Give the Gift of Learning to Read with Ooka Island

Some kids seem to pick up reading at an early age and are motivated to practice and improve. Other kids? Well, let's just say the process is not so smooth. Reading can be a hard skill to master, and those active little people in your life may be resisting your attempts to get them reading on a regular basis.

This holiday season, you may be tempted to run out to the bookstore and pick a number of books you think your child would like to read. While this sometimes works, there are other (easier!) ways to get their noses stuck in a book.

Ooka Island is an adaptive, game-based learn-to-read program that develops strong early reading skills through 24 levels of educational activities and 85 ebooks. Share your love of reading with a budding bookworm in your life by gifting them a subscription to learn-to-read on Ooka Island

Wait, what? Reading can become a game?

Yes! And a fun game at that! Lara's daughter begs to play this "computer game," and has given us her review of the program:

I like it because I can get a package of little books to read and you can play games. I also like the previews free play because as a reward for reading the books, you get to choose what you play. I also loves the alphabet song and the characters. Two more things I like: when you are rewarded with stickers and money to buy stuff like dogs, shorts, and bears.

Ooka Island makes you a promise: send your child to Ooka Island for 30 minutes, three times a week and they’ll graduate a confident reader in ONE YEAR. That's pretty impressive! Ooka also sends parents weekly progress reports that provide a detailed picture of where their child is excelling or having difficulty in reading. This actionable information empowers parents to maximize their child’s learning and to have meaningful and productive dialogue with teachers. 

How can I give the gift of reading?

Parents, grandparents, and family members will love that instead of buying another toy for the special child in their life, that they can give them the gift of reading with a ticket to Ooka Island, where children become confident, fluent readers.  If you have an emerging reader in your family, click here to give them the gift of reading this Christmas!

Giving the gift of reading is easier than ever. Ooka Island now allows family and loved ones to purchase a gift subscription (3 month or 1 year program) that can be redeemed at anytime by the recipient.  Every ticket to Ooka Island can be printed or sent to the recipient by email. With three gift subscriptions to choose from, Ooka Island is the perfect holiday gift for early readers!

Starter Subscription ($34.99 CDN / $29.99 USD)

Gift a 3 month starter subscription to Ooka Island and jumpstart them into reading. An excellent choice for any child!

1-Year Program ($99.99 CDN / $89.99 USD)

Gift a 12 month subscription and watch them become a confident reader! Recommended to complete program.

1-Year Program + Books* ($149.99 CDN & USD)

Gift little learners their first paperback library with a colorful collection of 11 Ooka books bundled with the 1-Year Program

*Shipping is free.

So if you are looking for a gift that will encourage a child's love reading a subscription to Ooka Island is perfect!

And don't forget to enter our Holiday Giveaway, where you get a chance to win a one year subscription to Ooka Island and a set of books!

This post is part of our 2016 Holiday Campaign, with support from Tag Along ToysThe Canadian Museum of NatureSaunders Farm and Ooka Island. Make sure to enter our giveaway!

Unique Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

The holidays are a season of giving, but it can be hard to find that perfect gift for a friend or loved one. Many times our kids are overwhelmed with presents, and parents spend the year trying to purge and organize. We want to cultivate gratitude in our children, which is hard to do when gift giving gets out of control! The same goes for the adults – when we’re buying something because we feel like we have to (and not because it’s meaningful) it can make the holiday season stressful.

To take the stress out of shopping, we’ve come up with unique gift ideas for the whole family. Thanks to our readers and sponsors for providing such cool ideas!


Everyone has that foodie in the family, or the kid that’s going to become a “Cheffer” (as my 7 year-old puts it) when they grow up. For little ones you can buy mini kitchen items for pretend play. Older kids would love a cookbook for children, and adults may be lusting over a new kitchen gadget. OR, you could just get them food! Treats on Christmas morning is the best:

“In our opinion, food always makes the best gift! The challenge is knowing what to get for your friends and loved ones that is truly unique and amazing...that's why we LOVE fudge! It's gourmet, creative, and can be personalized for the recipient. Plus, it's fudge!!!” - Mark Saunders, Saunders Farms


Have you heard of the holiday tradition “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read?” I love that idea! Maybe you have a "bookoholic" in the family that’s provided you with a list of no more than 36 books they would like. Or maybe you have the child who needs a bit of encouragement. Pairing books with electronics may be your ticket to success:

“With a ticket to Ooka Island you’re not only giving a child the gift of reading for life, but they’ll have access to 80 hours of educational games and 85 e-books anywhere, anytime – it’s a gift for Mom and Dad as well,” said Kelly Shaw, CEO, Ooka Island.

Some of our readers also suggest a good ol' magazine subscription, which can be full of fun activities, craft ideas and short stories. Kids love getting mail!


In my mind, there's nothing better than the gift of an experience. Last year I bought my mom a mom-daughter pedicure at my favourite spa; concert or theatre tickets would also go over well with Grandma!


For the little ones, you have ample choice here in Ottawa for experiential gifts. We're known all over Canada for our fantastic museums! We are partial to our fantastic sponsor, The Canadian Museum of Nature.

"A membership gift certificate is the perfect gift!" says manager Laura Sutin. Enjoy the museum all year long, and enjoy special perks as a member - discounts on museum programmes, and discounts on purchases at the Nature Boutique (another great place for gift items) and Nature Cafe.


We've just implemented game night at our house, and although my 4 year-old is still a little young, she can still take part. Once she's bored, we send her off with a puzzle and she's happy to sit on the floor beside us. My 7 year-old is into all kinds of card games, and recently discovered Monopoly. She's playing the original with me, but I'm thinking Monopoly Junior might be a good choice for a gift under the tree!


The best toys are the ones that spark imagination and creativity. They are usually quieter (ahem, no batteries) and allow children to create their own worlds of play.

"We love the Fairy Cottage. The Fairy Cottages and Tree Hollows are popular as the children can look after their own Garden indoors by watering it and maintaining it at home and moving the small Fairy Figurines inside the garden." - Patti Taggart, Owner of Tag Along Toys

Disclaimer: this post is part of our 2016 Holiday Campaign, with support from Tag Along Toys, The Canadian Museum of Nature, Saunders Farm and Ooka Island. Make sure to enter our giveaway post before the end of November!

2017 Holiday Gift Guide and Giveaway

Holiday Shopping Giveaway

At Kids in the Capital we love to help our readers by answering questions about places to visit, things to do, and where to shop with the family in the National Capital Region. This holiday season we are excited to be solving your gift giving dilemmas by providing you with an exclusive look at some of our favourite local businesses!

Stay tuned throughout the month of November, as our brand founders share their unique gift ideas, holiday traditions and more! 

Without further ado, we are so happy to introduce these fantastic Canadian businesses to our 2017 holiday gift guide:

Saunders Farm

Canadian Museum of Nature

Ooka Island

Tag Along Toys

To kick things off, we have put together an amazing giveaway, featuring gifts that are sure to get your holiday shopping off to the right start.

TWO families are set to win:

  • $50 gift card to Tag Along Toys
  • Full family admission (including special exhibits) to Museum of Nature
  • Annual family pass to Saunders Farm (including Haunting Season)
  • One year subscription to Ooka Island & set of books

Enter now using Rafflecopter, and tweet about this giveaway every day for extra entries! Contest closes Wednesday November 30th at 12 p.m. EST. Contest is only open to Ottawa-area residents. Good luck, and happy shopping!!

Getting into the Holiday Spirit with the Handmade Harvest Holiday Craft Show!

by Laura Kelly This past Saturday, one of my sisters and I returned to our hometown of Almonte – just 45 minutes west of Ottawa – to kick off the holiday season with the Handmade Harvest Holiday Craft Show.

For those who haven’t heard of it, Handmade Harvest is a well curated bi-annual craft show. This amazing show is the brainchild of Almonte locals and shop owners Emily Arbour (Hello Yellow) and Colleen Hewitt (Crush Marketplace), who bonded over their love of all things handmade. They set out to create a show that would “nurture the local independent craft community by providing an outlet for emerging makers of all ages…and make buying handmade items easy and fun to do.”

In 2014, Colleen stepped aside from her organizing role, so now Emily and her husband, Brad Weir, collaborate to create craft shows that are truly great experiences for both the vendors and shoppers.

Since the very first show in 2010, Almonte residents and out-of-towners alike have flocked to Handmade Harvest to find the perfect gifts for friends, family members, or themselves, and this year was no different. Over 3,000 shoppers came by the Old Almonte Town Hall over the two day show. It was a great atmosphere and the venue was abuzz with people shopping, snacking, chatting and laughing, and just generally having a good time.

The super keen were lined up around the corner for more than an hour before the show started. Those in line were anxious to be one of the first 50 people through the door and receive a coveted swag bag filled with goodies from vendors and sponsors. I myself was not one of these people, but I have a friend who was, and who makes it her mission to get one each and every Handmade Harvest craft show. Apparently these bags are definitely worth the wait.

Each Handmade Harvest craft show features tons of talented vendors and their quality creations. This year, the show hosted 121 different vendors over the two days. There were so many products to browse and choose from, including jewelry, clothing, home décor, artwork, furniture, and plenty of items for infants and children. A few of my favourites included:

Blondie Apparel and their super stylish Boot Cuffs

boot cuffs

Sweetcheeks Kitchen and their delicious gluten-free treats

sweet cheeks

Daly Unstructured and their rustic and creative wine rack

wine rack

These are just three of many vendors I visited on Saturday, not to mention the whole slew of new vendors that set up on Sunday. To check out all the vendors and their products, visit their profiles.

The Handmade Harvest Holiday Craft Show was a highly anticipated event on my calendar, and the show did not disappoint. Attending the show was a great way to support local artists, crafters, and businesses and get a head start on my Christmas shopping! I found unique and meaningful items for almost everybody on my list.

Do you have a favourite holiday craft sale?

Christmas Shopping, an Enjoyable Family Event?

Bazaars, Markets and Craft Sales Christmas shopping can be such a chore, so my daughter and I like to make it fun by chasing the Christmas bazaars, markets and arts & crafts sales around the Ottawa region. There’s no shortage of bazaars in Ottawa starting last weekend and throughout the holiday season, located in high schools, churches, community centres, museums and art centres near us. We love the ambiance and get inspired by the decor, the music and the crafts. We walk around soaking in the Christmas spirit, we take breaks with a drink and play the “who would love this” game.  And even when we don’t buy anything, we rush home to make our own masterpieces.

The three shopping events we’re looking forward to this year are the following. I have no idea what they look like, but we’re up for the adventure.

The Barnyard Bazaar at the Canada Agriculture Museum on December 1st:

The Baz’Art at the Shenkman Centre in Orleans, December 1st and 2nd:

The Holiday Art and Show Sale at the Ottawa School of Art, November 29 to December 19th:

Why not support local artists and artisans this year by giving an original gift and have fun doing it? Search Google for a full listing of bazaars starting this weekend.

Street Shopping I have wonderful memories of having breakfast with my daughter in a little restaurant in early December, watching light snow fall and getting ready to shop.  Why brave nasty malls in the suburbs when we can get fresh air in a lovely setting while walking from boutique to boutique and stopping for food along the way?  Ottawa is full of great neighourhoods to enjoy this activity, such as the Glebe, Westborough, Elgin Street, Sparks Street and of course, the Byward Market.  I wonder if the cat still lives in the little bookstore on Sussex Street...

Last year, we tried something new and headed to Merrickville, just a short drive down the 416. Not only is the shopping great, but the town’s Christmas calendar is booming with activity! We enjoyed personalized service, artist studios, local everything and a nice lunch at the neighbourhood pub.  Now that’s the way to turn a chore into a memory. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to shop.

The Glebe: Sparks Street: Byward Market: Merrickville:

Angèle is a goofy mum to a daughter and a wife to an evil genius (retired, apparently). She's also a social media strategist, a podcast host and a teacher in training.  In her other life, she's a fan of fresh air, yoga, good friends, new places and keeping things simple.  She is the author of two blogs: More of Less ( ) and My C Word ( ).  PS. She often overshare. You’ve been warned.


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