't forget the kitties: playful drag toys and decorative pillows filled with catnip (versions for dogs also available), $6 for the red doggie "Dress and drag with removable pants; $3.50 for the square pillow toy. All from The Craftivist (8227 Oak St., 314-0002).
A Family Affair -- Kick the season into high gear for your family or another you love with an early gift of holiday cards with designs created by young patients at Children's Hospital. Proceeds from the cards, $10 for a pack of 12, benefit programs at Children's Hospital, the only full-service hospital exclusively for children in the Gulf South. Available from Children's Hospital (896-9373; www.chnola.org), the service desk at Canal Place (333 Canal St.), and at Paris Parker Salons (333 Canal Place, 568-1124; 4900 Prytania St., 891-8874; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 846-5256; 1400 Annunciation St., The Saulet, 528-1962). Make the family tradition of writing notes in holiday cards more fun with hand-blown glass refillable ballpoint pens by local glass artist Andrew Jackson Pollack, $30 each, from The Craftivist (8227 Oak St., 314-0002). \
Bon Voyage -- Whether they're actually going to take a long voyage or just dreaming about one, travel lovers will delight to a desktop globe on a stand with a compass in the base and landforms identified by their names from antiquity, $60; adhesive-backed luggage labels from famous hotels around the world, $8.95 for box of 20; the compact European Phrase Book, covering 14 languages, $12.95; a travel journal with a grand hotel motif on the cover and an elastic-and-button closure with white pages for writing and doodling, $18; a red quill ink pen, $24; and wood stand, $14; and a well of ink with a cameo embellishment on the lid, $32; all from Scriptura (5423 Magazine St., 897-1555; 328 Chartres St., 299-1234).
Party In a Bag -- Give your favorite college co-ed or party girl a celebration package that starts with a "ghetto blaster" heavy canvas bag, $46; filled with a purple pitcher with a sassy black cat on it and four matching tumblers by Paul Frank, $28; a skull-and-crossbones 35 mm flash camera, also by Paul Frank, $26; and a black T-shirt with a pink plaid French kitty on the front, $21; all from Tart's Parlour (8229 Oak St., 314-8344).
The Sophisticates -- Help the celebratory mood of the holidays along with bar accoutrements that will add elegance and fun to imbibing traditions. Anyone with a palate for fine wine will love receiving an antique reproduction estate wine opener decorated with ornate grape-cluster reliefs, $85. For a contemporary bar, choose the 16-oz. silver bullet cocktail shaker, $24.99; and a rapid-ice wine cooler decorated with French wine stewards that will chill a bottle of wine in five minutes, $12.99. For martini connoisseurs (or just a well rounded bar set-up), there's a silver atomizer that can be filled with vermouth and used to mist glass or shaker, $20; and for classy toting, a stainless steel hip flask, $23.99. All from Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; 3827 Baronne St., 899-7411).
Fresh-brewed History -- This little engine that could has been brewing coffee since its creation in Paris in 1865. Water boiling in the main compartment of the locomotive causes the train's bell to ring as the coffee brews. Coffee is poured from a spigot on the front of the locomotive, which is signed by A. Demazt, $12,500, from M.S. Rau (630 Royal St., 523-5660; www.rauantiques.com).
Accuracy Through History -- The Panerai Radiomir watch first was designed in 1938 for the Italian Navy and became the first military diver's watch. In 2002, timepiece aficionados will find refinements over the ages placed in a recognized design, with an automatic mechanical movement and 18-karat gold oscillating weight, date display and an alligator strap with an adjustable folding buckle in a special edition model, $5,900, exclusively at Waldhorn & Adler (343 Royal St., 581-6379).
Cool Views -- Everyone wants one; they're the coolest things in television since the big screen: flat, plasma-screen TVs that display a digitized signal and high-quality picture. They've come down considerably in price since first introduced four years ago and now are available for under $6,000, from Audio Resource (3133 Edenborn Ave., Metairie, 885-6988; www.audioresource.com).
What We Are -- Give a loved one or friend a glimpse into the history that made New Orleans the city it is with a trip to the New Orleans Museum of Art's (NOMA) Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans exhibit (on view through Jan. 12) and a commemorative book by the same name. The exhibit pays tribute to African-American, Creole and other ethnic artisans who have created and maintained the ironwork, plaster, woodwork and brick masonry that has made New Orleans architecture so distinctive. Admission to NOMA (1 Collins Diboll Circle, City Park, 488-2631) is $6 adults, $5 seniors and $3 children; museum memberships are $30 individual or $50 family (other options are also available); and the book is $32.95 at the museum gift shop.