Four Toys Under $40 For Late Shoppers

Christmas is right around the corner and I haven't finished my shopping. This year I've got several kids on my list, and searching for ideas, I came across these gifts, all under $40.

>>Do you know a kid that loves space? The Green Toys Rocket ($24.99) includes a detachable top capsule and two astronauts that sport spacesuits, helmets and dual-tank backpacks. This rocket, made from recycled materials and free of toxins, is recommended for age 2 and older. And with its bright red and blue coloring, this rocket shouldn't get lost in the bottom of the toy bin. Information: www.greentoys.com.

>>My almost 3-year-old loves to help in the kitchen, particularly when I throw some shredded cheese in a bowl and he has to "stir the ingredients." With a kitchen theme in mind, I came across the Pastry Party. Kids can design and decorate their own cakes with the accessories provided (including "milk" and "flour"). The interchangeable baking tools have a cool sound effect too (and it's not too loud so it won't annoy parents!). This toy by Blue Box is recommended for ages 4 and older and retails for $14.99. I found it at www.toysrus.com.

>>For older kids Thames & Kosmos make cool science experiment kits that offer a Crystal Growing kit (for ages 10 and older with adult supervision; there's a 32 page manual) for $36.95. I didn't try this one personally but I imagine budding little scientists would enjoy finding this under the tree. Information: www.thamesandkosmos.com.

>>I'm not up on the latest doll craze, but apparently The Beatrix Girls are popular: Each 12-inch member of the "band" (Lark, Ainsley, Brayden and Chantal) sings, plays a different instrument and "writes" songs (available on iTunes and Amazon Mp3). Each doll comes with a unique outfit, though I'm not a big fan of Ainsley's too-grownup outfit. Each doll is $24.99. Recommended for ages 6 and older. Information: www.TheBeatrixGirls.com.

>>Amy Ellis is the mother of a two-year-old son, and a Courant staff writer and listings editor.