a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Nov, 2009

Christmas gift idea #1: embrace your trees

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

Halloween is over so it’s legal to start thinking about Christmas gifts.

My Christmas shopping motto for 2009 is this: Fewer gifts, thoughtful gifts.

Say it with me now: Fewer gifts, thoughtful gifts.

Since the Fewer gifts, thoughtful gifts way of the shopping requires a bit of planning, I thought I’d share a few gift ideas in the coming weeks based on some of our favourite playthings here at Casa Fishbowl. You game?


I’ve always wanted a treehouse, or at least a really really cool fort. I’m not talking about temporary structures made of blankets and clothespins, I’m talking about a permanent kid-friendly shelter with a roof and a door, and maybe a window with shutters and curtains and a window box.

When the kids came on the scene my own desire for a tree house became my desire for them (funny how that happens). I’ve always wanted to build the girls a fantastic tree house but the money for a really great one (and I couldn’t have anything less than great) has never materialized.

We don’t have swings or slides here at Casa Fishbowl either, but we do have a yard. And some trees. We love our trees.

When I was a kid I used to talk to the trees, even hug them on occasion. I always thought of them as living, breathing giants, silently watching everything that goes on around them, like long-standing members of extended family.

I think it’s good to be close to the trees in our lives and we should encourage a relationship with them. There’s no better way to do this than get outside and make them part of our playtime.

For the youngest children you can pick up a swing at almost any toy store. (Just make sure you attach it safely and in a way that doesn’t damage the tree.)

You can also make one yourself.

Swings are great for kids of all ages but I have always liked the idea of the climbing ladder too, especially for people (like us) who don’t have the kind of tree that will accommodate a swing.

The Fishbowl girls spend an awful lot of time in the trees. You’d think they were half-monkey or something. That’s why I had been on the lookout for a climbing ladder. I even considered making one, but then I saw one at the Richmond Road location of Mrs. Tiggywinkles. Here it is:


It not exactly easy to climb,  mainly because it swings wildly out from under you as you go. But this makes getting to the top an extremely satisfying achievement which requires a surprising degree of muscle.

This was a very worthwhile purchase and would make a great gift for the monkey in your family too.

And for the oldest kids and grownups? There’s a company out in Wakefield called Wild Adventures that co-ordinates tree climbing tours. You get to climb a big ol’ tree while tethered and under proper professional supervision. There was a great article about it in the Globe and Mail.

I’d say that is a gift worth giving!*

* Mark doesn’t agree with giving gifts you can’t use right away. I guess this would fall under that category, but I don’t think it matters. What do you think?

9 Responses to "Christmas gift idea #1: embrace your trees"

1 | Karen

November 6th, 2009 at 8:38 am


thanks….now the creative juices are flowing! there are so many wonderful ideas out there!
pretty things, and useful too-made by hand-my time for You( just made that up!!)

2 | ommama

November 6th, 2009 at 9:43 am


I think this is a wonderful idea and My eight year old is always complaining about having to “wait for a turn–like forever!!” on the swings at the school playground. She loves to swing.
I am definately looking into this!!

My husband and I are big “less is more” gift givers and our traditional gifts to the rest of our families usually involve us making huge batches of lasagna or meat pies to freeze and give as practical, usable gifts. This year I found these great “on the go hot or cold” zippered shopping bags at the grocery store which I purched to use as the gift bags, saving on wrapping paper too!

3 | Ellen

November 6th, 2009 at 10:50 am


Thanks for the inspiration to start thinking about Christmas gifts!

Don’t discount making a rope ladder yourself (or with your kids). Our 8 year old got a set of tools for her last birthday, and a rope ladder was one of her projects. It was very do-able, and it means a lot to her that she made it with her Dad. For a project oriented kid, a “rope ladder kit” might be a very fun gift, and you could start making it immediately, even if you needed to wait for spring to hang it on the tree.

4 | BeachMama

November 6th, 2009 at 4:16 pm


You can still swing in the Winter, we do it all year long in our backyard.

I do a homemade Christmas for my extended family, this year will mark my fourth and hope to keep it going. I find it so much more thoughtful to think and make my gifts. The kids still get some storebought stuff, but they do get the homemade stuff too.

5 | Treehugger.

November 6th, 2009 at 5:18 pm


Amen to that!

“I always thought of them as living, breathing giants, silently watching everything that goes on around them, like long-standing members of extended family.”

6 | Shan

November 6th, 2009 at 9:26 pm


We’re also trying to do more thoughtful Christmas gifts, more home made, more gifts of time. And I’m with Mark, but then my girls are 3 and 7. That probably has something to do with it.

7 | Loukia

November 6th, 2009 at 11:56 pm


You know what I have always wanted? A real nice big wooden dollhouse, with nice real wooden furniture, nice little rugs, the mini lights, accessories, etc. Where oh where can I find me one?

8 | Sheila D.

November 9th, 2009 at 12:44 pm


A treehouse was high on my list of dreams too.

A suggestion for Christmas: there is a Finnish throwing game called Mölkky. There is a Wikipedia article about it with links to how to make your own game and the rules and pictures. It’s fun for a really wide age range (we played with a 5-year old and her parents) and can be played by a group. It would be pretty easy for someone with modest carpentry skills (can you use a saw?) to make one of these games. The Finnish website has an English link and there is a tabletop version too.

9 | Gretchen

November 10th, 2009 at 12:48 am


We are doing a handmade Christmas this year, and I have been working on it since September. I am making a waldorf doll for each girl as well as a sling to carry the doll, and clothes for each one. I am making each girl a pair of jammies and a skirt or dress. The only thing I am not going to make is some books and some simple stocking stuffers. The book I have been slowly collecting from trips to Goodwill and I would like to have a nice basket for each girl to keep their books in. We are having our fourth baby in February and my kids already have way too much stuff, I really wanted to make this Christmas a memorable and thoughtful one. I hope my kids love the gifts as much as I have enjoyed making them.

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The Obligatory Blurb

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 daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). 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, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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