The holiday shopping deluge is under way, and researchers are not immune to the rush. There are sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, and the kids of friends and colleagues to consider. How can one please young people with fun gifts that won't turn their brains to mush?

Science can help. Toy stores and other retailers sell a variety of items, both classic and new, that can pique youngsters' curiosity and hold their attention. While science educators warn gift-givers to beware of kits and sets that promise far more education and fun than they deliver, they also say the right toy can light a fire that is never extinguished.

FOND MEMORIES: Berkeley geneticist Michael Levine recalls that a microscope whetted his interest in science.
"A lot of my colleagues get tears in their eyes when they [recall] that first chemistry kit. It transformed them," says Michael Levine, a...

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