10 Gift Ideas For Kids – That Are NOT Toys

I don’t know about your house, but my house has way too many stuffed animals hiding in beds and in closets, as well as un-played with plastic toys and small knick-knacky toys hiding under furniture. Every Christmas I try and come up with non-toy gifts that I know my daughter, as well as other kids we buy gifts for, will love. With that in mind, here are some fun gift ideas for kids – that are not toys!

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1)   Magazine Subscriptions

Whether the child is a nature-lover, crafty kid or likes quick facts, magazines such as Highlight, WILD Kids Magazine, Chirp and OWL are perfect for kids. They are quick reads, full of colourful pictures, and usually have many facts and puzzles.

2)   Books

Whether they are early, emerging or advanced readers, books make great gifts for kids of all ages! And if you’re unsure what kinds of books a child may want, a gift card for a local bookstore works just as well. AND if the child is not a reader – what about a notebook and artistic pencils or pencil crayons? Or a fact or joke book?

3)   Science Kits

Local stores such as Tag Along Toys offer many fun and educational science kits for kids of all ages! From creating candy to making your own soap, building a volcano to making batteries out of potatoes, science kids are always a hit for the inquisitive kid who likes to learn how things are made and how things work.

4)   Museum passes

Ottawa is lucky to have so many fun and engaging museums! Whether you decide on a 3-in-1 museum pass, a pass to the Canadian Museum of History or the Canadian Museum of Nature, you are giving kids a gift that will keep on giving (and a place to see and things to do all year long!).

5)   Movie passes or a movie date

If the kids in your life love movies, why not give them a gift card to the movie theatre! This time of year, Cineplex Odeon has a great deal on $40 gift certificates that includes coupons for lots of free stuff, such as popcorn! You could also create a coupon that promises them a movie date (complete with popcorn, of course).

6)   Sleeping bag or an “overnight bag”

If you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle or Godparent, the gift of a sleeping bag or overnight bag filled with everything kids need to make a sleepover comfortable and fun is usually unexpected – and knowing that it comes with a sleepover with their favourite people makes it fun and something to look forward to long after it is unwrapped! You can have a lot of fun building this gift by including travel games, travel towels, treats, etc.

7)   Blanket or pillow with a picture on it

Think about what your kids love to do, who they adore or if you have pets – think of how incredible it would be for them to have a blanket or pillow to cuddle with that on it! Photo blankets and photo pillows are a unique, personal gift that can be purchased from the comfort of your home computer and is sure to be a hit for kids of all ages. 

8)   A butterfly or bat House kit

If your kid is a nature lover then these kits that can be found at Lee Valley Tools or Home Depot are sure to be a hit. They can spend the winter building and decorating them as well as researching and thinking of a good place to put them come spring.

9)   Fun socks or pajamas

It’s a well-known fact that many kids don’t get excited when they receive clothes as gifts, so why not put a spin on it and find some funky socks or pajamas! One year we bought my daughter knee-high narwhal socks that continue to be a hit (holes and all).

10)  Kitchen tools

I am all about getting kids involved in the kitchen, so why not invest in some kid-safe kitchen tools so they can help you bake and cook! You can even make copies of some of their favourite recipes and create their very own personalized cookbook!

What not-toy gifts do you enjoy giving the kids in your life? We’d love to know!

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!

Our Favourite Holiday Traditions

Every family has their special way of celebrating the holidays. From favourite movies and songs on the radio, to family gatherings and special presents, traditions help create lasting memories for children.

The Kids in the Capital team is excited to share some of our favourite Christmas traditions with you, and we've invited our holiday campaign sponsors to join in!


Growing up, my mom would buy my brother and me a children's book each year, and sign the inside with a quote or message. Now I have a huge stack of books that I read to my own children. I cherish these books so much!
Other family traditions included watching the BBC's "A Child's Christmas in Whales" and tracking Santa's progress on the radio.


"Each child receives a Christmas ornament every year, so they'll have a collection when they move out. Each ornament commemorates things they liked that year."


"Every Christmas morning we check outside to see if Santa's reindeers left any hoof prints in the snow... which they always do (and they often look a lot like a horseshoe)." ;)

Here are some holiday traditions from our Holiday Giveaway sponsors: 

Saunders Farm

"While not open to the public anymore, Saunders Farm once housed a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm. Hundreds of guests would visit us each December for a chilly hayride to find their perfect tree, and then enjoy some hot chocolate by the bonfire in our 180-year-old Log Barn. Cutting Christmas trees is our favourite holiday tradition!"

Patti, Tag Along Toys

"We always let our son open one gift the night before Christmas and it is always a new pair of pajamas and a book."
Child reading with parents

Ooka Island

"A favourite holiday tradition is gifting each child in our lives a classic hardcover children's book for Christmas and writing an inscription on the inside along with the date." 

Canadian Museum of Nature

"We love hiding tiny reindeer in the exhibits during the holiday season. Fun for the kids to find!"

The holiday season is full of so many traditions including putting up Christmas lights, baking and, of course, quality family time. The Kids in the Capital team also seemed to share similar traditions, such as opening the gift of pyjamas on Christmas Eve.

What are your family traditions? Leave a comment and let us know!

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!