We are on holiday! Yes! But I need to work the first week, which is not so fun. So my girls have been going to mini holiday ateliers which you can find all over Paris — little art classes and theatre classes that teach kids essential survival skills like making shadow puppets. Not a skill useful to have during an apocalypse but, none the less, a great skill to have if you want to design your own characters and put together your own little plays.
All you need is cardboard paper (preferably black), scissors, some tape, some skewers and some imagination. Cut out the characters and props and tape on a skewer (you might want to cut off the sharp tip). Hang up a white sheet and shine a lamp at it. You then make the shadow puppets appear between the lamp and the sheet.
Voila, a shadow show can commence. Also if you need some inspiration, do have a look at the French silhouette aninmation film, Prince and Princess.
P.S To all those Paris dwellers out there: the atelier my daughters went to was at Attrape Nuages a brilliant little theatre school in the 11e arrondissement!
I think it is a classic to make puppets out of socks. But it is something we have never done at home. Last weekend we finally did it and it is a nice way to spend an evening. It is a really easy DIY and very fun. I very much like changing “normal” things into toys.
Simple but fun! And great for all the free time during wintery afternons!
We love the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. It is still one of those books my kids request at bed time, or.. even now I’ll catch my older kids reading it to the younger ones. So, you can imagine how excited they were when this puppet set arrived from AlexandAlexa last week. I have now watched about 50 re-enactments of the story, all told with the various puppets. The kids are actually becoming expert puppeteers — they set themselves up behind the sofa and tell the story using the silliest accents.
The puppet set is by The Puppet Company and the puppets are really impressive. The troll puppet is large and the details are really nice, and I like that you can either move his mouth or his arms so that he can really come to life. There are other puppets and sets too (like The Three Little Pigs) and also a puppet theatre (for if your kids get tired of using the sofa).
Little Puggle is a brand new website offering a monthly subscription service for craft activity boxes to be sent to your door. Each box is filled with crafty and cool activities, DIY art kits and all the necessary materials (scissors, paints, glue) for making your creations. When you sign up, you can fill out your child’s details and interests and receive boxes which tailor to your child’s interests (trains, animals, fairies, etc). I recently tested out the service and it’s fantastic — I spent an entire rainy afternoon with the kids making puppets, blowing up balloons and creating animal heads, painting, sticking, colouring, and playing.
I will say… that because I’m already quite a crafty mum (I was joking the other day with a friend that my craft cupboard is bigger than my clothes closet!), this isn’t a service which I really need. But for busy mums who don’t have the time (or interest) in sourcing craft supplies and activities for their kids, this is the perfect solution. It offers craft inspiration as well as all the materials, so it takes the hard work out of being creative with your children. You can sign up to receive the Little Puggle boxes here. (I also think they make great gifts!)
PS – You can now receive 15% off at Little Puggle — details here.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Curious?
A friend gave my daughter these fun non-toxic crayons for her third birthday. I wish I’d known about them sooner! They are wildly entertaining as you can color with them, stack them into towers, turn them upside down and pretend they are ice cream cones, and put them on little toddler hands as extra colorful finger puppets. I always carry a box around to keep Elodie occupied during those in-between moments when she is starting to get restless. Such a fantastic little gift!
Last weekend, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the girls and I made popcorn, wrapped up in blankets and settled down to watch Fantastic Mr Fox. Have you seen it? It is turning into one of our all-time favourite movies. So many things are great: the script, the action and George Clooney’s voice! Plus, it works for kids and for adults — there are not that many movies around that my kids and I all equally enjoy, but this film works on many different levels. I read the book when I was a kid and the film captures the essence of the book perfectly. The clever fox outwitting the nasty farmer is a story that works well, especially when animated with fabulous puppets.
Coming into winter does have advantages — I would feel too guilty in the summer spending a Sunday afternoon watching a movie, but when it’s cold outside, I reckon it is completely justified!
Stockholm is SUCH a cool city. I have been only a few times, but each time I felt an urge to move there (and not many cities do that to me!). It’s beautiful, it’s trendy, it’s kid-friendly, most people speak English, and it’s always voted one of the best cities for families to live… so it must be true! I recently met up with the lovely Britt Hanson, freelance illustrator, one half of the husband-and-wife duo behind fanfamfun blog and beautiful mama of two, and she had me green with envy over her recent three-year stint in Stockholm. I asked her to write a family-friendly guide to the city, and thankfully she obliged. Here is Britt’s guide complete with her own cute illustrations…
It’s horrible. It really is an awful place to visit. Hungry polar bears have even been known to roam the streets looking for food! There, that should do it. That should keep this geographical gem off the radar of the visiting hordes.
Ok, I’ll come clean. Stockholm is one of the most beautiful (and clean) cities in the world and we absolutely love visiting. I should also mention, we’ve lived there for three years. So what’s so special about it? Isn’t it cold, dark and miserable? It’s cold and dark in the winter, but oh so beautiful. And even more beautiful in the summer.
This is a city built on fourteen islands at the mouth of a lake and the Baltic Sea. These islands continue out to the Stockholm archipelago, where you’ll find around 30,000 more islands and islets that will literally charm your socks off. So, there’s water here, there and everywhere. What else? Do acres upon acres of parks and greenery take your fancy? Not forgetting culture, fine architecture, fashionable people and cutting edge design amidst this sea of blue water and ever so green greenery. And to top all this off, it’s as child friendly as a cuddly toy polar bear.
Here are our favourite places to have some fantastic family fun.
- Stockholm Waterfront Walk – Take a stroll from the edge of Södermalm where it meets Slussen. As you walk across Slussen to Gamla Stan you can see Lake Malaren on your left and the Baltic sea on your right. Walk along the waters edge around Gamla Stan (the tourist friendly old town that’s also a must see destination), towards Kungstragarden, Take in some magnificent architecture along the way, this includes The Royal Palace, The Grand Hotel and the National Museum. You’ll also come across local fishermen catching salmon. When you reach Nybrokajen (the harbour with lots of tourist tour boats), follow the arc of the dock around and meander slowly down the beautiful tree lined avenue, Strandvagen. There are many landmarks to see as you approach the bridge that goes across to the island of Djurgarden. Once on Djurgarden you’ll find lots to see and do. This really is a wonderful way to see the city.
- Gamla Stan – You go back in time when you stroll around the narrow cobbled streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town). This is the original Stockholm, most of the buildings are from the 1700’s. It’s a wonderful island to stroll through and pick up some tourist gifts. You might want to bring your Babybjorn on this trip, small stroller wheels really struggle on the very old cobbled streets. Be warned, it can be very touristy, but it’s well worth a visit. And if you’re lucky enough to be here around Christmas time be sure to visit the Christmas market at Stortorget square.
- Modern Museet – Get inspired at the beautiful modern museum on the island of Skeppsholmen. It has one of the world’s finest collections of 20th and 21st century art. Make sure to visit on Family Sunday, there are fun and educational tours and workshops where your little ones create art inspired by the collections they’ve just seen. When you’ve got your fill of art, take a walk around the island and see all the house boats and views to many impressive landmarks.
- Fotografiska – The Photographic Museum is new to Stockholm. It’s one of the worlds largest photography museums with some of the worlds biggest names showing. The building is next to the water front and views from the cafe are worth a visit alone. So take in a few floors of photos, even if some of the photographs are a bit racy it’s a great place for kids to spend a few hours and learn about art.
- Sightseeing Boat Tour – See Stockholm from a boat. It’s a wonderful way to explore this city of islands. There are many different tours you can choose from, but the Hop on Hop off is probably the best way to go. Kids love taking a boat trip! If you don’t get a chance to take a boat tour, at least take the ferry from Djurgården to Slussen.
- Sergels Torg – Feel the buzz of the city at Stockholm’s central point. Sergels Torg is made up of a very large pedestrian plaza with an iconic black and white triangular pattern. The plaza is surrounded by a busy roundabout with a tall glass obelisk at its centre. Three busy streets converge and there is lots of shopping and the imposing building Kulturhuset (www.kulturhuset.se) and the Stockholm City Theatre. (more…)
According to my friend, Marika, who is a regular visitor — Boston is an absolutely fantastic city to visit with kids because it is jam-packed with things to do for the whole family, regardless of age and interest. It’s also super easy to get around town, either on foot or by public transport. The centre of the city is tiny and most sights are within walking distance of each other.
Marika lives in London and has two daughters. She also travels more than any other friend I have! She and her family (photographed below) have just returned from another family visit to Boston and she has kindly written down a weekend guide for us. Makes me want to take the kids to Boston — there’s so much to do and it all sounds incredible.
I love Taro Gomi’s illustrations and we’ve always enjoyed his books (My Friends, Bus Stops and Everybody Poos) so I was really interested when I discovered Taro Gomi’s Play All Day activity book. Since then, I have bought it for everyone I know — I feel like I’ve found treasure! The book is basically the BEST book in the world for a rainy day (which we are prone to over here in Blighty).
It is cram-packed with things to make and pretty much everything you need is already in the book. There are more then 100 innovative ‘punch-out’ pieces for making games, cities, landscapes, sculptures, hats, finger-puppets, picture frames and all in Gomi’s distinctive style. All the ideas are simple enough for my 4-year-old to construct with a little bit of guidance. But what I love (other then the end result actually looking good — unlike our ’start-from-scratch’ craft ideas) is that all the ideas inspire play — we made the ring-toss game last night and once made my kids played with it for 45 minutes. It’s available from Amazon (UK and US).
Cute, this mini theatre! Especially since it features the characters of Little Red Riding Hood — my kids’ favourite fairy tale and one they know by heart (I do too). It features four adorable woollen little finger puppets and a cardboard theatre. What a wonderful little gift (and it comes flat-packed so it’s perfect to send overseas as well). One for the gift drawer!
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Suga Candy Kitchen
• Sweet, from Sweden: adorable onesies from Sture & Lisa
How cute are these designs?! They’re inspired by 1950’s finger puppets… and are part of a 6-piece Marionette Card Set from Darling Clementine. Cute for children’s birthday cards or stationery. (I think I’m going to hang my set up on a wall in the kids’ room!) Darling Clementine is a new-to-me design studio or ‘paper empire’ as it says on their site. Check out all of their designs — I also love the Noel Darling Christmas cards.
(First seen on the Famille Summerbelle blog)
Here in the UK we get free dental care when we are pregnant and for a year after the baby is born. I knew when I was pregnant with my second child that there was something wrong with one of my teeth and I was right — I needed a root-canal. Scary! It had to happen after the baby was born and took 6 (yes that is S-I-X!) sessions to complete. Now I think the dentist did a good job but the experience was pretty shocking. The place was like a flashback to the dentists I went to as a child in the early eighties — the same furniture, the same smell, the same vinyl coated weird chair to sit on, the same bright lighting, the same ‘trying to be all smiley and friendly’ posters telling me to brush my teeth. I could not imagine taking my tiny children to a place like this to check their teeth; they would immediately know something was up — this is not a place where good things happen. Definitely not.
Sandra Monat lives in Germany and is a full time artist. She uses fabric, paper and thread for her collage-like creations. Her adorable, pillow-like puppets are one-of-a-kind, but she also produces some of her designs in small editions, like the plates, some correspondence cards and prints. All of them are equally adorable and equally tempting to get your hands on them before they’re sold out…
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Greekalicious
Aren’t these bunny finger puppets just darling? Cute for your kids’ Easter basket, or just for a bit of creative springtime play. And easy to make too… even for sewing novices like myself (no sewing machine required).
I think I’m going to give it a go. Just have to pick up some cute felt…
p.s. Thanks to Sarah for the tip.
What is it about puppets? I feel like there isn’t a single kid out there who doesn’t love them. My boys were each given a Folkmanis hand puppet for Christmas last year and it was by far their favourite gift. In fact it was the one toy they insisted we bring with us on our trip to Australia — which means we traveled around the globe with an alligator and a shark in tow!
Anyway, I can surely vouch for the quality of the puppets and also the appeal, as my kids carried those puppets everywhere and never got bored of playing with them.
Folkmanis is an award-winning American company which has been making puppets since 1976. They now offer more than 200 different puppets, all carefully detailed to look like realistic creatures. Which means there’s a puppet for every child’s special interest, from sharks to birds to bugs…
Dissatisfied with the array of uninspiring, mass produced toys on the market (which, many parents will attest, often fail to offer more than temporary interest) the very clever team at Seedling wanted to create a ‘meaningful’ and ‘inspiring’ gift which would ‘encourage simple homegrown skills that allow a child’s mind to grow and develops their creativity’.
And these kits do just that! Having bought several kits for my nieces’ birthdays and my children having each received a kit, I can testify that they offer good old-fashioned hands on experiences. Brown recycled paper bags stuffed with educational tools and real materials that teach new skills — that don’t require batteries and aren’t made of plastic. It amazes me how something so simple can in fact be so innovative. The kind of product you come across and immediately think – now why didn’t I think of that?
The array of activities available is in fact so impressive that the biggest dilemma is choosing which ‘kit’ to buy.
When you have a child with a particular obsession or interest, it’s funny how we as parents feed it. I have a son whom, as you know, is wild about sea creatures. It’s not the usual temporary phase (you know… one month dinosaurs, the next month trains), but one that has lasted for well over a year now. The boy is obsessed. So, of course I’ve given him every book you can possibly find about whales, fish, sharks, etc. The boy has every Schleich sea creature they make, and we continue to feed his curiosity with new and educating products.
This Whale Tales shadow puppet kit by Orange Moon Toys is the most recent addition to his sea creature collection, and it is by far one of our favorites! The kit includes six different whales, a set of movable and removable puppet sticks, and a fun fact card which gives a brief description of each whale. (more…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• aMAISing!
This past weekend was cold and wet, which is probably the worst weather combo ever! It made for a weekend spent mostly inside, which meant my husband and I were forced to be creative to keep our boys entertained.
Making hand puppets turned out to be a brilliant idea, because we spent about an hour immersed in our craft project, and then the boys spent the rest of the afternoon playing with their new ‘toys’. They were totally thrilled!
The puppets are easy to make, and there’s really no rhyme or reason to them so you can’t go wrong. (You can see we were inventive — that hippo looks like a cross between a walrus and a blue dog!) They can be as simple, or as detailed as you make them. All you need is some colored construction paper, a glue stick and scissors. (more…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• H&M School Uniform
Tired of the toys wandering around in the Hervé Chapelier shopping bag I tend to use as a nappy bag, a couple of years ago (when I had only one child and thus more time on my hands), I started making little bags out of cute left-over fabric. The purpose of these little bags was to hold a handful of toys to bring to restaurants or on journeys — to keep my toddler entertained and my head cool.
When my girlfriends saw me, being so super organized with my little cloth bags, they fell from their chairs out of admiration for such highly innovative ideas and amazing skill work . They all wanted me to sew them little cloth bags for their nappy bags (which I did, of course — sigh). The bags were quickly baptized ‘restaurant bags’, and we all started to bring them to restaurants, or on our travels. (more…)