Gift Guide: Gift Cards

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At Christmas time, people become very divided on the issue of gift cards. One group of people love them for their quickness and ease of purchase. Those same people probably love to receive them as well and shop happily for themselves, selecting the exact item that they want. The other group of people see it as completely impersonal, the lack of thought required defeating the purpose of giving a gift.

Though there is some validity to both sides of the argument, gift cards do provide a great option for families who would like to cut back on the amount of tangible ‘stuff’ that is given and received at Christmas. Toys can be overwhelming. Gift cards can be more than an ‘easy out’, they can also be an invitation to share in an experience at a later date. Here are some of our suggestions:

Coffee Shop

A Tim’s GC is a quick and easy way to say thank you to an adult, but for a child this can be a much bigger adventure. Something as simple as a $5 card allows for two outings for a spontaneous treat. Hot chocolate and a donut? You’ll have to look hard for a kid who wouldn’t want that, from toddler to teenager. A coffee date with your kid is a great opportunity for a little one-on-one time, allowing them to pay makes them feel grown up and special. Tuck one of these in their stocking and schedule an hour over the Christmas holidays where the two of you can get a cup of cheer. Maybe they’ll even splurge on your coffee.

Book Store

Children love hanging out at the library, which is why many book stores have adopted a similar ‘hands on’ philosophy in the kids section. Touch. Read. Look. Play. And Mom, break out that wallet and pay. Or not! A book store is another one of my favourite places to let my children take time and explore. New authors, new stories, new doors opening to their imagination. I have a hard time saying no to a new book, so a GC is a win-win for all of us. A kid in a candy store has nothing on one of my kids in a book store, and allowing them to make their own choices is a great way to encourage that love of reading.


If you have any sort of iPad/iPod/iPhone then you probably already know the value of an iTunes GC. While it is easy to stick to those free kids apps, sometimes it is nice to be able to drop a little money on the ones you have to pay for. Music is also a great iTunes purchase or a couple of episodes of their favourite cartoon for those long car rides or endless waiting room waits. Give them the GC as a gift or use it yourself and wrap a bow around the iPod as a hint of where to find their gift.  Continue reading

After the Sugar High


Halloween is over and this is usually about the time when I realize that eating my kid’s candy after they go to bed is going to be a bad idea long term. The alternative (them eating all the candy) is also a bad idea though! There just doesn’t seem to be enough floss and toothpaste to get us through the aftermath, never mind the nutritional void in their diet from filling up on sugar for weeks on end. Are you in the same boat? Here are some tips for how to get rid of all the candy:

SWITCH WITCH: this is an idea that seems to be growing in popularity over the years. I’m not sure where it originated, but it’s pretty smart! Tell your children that the Switch Witch is going to be visiting. She takes all of the leftover candy and swaps it for something equally desirable like a new toy, books, gift certificate or outing pass. If your kids wouldn’t be devastated by this switch, it’s a great idea! And then what to do with the candy…

LOOT BAGS: if your child/ren has a birthday in the next few months, save some of the packages for the loot bags or as prizes for games.

PARTY TREATS: collect all of the little packages that are the same/similar and the next time you have friends over and want a little something sweet, just rip them all open and put them in a bowl. Add nuts and seeds to make a sweet trail mix.

PINATA: stuffing a pinata with good candy can be so expensive! Stuff it with Halloween candy instead.

IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER: save those little bags of chips and Doritos and crush them up – they make great toppings for taco salad or casseroles.

COWORKERS: we all have coworkers who don’t have children in the trick-or-treating age range, right? Treat them with your leftovers! If you have a desk, put some in a bowl for visitors.

BAKE WITH IT: cupcakes, cookies, squares and icing often call for chocolate bars. Freeze those mini ones and use them for many baking days over the winter. Do you do an annual Gingerbread House? Save those gummy candies, Skittles, M&M’s and anything else that can be stuck onto rooftops and windows.

ADVENT CALENDARS: Buy a reusable Christmas countdown with daily boxes that can be opened. Stuff those boxes with Halloween treats! If you’re really crafty, hit up Pinterest for some DIY calendars.

STOCKING STUFFERS: it’s fine, candy doesn’t go bad! Save those little chocolate bars and give them in two months. Yes, it means it’s going back to your kids, but at least they sugar will be spread out a little.


And if the idea of using a Switch Witch is ridiculous because you have already eaten all of the candy and treats in your house, don’t worry – I’m sure it’s still on sale for 75% off. Go stock up. ;)





Halloween with Allergies


For families dealing with food allergies, Halloween can be a frustrating time. The desire to let your kids share in the spoils of the season battle with the very real risks and dangers associated with accidental contamination. An American organization’s Halloween campaign is picking up steam here in Canada to combat this problem. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) have started the Teal Pumpkin Project asking people to buy or paint a teal pumpkin and have it somewhere prominent on display so that Trick or Treaters can easily spot it as they pass by. Displaying the teal pumpkin lets families know that you will have non-food items available for treat bags.

Don’t have any teal paint lying around? You’re not alone! While teal is the colour of food allergy awareness, it is not in my kids’ standard paint collection. An easy solution is to just print off a large version of the teal pumpkin on your home computer or find the teal crayon in that jumbo box of crayons you might have lying around and colour your own drawing. Stick it to the front door with the Teal Pumpkin label and you’re all set.

If you are worried about being the neighbourhood Halloween Scrooge without any candy to hand out, have both! Just be sure to keep them in separated bowls. Need some non-food ideas? Have a look at your nearest dollar store or dollar/seasonal section of Target/Walmart/party stores. We love these:

  • small containers of playdoh
  • small bubble bottles
  • pencils and/or erasers
  • vampire teeth
  • glow sticks or bracelets
  • stickers
  • spider rings
  • bookmarks
  • coins
  • crayons
  • necklaces
  • dinky cars

Will you be participating? What are you going to hand out?