13 holiday gift ideas to actually keep kids occupied — and out of your hair

As any parent knows, joining your kids for playtime is fun on occasion, but we all have other stuff we need to do or just want a bit of quiet time to pursue our own interests and hobbies.

Parents also know the profound disappointment that comes when they discover that a gift their kid begged for is a “one and done” toy — something that gets played with once or twice and then is discarded because it’s not really that interesting anymore.

To help alleviate both of these problems, we’ve put together some gift suggestions that will help keep the boredom at bay, get the kids out of your hair for a good chunk of time and are pretty much guaranteed to capture your child’s interest again and again.

For the kid who won’t sit still

These manually propelled, light-up rockets might look like more of a summer toy, but they’re heaps of fun in the winter, too, especially on evenings when you can watch them soar through the night sky. Kids will get a kick out of challenging their friends and siblings to a contest, seeing who can send their rocket flying the highest or farthest. A warning, however: these rockets should be used in an open area, unless you’re a fan of repeatedly climbing a tree or onto a roof.

A picture of a box containing stomp rockets

National Geographic Air Rockets, $39.98, available at Walmart.ca


There aren’t many kids who don’t love the opportunity to chuck their bodies around a huge inflatable structure. A bounce house or bouncy castle can be used inside or out and will keep kids entertained for hours. It doesn’t hurt that bouncing is exhausting, making sure your little one is set up for a good night’s sleep. Just please, please, please ensure the castle is secured before letting kids go nuts.

A picture of a red, yellow and blue bounce house

Little Tikes Inflatable Bouncer House, $349.99, available at Canadiantire.ca


Speaking of bouncing, trampolines are always a hit with kids – and this one brings some next-level fun and learning.

The TekyGo is a trampoline, portal and sensor that work in tandem to create an interactive experience that combines exercise and education. The portal, which hooks up to the television, has games that kids can play while they bounce, and parents can monitor their kids’ movement and activity. A safety bar gives something for little bouncers to grip, and the trampoline support up to 77 pounds, meaning kids well into grade school can enjoy this toy.

There’s an app where parents can unlock additional games, and if you already own a junior trampoline, no sweat – for a lower price you can just buy the portal and sensor and hook it up to your own trampoline.

A photo of the tekygo

TekyGo! Junior Bouncer Bundle, $206. 99, available at Tekygo.com or Amazon.ca



Remote control cars have come a long way over the years. Nowadays, remote control stunt cars can spin in circles, drive double-sided, have incredible balance, can clear small obstacles and be used on a variety of terrain, including on carpet, snow, mud and puddles. They’re also endlessly amusing and kids can spend hours experimenting and creating challenges for their cars.

A photo of a remote control stunt car

Mini Cyclone Stunt Car, $27.99, available at Amazon.ca


For the kid who likes to compete

Simple card games are a great way to keep kids busy, either with each other, friends or as a family. The classic game UNO is easy for school-age kids to learn and makes an affordable stocking stuffer. It also serves as a low-stakes way to teach your children impulse control and conflict management and helps build their skills in memory and strategic thinking.

A photo of a box of Uno playing card

UNO Classic Family Card Game, $8.99, available at Canadiantire.ca


There’s a lot to consider before buying a gaming console for children, but a Nintendo Switch is a great option for keeping kids entertained. Sure, they’re pricey, but considering it works for both portable gaming and as a console, it’s guaranteed that the whole family can find a way to use it.

It also has really good parental controls, meaning you can set limits on screen time and see what your kids are up to while using the device. If a Switch is too expensive or over-performing for your needs, there’s always a Nintendo Switch Lite, which acts solely as a handheld device.

A photo of a Nintendo Switch box

Nintendo Switch, $349.99, available at Nintendo.com



Otrio is a perfect board game for kids – and adults! It puts a spin on classic tic-tac-toe, allowing up to four players to face off in quick rounds. It requires strategic thinking and problem-solving, but even young kids can pick up the rules quite easily. Families clearly love this game — it has an almost perfect Amazon rating.

A photo of the board game Otrio

Otrio Strategy-Based Board Game, $29.99, available at Toysrus.ca


For the tiny builders

This drill and screw box is a great gift for the little builder or budding engineer in your life. It comes with more than 100 pieces, allowing kids to create designs on the board, or build structures up and out.

A battery-operated drill allows kids to quickly build or take apart their creations and it also comes with a manual screwdriver to help build fine motor skills. All the parts fit into the box, making sure all the pieces stay together, and it’s handy for travelling.

A photo of a drill kit for kids

Creative Mosaic Drill Set for Kids, $34.99, available at Amazon.ca


Who doesn’t love Lego? The company continues to expand their offerings to appeal to every segment of the population; this Lego Floral Art kit is a great example of how the brand is branching out to appeal to more people.

While this build is sure to keep kids busy and help with their math and logic skills, it can also be taken apart and remade into many designs. An added bonus is that it can be hung on the wall, offering a cute and creative piece of art for your home.

A photo of the Lego floral art kit

Lego Floral Art, $99.99, available at Lego.com


Speaking of expanded offerings, Lego has an open-ended wall-hanging kit where kids (and adults) can create designs and messages of their choosing.

The Big Message Board comes with close to 1,000 pieces and is compatible with their other Dots offerings, meaning the possibilities are truly endless for this build.

A photo of the Lego Big Message Board

Lego Big Message Board, $49.99, available at Lego.com


For the artistically inclined

Forget the colouring books, these colouring posters are where it’s at. The size of the colouring surface makes it easy for even young artists to stay in the lines and kids can invite guests, friends and other family members to help them colour, making this a truly collaborative project.

As a bonus, a finished poster can be popped into a simple frame for a fun piece of bedroom or family room art. Many colouring posters also come in a digital file that can be purchased for just a few dollars and printed off to the size of your choosing.

A picture of a colouring poster

Giant Colouring Poster, $6, available at Etsy.com



A karaoke machine might be noisy, but it’s sure to keep young performers and wannabe vocalists entertained for hours. This Singstation machine is a great choice for families with multiple children — two microphones mean less fighting and more singing.

There are plenty of karaoke apps that can pair with the machine’s bluetooth function, or kids can sing along with their favourite songs on the radio or YouTube.

A photo of a karaoke machine

Singsation All-In-One Karaoke System, $99.99, available at Costco.ca


Or you can unleash your kid’s inner artist with a fully stocked art supply kit that comes with a variety of crayons, oil pastels, paints, markers and more.

Any creative child will be excited to have so many supplies contained in one handy carrying case and is sure to spend hours creating pictures, cards and other works of art.

A photo of an art kit containing various supplies

150 Pieces Wooden Art Set, $59.79, available at Amazon.ca


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