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Stocking fillers

The ever-reliable Dorling Kindersley is an excellent fail-safe for those who are still in a quandary about gifts. Stickers are a particular DK stalwart. They come in all shapes and sizes, like the gift box packs of teddy bears, cats, dinosaurs and dogs, but the most compelling of these by a mile is the "unlovables", reels of the most yuk-inducing insects, reptiles, snakes and spiders. The full-colour stickers come with a list, so you can tell your red-rumped tarantula from a turquoise poison dart frog. Age 3 and above. Pounds 5.99.

A variation on the same theme are the playboards. Vinyl backdrops can be used to create your own picture story with re-usable stickers. Settings include coral reefs, jungles, parties, farms, building sites and woodland - all environmentally sound and great fun. Pounds 4.99 each.

For more festive decoration there's even a Christmas sticker fun pack, just in case there's a bit of your home not already embellished. Pounds 2.50.

If the thought of decorating inanimate objects begins to pall, what about live ones? DK's Fabulous Faces is a painting kit with a difference. Although the colours are vibrant, some sparkly, some metallic, they are all designed for use on human skin but wash off (reassuringly) with soap and water. The palet is accompanied by a ring-bound book full of designs from mermaidens, to dragons, rainbow warriors and frog-faces. A really enchanting present for 3 years and above. Pounds 12.99.

* Dorling Kindersley, 9 Henrietta Street, London WC2. Tel: 0171 836 5411.

One of the most enduring images of Christmas is the story of The Nutcracker. From Reader's Digest comes a boxed version of games, puzzles and toys for Pounds 12.99. There's a Marzipan Palace jigsaw puzzle, card games, board games and a magic toy cupboard and, in case anyone is not familiar with the story, a book. For ages 3 and above.

Also from Reader's Digest is another box of delights, Teddy's Shop. Packaged to look like a shop, its windows open to reveal a finely-modelled version of the teddy, plus three books in which he has a starring role, a jigsaw puzzle, a pack of playing cards and a height and sticker chart with which to measure toys. For ages 3 and above. Pounds 12.99.

* Reader's Digest, 4 North Parade, Bath BA1 1LF.

Barbie gets everywhere. She's even made it into book form, with accompanying audiotape. Her heroic adventures, such as Barbie's Island Rescue and Barbie's Gymkhana Day, feature Barbie dolls cleverly superimposed on real-life settings. In the former she gads about in a rainforest and scuba dives off a coral reef; in the latter, she competes in a horse show wearing silver jodhpurs. A dead cert for girls age 5-6. Running time 18 minutes. Pounds 3.99 each from Mattel.

From the frivolous to the fun-but-not-without-a-purpose present, Stringalongs are laminated cards linked with string and securely joined. They are bright and jolly and designed to encourage matching skills, number and word recognition and counting for 4 years and above. Titles include Starting Numbers, Nature, and First Words in French. Pounds 5.99 each. There is a simpler version for 2 years and above at Pounds 3.99 each.

* Hamlyn, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 6RB. Tel: 0171 581 9393.

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