By peoplestaff225
Updated October 09, 2008 07:00 AM

Toys that teach life skills are great, but toys that teach life skills without their tiny handlers even realizing they’re in the midst of a lesson? Priceless. Nearly two feet in length, Sigikid’s Learning Crocodile ($37) makes a great gift for toddlers who are just learning to dress themselves. Every few inches, you’ll find buttons, zippers, velcro and loop closures that ultimately serve to keep the toy in one piece; Undo them all, and your little one will be eager to figure out how to put their Learning Crocodile back together again! Intended for children 3 and up, I love this toy not only for the educational value but also because it helps develop fine motor skills at such a crucial age.

But the Learning Crocodile is just one of — literally — hundreds of offerings from Sigikid, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. For babies and small toddlers, check out My First Love — everything from a bunny snuggly with knotted arms and legs to a vintage-inspired kitty cat with built-in music box are sure to bring a smile to that tiny face you love so much. For older toddlers and small children, Sigikid offers the Sweety Collection, (where else can you find a plush stegosaurus?) and Red Friends, where hedgehogs compete side-by-side with the traditional plush teddy bear.

For me, though, Sigikid’s Beasts steal the show. Quirky, funny, cool, and totally one-of-a-kind, a Beast make a great gift for not only a child, but also for any adult who is still young at heart. To be fair, they’re pricey ($55 and up), but on so many levels a Beast is really like a cuddly little piece of art; They remind me very much of something you’d find in an animated Tim Burton movie, but with friendly smiles and winking eyes, so that you know they’re friendly. I like Bolle Beluga, Zsa Zsa Sabajone and Nago Napoli best of all.

— Missy