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Shopping: Kids will get a kick out of puppets

I’m too old to have grown up with “The Muppet Show.” I say that wistfully because, as an adult, I’ve seen enough of the characters in reruns to know I missed something silly and special as a child.

So, when I run across puppets with personality, I have to stop and play, a bit, and hope nobody is watching too closely. Puppets, I think, are easier to imagine with than dolls — and they let boys play, too.

Ben’s in downtown Belleville is home to a variety of Melissa & Doug soft puppets that are adorable and quirky and fun. They remind me of Muppet characters. Tina Prima is a 20-inch-tall ballerina with an attitude. She has the look and satiny leotard and tulle tutu. Use one hand to manipulate her mouth and facial expressions while gesturing with the removable rod stick with the other. (You can switch the rod around for lefties or righties.) She, and a clutch of other puppets, from mermaids to pirates, are $19.99. They’re meant for kids 3 and older. Look for them at the front of the store on a display rack. And watch out for Trina, she has one heck of a pirouette.

Circo products for kids at Target are whimsical and in the case of watering cans, inspired by nature. With a body made to look like a tree trunk, the girl’s version has a pink fox on it, with its tail turning into the handle. The boy’s is full of big bugs and a green caterpillar handle. Each is $5.99 and those are from the west Belleville store.

I used to think that the word Birkenstock meant ugly shoes. But things have changed since the 1960s!

I peeked inside DSW in Fairview Heights this week and found the comfy footwear company can go a bit sleek, too. On sale now for $29.99 are what I think of as a cross between Birkenstock and Dr. Scholl’s slides, with the instep buckle strap (but no wooden sole). Called the Madrid EVA Flat Sandal, you’ll find them in about six colors. These fashionable waterproof slides feature a lightweight footbed that is flexible, durable and features pronounced arch support, deep heel cup and a roomy toe box — all classic Birkenstock comfort features.

It’s definitely not warm enough for lazing on the lake or floating in the pool. But, you can get prepared for those days ahead with the Big Bobber. It’s an insulated cooler that looks like a giant bobber. It floats, of course, holds up to 12 beverage cans with ice and has a built-in handle. You’ll find it right at the front of the store at Bed, Bath & Beyond in Fairview Heights for $29.99.

Stop by the Collinsville Starbucks (1077 Collinsville Crossing Blvd.) on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and take home coffee in a work of art. Reuseable cups ($1) will be emblazoned with art created by local artists and clients at the Center for Autism in Fairview Heights. You can then choose a donation to make to the center. Proceeds from the second annual Artfull Cup fundraiser benefit the center.

Planning to buy new kitchen appliances? Head to Missouri. Through Saturday, there is no state sales tax on Energy Star-qualified products (up to $1,500 on each), including air conditioners and water heaters. There are some exclusions, such as stoves, and you may also have to pay county and municipal taxes.

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