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From Furbys to robotic puppies, there are lots of fun, innovative and educational toys in the shops this year. Kate Hilpern picks the ones the kids (and big kids) will love

Lost and found: After the Japanese dock... flotsam's greatest hits

After a section of a Japanese dock washed up on the West Coast of the US this week, here are four other great shore arrivals:

Child's play: a Junior Suite at the Hesperia Lanzarote in Puerto Calero

Summer 2012: Family friendly hotels

Children's rooms take on a different meaning at Hesperia Lanzarote (00 34 828 080 800; nh-hotels.com), in Puerto Calero, where seven new Junior Suites have been colourfully redecorated, furnished with bunk beds dressed in themed bed linen, and supplied with toys and a healthy "mini bar".

LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes trailer goes “open world”

Watch as Batman and his friends drive, climb and fly their way through Gotham City.

Amol Rajan: Ryanair, you pay your money and take your choice

The headline at Mail Online said it all yesterday, as headlines at Mail Online tend to: "Ryanair rakes in record profits as it squeezes more out of customers in add-on fees and in-flight sales". There followed a graphic detailing "sky-high" charges – sky-high, geddit? – such as online bag check-ins, airport bag check-ins and credit card fees. "It will please boss Michael O'Leary and shareholders," the article gushed, "but the passengers who are forced to pay higher ticket prices on top of the airline's infamous swathe of extra charges will be less thrilled."

Legoland Florida opens a new waterpark next Saturday, with Lego-themed flumes and the chance to build a Lego raft for the lazy river. Legoland.com
Legolize is the new project with real head-sized Lego head

Trending: All in all you're just another brick in the wall

Thanks to digital-savvy idle thumbs, the opportunity to transform your looks using a quick online feature is a regular one. There have been programmes that allow you to transform yourself into a Mad Men character, or a yellow-skinned Simpson or a pixellated digital blur. And, all the way back in 2001, Chris Doyle's website Reasonably Clever offered users the chance to make themselves as a Lego figure. Which is fun – we all need a Twitter avatar. But two French artists have flip-reversed the idea with Legolize.

<p>1.Travel Etch a Sketch £11.49, lovememory.co.uk </p>
<p>Channel their inner Picasso on that long haul flight with this pocket-sized version of the children’s drawing game.</p>

The 10 Best travel games

1.Travel Etch a Sketch £11.49, lovememory.co.uk

Channel their inner Picasso on that long haul flight with this pocket-sized version of the children’s drawing game.

Skull set: A Pirate room at the Legoland Hotel

24-Hour Room Service: Legoland Resort Hotel, Windsor

It slowly wins you over, brick by brick

Lego buys out partner in schools unit

The toy maker Lego has taken full control of its education division after buying the remaining 49 per cent stake for €4.4m (£3.7m) from the UK-listed education supplier RM.

Christmas gift guide: The kids are alright

End the eternal quest for a gift that's durable, smart and more fun than the box it came in

<p>1. Caroline Gardner</p>
<p>£4.95, carolinegardner.com</p>
<p>Greetings card specialist Caroline Gardner this year offers a range of five advent calendars. The 12 days of Christmas is really enchanting.</p>

The 10 Best: Advent calendars

1. Caroline Gardner

£4.95, carolinegardner.com

Greetings card specialist Caroline Gardner this year offers a range of five advent calendars. The 12 days of Christmas is really enchanting.

1. Shark cycling helmet, £35, Paul Smith

Fabulous Christmas gift ideas: Toys for boys

Feast your eyes on part one of our ultimate Christmas gift guide: this week, terrific toys for boys and girls, foodie treats, addictive gadgets, literary treasures and much more…

The 10 best-selling games

Travel By Numbers: Rollercoasters

As US National Rollercoaster Day loops ever closer, Ben Ross reveals the twistiest, turniest of them all
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A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
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Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
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Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
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Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
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football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
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cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
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Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea