NEAR AND DEAR

Bleccch. The kid has dropped his pacifier for the sixth time this afternoon, this time on a not-very-savory-looking stretch of floor. Will he catch something hideous if you just pick it up and hand it back and try not to think about loathsome diseases? Why don't you buy him a pacifier clip? There's one that says "Panic Button" and sports a rainbow ribbon; another is heart-shaped with pink or blue or yellow or red bears and polka dots. Clip to shirt, blanket, diaper bag or infant- seat pad. Snap other end around pacifier or rattle. Observe grateful smile on face of kid, who is wondering why you didn't think of this long ago.

Pacifier clip. $3.75. Tree Top Toys, Inc., 3301 New Mexico Ave. NW. 244-3500.

AFRICAN ARTISTRY

What is life like in Nigeria? These thornwood carvings from that country give us a hint. As shown, some athletic types go shinnying up a coconut palm to collect coconuts and some policemen go riding around on motor scooters -- not in search of coconut poachers, we hope. But the range of activities shown in The Artifactory's collection doesn't stop there. Women carry jugs. Men paddle canoes full of gourds. Musicians pose bedecked with flowers. And a chief sits in state as a small boy shelters him from the sun with an umbrella, both looking quite proud of their jobs. So the day goes.

Wood carvings. $18 and $25 for those shown; others from $5.50 to $45. The Artifactory, 641 Indiana Ave. NW. 393-2727.

WATER WIZARD

A few drops of rain never hurt anybody, especially anybody inside an all-weather pedal cruiser. Peer loftily at the downpour through attachable plexiglass windows as you pedal-cruise or fish or do anything else in your chosen body of water. And do it at a top speed of almost five knots, made possible by the cruiser's efficient design. It's 9 feet 3 inches long, weighs 450 pounds and holds only one person, but in solitary splendor. Features: hand-controlled rudder, two forward and one reverse gear, adjustable seat. A travel trailer comes with the cruiser. Pedal cruiser. $3,295 ppd (freight collect). Hammacher Schlemmer & Company, 147 E. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10022. 212/421-9000 or 800/368-3584.

THE PURRFECT DOOR

It's lovely to have your own dear kitty coursing at will through her own dear kitty door. It's not so lovely to have every stray cat and raccoon around visiting through that same little door. Solution: a magnetically operated cat door that responds only to a magnetic "key" the darling wears around her neck. (Or darlings; two keys are included, more can be arranged.) The door is transparent, so Fifi can check for rain or jealous would-be visitors before venturing forth. Then maybe she'll just stay inside and scratch your best armchair to shreds.

Mgnetic cat door. $47.95. Energy Works, 4915 Bethesda Ave. 656-3670.