a peek inside the fishbowl

08 Nov, 2010

Fishbowl gift guide! Keeping kids playing with toys

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Oh! Things!

I’m looking ahead to Christmas. This is rare for me, but 8-12 can be a tough age to buy for and I want to file away some gift ideas for reference. So why not do it here!

It’s easy to succumb to electronic gadgetry (remember this post?) but as much as I love gadgets of all kinds I don’t think my kids are old enough. Besides, they’re still happy with traditional toys, so why rush it?

I like traditional and retro toys. It’s funny how they’re making a big comeback. For example, Monchichi. Do you remember (here’s a YouTube video in case you’ve blocked them from your memory). I used to COVET Monchichi. Never got one though. Boo.

Before I launch into the list I want to mention that although shopping for toys and games online makes Christmas shopping very easy I do encourage you to support your local neighborhood toy stores. There are a LOT of them in Ottawa, right across the city. And they need our support! For example:

  • Tag Along Toys (a blog patron) is one-stop toy shopping in Kanata. They carry many incredibly thoughtful and lovely toys for boys and girls of all ages. Note! The folks at Tag Along are hosting a private shopping evening on Tuesday November 16 between 6-8 p.m. … and you will receive 20% off your purchases! Woot! Clear your calendars because you will want to be there! Please tell them I sent you, ok? :)

Other local toys stores in Ottawa include:

  • Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s, with locations in Westboro, Rideau Centre, and Bayshore S.C.
  • PlayValue is on Carling near Kirkwood and has a great assortment of puzzles and Playmobil. And a giant trampoline in the back. You may never leave.
  • 3 Little Monkeys on Bank St. (Remember them?)
  • Any others?

Without further ado… here are a few of my personal faves from around the interwebs that I’ve scoped out for Christmas 2010. I’m going to keep adding to this list. It’s just a starting point, so let me know what you’d add.

Active play


Crafty stuff

  • Knot-a-Quilt: We have this, I totally recommend it.
  • Also, from the same company, Make a Ruffle Rug
  • Michael’s has a sale on knitting supplies right now. They have lovely needles just for kids and lots of chunky yarns.
  • Paints, watercolour pencils, journals, sketch pads (we love EcoJot!) are all great gifts for this age too.
  • Tag Along carries a series of Djeco art sets. Finished projects are stunning, and framable! Emma is really interested in fashion design – and Djeco carries a few kits that lean in that direction.

I asked the question about gift ideas for kids age 8-12 on Twitter the other day and got some great suggestions. Here are a few:

“Drawing has been huge for my kids in those ages so lots of sketch pads, pencils, pastels, etc. Also Magnetx or Lego sets. Favorite books for mine are Gordon Korman books, Dear Canada Books,and Geronimo Stilton”Luvschweetheart

“board games like stratego”Lavender_Salts

“my 12 loves to read. I will send u some book titles.”AnnBac9

“movie passes, wimpy kid book (new one is out!), museum passes, lego/construction pieces, sports equipment”bitofmomsense

“UNO cards! Cranium for kids (Cadoo?). A cribbage board (for the upper age). Cool fact books.” – GaryChampagne

“my 8 & 11 y.o.s like LEGO (of course) and those big art kits from Michaels and sketch books”hotelqueen

“I’m pretty sure I was about that age when I got my first “real” set of paints. also, we love experiential gifts”hellokaitlin

“just found out about the Klutz books – what a neat idea!”withthesuper8

“… I cannot say enough good things about Lego all around. Sadly, MegaBlocks not as good.”fritzmel 

“My 8yo loves Little Pets, fairy books by Daisy Meadows, craft supplies, and board games”theblogmother 


Lots of great ideas there eh? I suspect that a lot of these toys and will be making appearances on many lists across Canada this year.

What  kind of toys are you considering? And where do you go to buy them? Help a fellow parent and let us know.

Coming up in this series of gift planning posts: (1) books and (2) Etsy and handmade holidays. Stay tuned!

14 Responses to "Fishbowl gift guide! Keeping kids playing with toys"

1 | karen

November 8th, 2010 at 12:43 pm


I was very excited when I first spotted a Monchichi in Mrs. Tiggywinkles. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t save mine. Turns out it didn’t matter because my kids have no interest what so ever.

I have considered buying snowshoes as well. I’m not sure I’m willing to take the plunge this year because I’m pretty sure I’d have to force my 8 year old son to join us. Maybe next year.

My 12 year old daughter wants makeup for Christmas. She isn’t allowed to wear it out but she loves putting in on and then washing it off just to start over again.

I’m going to check out some of your links because I find shopping for my daughter rather difficult. One girl only needs so much clothes.

2 | julie

November 8th, 2010 at 1:19 pm


What my DH and I do is make up cards of things to do with the kids, like dinner dates, trips to the pool, a game night, museum trips. They each get to redeem one card on alternating weeks. Some are good for whenever(the cuddle card), some could be re-used (go for a walk) any night, even if there was already a card on the go.
Some of them, like the tea party one, meant going to the store, getting the right tea and cookies.
For the most part, they are about giving each child one on one time with one of the parents. If, for whatever reason, the child’s name is not on the card, the whole family gets involved. Lego gets more play, puzzles get done, K’nex models get built, train tracks get elaborate, when we all play together. Even colouring is more exciting for an eight year old when they have a card that says colour with mom for one hour.
All that being said, we buy gifts that can be added on to-LEGO, K’Nex, Light Bright, Tinker toys, Little Pet Shop, and Hot Wheels, to name a few. I look for them at consignment stores, since they are oldies and goodies:)

3 | Elizabeth

November 8th, 2010 at 3:15 pm


My favourite local toy store is G. Whillikers, in the Elmvale Shopping Centre on St. Laurent. They carry a large selection of Djeco kits, great games and crafts, lovely wooden toys, neat science toys, felted puppets and purses, lots of cool stocking stuffers and party gifts, all in a wide range of prices, most of them very affordable for me. The owner is very friendly and knowledgeable, and has often recommended the perfect gift. I like that she remembers me from visit to visit, and seems to remember the ages and interests of my daughters. A great place to shop!

4 | Vivian

November 8th, 2010 at 11:31 pm


To add to your list of local toy stores, there’s a great teacher’s store in the east end (Near 174/Montreal Rd.) All About Kids (http://allaboutkids.info/). They’ve got lots of great stuff that isn’t battery operated, a decent craft section and play structures to boot.

5 | Jen

November 9th, 2010 at 12:39 pm


I ordered from Tiggywinkles online (free shipping over $50) and it was delivered via FedEx in a flash – hoorah!

So far, the wish list my 6 yr old son has prepared has over 20 items… all of them LEGO (!!) They too are offering free shipping over a certain amount, which is a bonus.

I suspect the majority of our gifts will be bought online this year – living out of town and navigating snowy farm roads with a wee infant strapped in the backseat is not my idea of a good time… snow tires or not :-)

6 | Linda Peters

November 9th, 2010 at 12:39 pm


Just wanted to let you know that Eko Bear carries the Wrist Shooters you mentioned. It is an online store, but offers 2 FREE local pick-up locations in Kanata.

Eko Bear will also have the Wrist Shooters at The Flaunt Event on Nov 17th at Lago Bar and Grill from 7-9PM. You can check out the site for more info… http://www.ekobear.ca

If your kids are into magic tricks, there’s an eco-friendly Magic Set for kids ages 8 and up… http://www.ekobear.ca/imagiplay-green-magic-set

7 | Debbie

November 10th, 2010 at 9:36 am


OMG my daughter and 2 sons visited Tag Along Toys in Kanata last night and it was like walking into Santa’s little workshop. Soooo many wonderful things to choose from. The boys went to look at the fantastic range of Green science and superb electronic kits, and my daughter headed to the craft area with choices such as Djeco and Fashion Angels. The staff in the store sure must do their homework as they were extremely knowledgeable of all their products.Will definately be heading there again but next time without the kids.

8 | Fishbowl gift guide: this time we’re talkin’ books for tweens >> a peek inside the fishbowl

November 10th, 2010 at 10:03 am


[…] although it doesn’t fall into either book or toy category, have you heard of the Moonjar? It’s a unique way of teaching kids how to manage […]

9 | Cheryl

November 11th, 2010 at 10:16 am


There is a previous posting about a store in Kanata named Tag Along Toys. I have to comment on what a well presented store this is! The staff is amazing with knowledge & help.The choices will astound you!! I couldn’t stop looking & finding so many great toys. All I need when I go into Tag Along Toys is a list of ages for the people I am bying for & the staff will guide me with choices. Not pushy just really honest & helpful suggestions.

I really do recommend that you put Tag Along Toys on your to do list!!

10 | Carlyn

November 11th, 2010 at 10:30 am


Before I even read the list of toys, I was going to suggest the Djeco sand art kits! Such a fan of Tag Along Toys, absolutely should be the first place you stop for christmas shopping!

11 | Jacquie Baillie

November 13th, 2010 at 8:33 pm


Can anyone go to the Tag Along Toys private shopping evening or do we need an invite?

12 | andrea

November 16th, 2010 at 6:23 pm


Anyone can go!

13 | Shoppers Without Borders « Rambling Notebook

January 13th, 2012 at 4:01 pm


[…] gift guides abound this time of year. Take a peek inside the fishbowl and you’ll find a toy guide, edible giveables, and books for tweens (is it bad that some of these are still my favourite […]

14 | Will Kenderdine

December 2nd, 2013 at 4:52 pm


Hey! These are terrific gift ideas! For another great gift idea, you will LOVE learning more about Cuddleuppets, the wonderfully soft, snuggly, and fun “pets” for kids! Check them out here: http://www.handi-dandi-crafts.com/

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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