Tuesday Tips: (trying to) raise good and healthy eaters

kids healthy eatingHow come some children are good, healthy eaters, and some are super picky and have a difficult relationship with food? Is it a matter of nature, or of nurture? I was recently chatting with my girls’ ballet teacher, a lovely lady of sixty-something, and she was telling me about her baby granddaughter, who basically refused to eat anything from the day she was born. She’s been in and out of hospitals, being fed with drips, feeding tubes in her nose, and all sorts of astronaut kinds of food. There doesn’t seem to be a physical reason that the baby is refusing to eat — the little girl simply has no interest, probably even an aversion, to food. (I can only imagine how difficult this must be for the baby’s parents.)

So we can’t say that difficult or picky eaters are always a product of their upbringing. I do however think that very often, our own attitude to and relationship with food is of an enormous influence on our children.

My own four children happen to be very good eaters. They are interested in food, they try new things, and are not overly picky or fussy. Probably my husband and I have partly been lucky, and we’ve partly been doing some things right.

Eating is a much debated and quite sensitive topic amongst parents. This weekend I was talking with some girlfriends after we just had lunch with our families. We were discussing how we raise our children, and what parenting choices we have made to help our children become the good eaters they are today. I thought this would be an interesting (but difficult) topic for our Tuesday Tips series, so I have made a list of tips that in my experience can help make eating a positive and fun part of the day. Here goes:

Involve the children in the dinner preparation. They can start helping at quite an early age. Tell them what you are doing, let them try the ingredients. Trust them with a knife — Ava has been making a really good Caprese Salad from the age of 4. Even Casper (2) chips in with cutting the mozzarella! Also: grow your own veggies if possible (even on the windowsill). Take your children shopping (f.e. to the (farmers) market), let them choose some food and prepare that food that evening. When your children have been actively involved in the dinner preparation, they will be more open to try and enjoy the food.

Eat with the children as often as you can. Sit at the table, and have a proper family dinner experience. Don’t turn the tv on (you could even argue to turn the music off). Dinner is a social experience, it’s about connecting with each other and sharing the pleasure of each other’s company and good food. Set the scene, make a nice table, use little bowls, napkins, light candles, etc

Don’t allow negativity about food, instead be positive and adventurous about food. Set the right example; don’t ‘dislike’ food yourself. If you love food, your children will love food. I’ve had children at my table who started to be negative as soon as I served the food on the table. ‘Oh, tomatoes! I hate those! Eeeks, I don’t eat brussels sprouts, they are disgusting!’ I personally don’t allow my children to use those kind of strong associations in connection with food. In general, I want my children to understand that the food that I buy, prepare and serve on our table, is good, healthy and delicious food. I don’t allow my children to be disrespectful to this food, or to the cook (me!) who has done her best to prepare a yummy meal.

Be relaxed about food. When introducing a new food — don’t overhype or over-react, be casual about it, make it a part of the regular eating experience. I also have experienced that some foods, which I expected my children not to like (sauerkraut, for instance, or olives), have been received with great enthusiasm. So instead of being doubtful (‘you can try, but you probably won’t like it’), be casual. You might be surprised!

Always encourage your child to try everything on the table. Don’t let them get away with ‘not liking’ something too easily. If my children, after positively trying the food, don’t like it, I ask them why they have difficulty with it — for instance, the food can be too spicy, too bitter, too salty, etc. I then try to get where they are coming from, and most often understand, but maybe we talk about how ‘too salty’ can also be good in combination with other things. Overall, this has made eating and trying food a more positive experience and a fun interaction.

If a certain food is disliked, just let it pass, but don’t ban it from your kitchen. Positively offer it to them again at other times. Encourage them to keep trying; their taste might change and chances are that at some point, they will (learn to) like it. Especially if they see other people enjoying that food!

When your kids don’t want to eat their dinner, that’s ok, but don’t offer a substitute.

Expose your children to different varieties of food from a young age. Don’t generally cook ‘child-friendly’ dishes for your children, serve them regular adult dishes with regular herbs and spices. (I personally believe that even during pregnancy it’s important to eat a variety of dishes!) Take your children to restaurants, and choose from the main menu (most restaurants will be happy to serve half of a main dish to a child, or split one main dish on two plates). Emilie told me that she encourages her children to be flexible in their eating so she can take them to friends places and she can travel with them and experience different cultures. She told me that she refuses to be a guest in someone’s house and have her child turn their nose up at a meal, so if her girls want to come, they will have to eat without making a fuss!

That’s it! I realise this is a tricky subject, so please remember that these are tips that stem from my own experience. I’m curious to find out what your family’s relationship with food is. What’s your attitude? What are your tips and routines?

xxx Esther

Triangular crayons!

Triangular crayons

Last week in New York we had dinner with the ever so sweet Annie from Brimful, and she brought us a few sweet and thoughtful gifts. One of them is a little container with crayons, which is nothing that special in theory, except for the fact that the crayons are triangular! How clever! Not only are they easier to hold for little toddler hands, but also, they won’t roll from the table to break on the floor. So simple, and yet such a major improvement. (The crayons Annie brought us are from P’kolino.)

xxx Esther

 

The Little Things… making pompoms for a spring branches bouquet

The Little Things, making pompoms for a colourful spring branches bouquet
For this The Little Things post, we’ve been making pompoms for an Easter Tree-inspired, spring branches bouquet. The great thing about making pompoms, is that it appeals to different ages, and both boys and girls absolutely love making them.

The Little Things -- pompom spring branches The Little Things -- pompom spring branches
Isn’t there a magical attraction to wool? The moment I pull my suitcase with yarn leftovers out, my kids are in for a treat!

The Little Things, mocking pompoms for a spring branches bouquet The Little Things -- making pompoms for a spring tree The Little Things -- making popmpoms for spring easter branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things -- making popmpoms for spring easter branches
There are two easy ways to make pompoms. For bigger pompoms, we cut out two times two circles of thin cardboard. You can just use a cup and an egg cup for example, to determine the shape. Layer both cardboard circles, cut through them so they have an opening to the centre, and start winding the thread around. The talented Sara from SakaDesign made a super handy (and very cute!) tutorial for us, that you can easily print if you would like to:

pompom tutorial

The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things -- making pompoms for a spring tree
We gave Ava and Juul, both 4 years old, a thicker yarn so they saw quick results. Pim and Sara used a thinner thread, and they also liked to use different colours for their pompoms. (Just cut the first colour and start winding with the second one.)

The Little Things, making pompom spring branches Juul’s little brother Mees was too small to make pompoms, but he was super helpful on his messenger bike, delivering the yarn to whoever needed it!

The Little Things -- making pompom spring branches TLT10 TLT11 The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches

Once there’s a thick layer of yarn around the cardboard shapes, you can cut through the sides, in between the two layers of cardboard. I took care of this part of the process, as it’s really a bit tricky to do.  It’s a kind of scary at first, but once I discovered that the cardboard keeps the yarn in place it was pretty easy. Then, secure the pompom by knotting a string of yarn around the middle, in between the two cardboards. Get rid of the cardboard. You can leave the ends of the yarn you used to knot the pompom together quite long so you can hang the pompom from the branches later.

The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches

The second method we used, to make cute, tiny pompoms, is even easier. You just use a fork, wind some thread around, then secure it by knotting around the thread through the middle tines of the fork. Cut the edges, and done!

The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches

You can make the pompoms more fluffy by holding them in the steam for a few seconds. (Be careful for the heat!)

The Little Things, making pompoms for a colourful spring branches bouquet The Little Things, making pompoms for a colourful spring branches bouquet The Little Things, making pompoms for a colourful spring branches bouquet

xxx Esther

PS – This is the newest post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you Maud Fontein for taking these beautiful photos, and Sara Musch for the handy download. Postman Mees’ adorable outfit is from La Coqueta, Ava’s dress is from Kallio, and Sara’s dress from Mabo Kids.

Our visit to Copenhagen, a few favourites

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The last weekend of February, Tamar and I (without our kids!) spent a few days in Copenhagen, the beautiful capital of Denmark, and we loved discovering this wonderful city. There’s just so much to appreciate — the beautiful architecture, slightly austere and with deep, beautiful colours. The very kind and handsome people. The amount of bikes! The food culture (no surprise that the best restaurant in the world is located right here). The sea, right there. And, of course, the design, apparent in each and every detail of society.

Here are a few of our favourite discoveries. I definitely recommend visiting Copenhagen — we definitely want to go back soon with our kids!

Hay House Copenhagen Hay House Copenhagen (more…)

Tuesday Tips: visiting museums with children

Museum visit with kids

My husband and I love culture and history, and one of our favourite (weekend) activities is to go to museums. When traveling to new places, but also when we’re at home here in Amsterdam, we love to discover the information and inspiration that museums can offer us. Our love for museums has certainly rubbed off on our children — when on a Saturday morning we sit at the breakfast table and we’re making plans for the weekend, the first thing that all of our children will want to do is to visit a museum!

I think the reason that they have grown to love going to museums as much (or maybe even more) than we do, is that during a museum visit both my husband and I really engage 100% with our kids. We take the time to explain the artefacts, art and content. We read the titles and descriptions of the artwork together, talk about it, look at colours, shapes and subjects, discover the meaning, find the connection between one piece and another, or link them with travels we’ve made, books we’ve read, things we’ve seen, etcetera. I think that our own enthusiasm, passion and eagerness to learn makes our children as enthusiastic, passionate and eager to learn as we are!

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Sometimes, I hear from other parents that they are unsure to visit museums with their children, that they’re afraid they will misbehave, will be bored or uninterested. And yes, sometimes it is definitely not a good museum day. But in my experience, most of the time they love it! Be it a museum of history, art, nature, objects or culture — there is always something to discover in a museum.

I have tried to write down some tips that I think are relevant when taking your children to a museum. Of course these tips stem from my own experience, and some museums are certainly easier to visit with kids than others…

  •  We like to visit museums early in the day if possible. When you have children, chances are big that you’re up before other people, and you can make it to the museums when it’s still reasonably quiet.
  • Don’t overstay — make the visit long enough to enjoy it, but not too long as to bore your children. We have a yearly national museum membership, so we don’t have to pay the entrance fee for individual visits. This way, we can visit a part of a museum, without having the urge to see everything as to make worth for our money. I’d rather only visit one room of a museum and really take the time to discover a few pieces well, than to end up tired and annoyed, with tired and annoyed children.
  • Make sure the children are well fed before your museum visit! Unless, of course, you would like to start your visit in the museum restaurant.
  • Make use of the toilet when entering the museum. I also prefer to hang our coats and put bags away in the cloakroom, so I don’t have to schlep them around, making it easier to bend or kneel down next to my children.
  • I think no props, books or tools are specifically needed for a museum visit — we love the time we spend with our children and the interaction we have with them. Also, when you discover the museum together, you know what the other one has seen and learned, and can refer to the experience at other times and locations. I’m not always crazy about specific children’s museum tours — we recently went to a museum where the kids were given a ‘find the artwork’ children’s tour, which had our children running through the museum, looking for a few specific pieces to cross of their list, and not even properly looking at those paintings, let alone the rest of the art! Having said that, some museum books or tours are great, and can also be a good tool to prepare your visit at home. (I find that audio tours can be fun and informative for older children, but I don’t think they work well for younger ones. Plus — you will miss out on the special interaction you will have with your children when discovering the museum together.)
  • Although it’s definitely easier to visit the more child-friendly sort of museums, we try to to visit the more ‘serious’ museums as well. Museums are for everyone! Also, I feel that it’s fine to repeat the museum visit. Museums are like books — our children don’t mind reading them over and over again. : )
  • Adjust your visit to your children’s speed and needs. If you would like to see a specific exhibition and for instance have the time to spend 20 minutes in front of a Rothko, then it’s best to come back another time without kids. Having said that, I did take all four of my kids to a Rothko exhibition a few weeks ago, and found that they all had an interest in the pieces (well, except Casper, who preferred to run around, despairing the guards and his mama! Hurray to my Iphone apps to keep him entertained for long enough!). Pim especially reacted remarkably to Rothko: he felt the paintings were really embracing him, and drawing him in. I’m sure he understood the art better than me.
  • Let the children be your guide — you will find they will indicate what pieces they find specifically interesting and start to direct your tour. For instance, my mother-in-law told me that she visited the Rijksmuseum here in Amsterdam recently with Casper and Ava, and that Ava was enthralled by a 17th century painting depicting cows on a ship. She thought that was amazing — cows on a ship! The rest of the visit they spent searching for paintings with cows. : )

museums with kids

What do you think about visiting museums? Do your kids love it? Do you have any tips to share? And, what are your children’s favourite museums? I asked my children, and Sara’s favourite is the Open Air Museum (one of my favourite too!), Pim likes the National Maritime Museum here in Amsterdam, and Ava said she simply loves all the museums in the world.

xxx Esther

PS First two photos were taken in the Egyptian gallery in the British Museum in London, the third foto shows my children in front of Rembrandt’s famous painting the Nachtwacht, here in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, together with Claire of Thinkingmuseum.com.

Pelle’s new suit, and some thoughts on clothing production

Pelle's New Suit children's book by Elsa Beskow Pelle's New Suit Courtney and I just came back from a little trip to New York, where we scouted venues for a NY ShopUp event (more later!), where we had lots of meetings with friends in the business (we’re so lucky to call so many of the brands and boutiques we work with our friends!) and where we visited the US edition of the Playtime fair, where we met even more wonderful friends. It’s always so fun to spend time in this bustling, busy city — I came back feeling full of great memories and inspiration! One of the friends we met in New York was Kirsten Rickert, an amazingly talented lady originally from Australia, who now lives in the US with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Kirsten is such a beautiful, pure lady; just have a look at her blog and her Instagram account. It was Kirsten who recommended the darling book ‘Pelle’s New Suit’  to us.

Pelle's New Suit‘Pelle’s New Suit’ is written by Elsa Beskow and was first published in Sweden in 1912. It’s a simple and sweet story with beautiful illustrations, taking place in a time before ready-to-wear clothing existed. Pelle is a little boy who owns a little lamb, and one day shears off all its wool. He then visits different relatives and neighbours in his small community village, asking them to help him with the different steps that are needed to transfer the lamb’s wool into a new suit (carding, spinning, dying etc.). In return, he will help his friends with different chores. For example, when his grandmother cards the wool for Pelle, he pulls the weeds from her carrot patch. When his mother weaves the cloth, he takes care of his baby sister. And when the tailor finally makes his suit, Pelle rakes the hay, brings in the firewood and feeds the tailor’s pigs. At the end of the story, when wearing his new suit, Pelle visits his lamb to show it his new suit and to thank it.

Pelle's New SuitIn our modern, consumer society, a piece of clothing is often mass-produced and simply picked up from a store. Sometimes the amount of money that is paid for clothing is so impossibly little, or so incredibly high… and many times it is discarding after a season, after a certain fashion is over. Or it is just valued for the brand it displays on its front. Clothing is often taken for granted, and there’s no ‘respect‘ for it — no real knowledge of the effort it took and the actions that were needed to create that piece of clothing. I love how this book describes the various steps of making a wool garment, the understanding of where the clothing actually comes from. I also love how it shows that when you don’t have the specific skills that are needed to do something yourself, you can ask others in your community to help you, and offer your help or skills in return.

Pelle's New SuitI hope that with the help of this little book (and trying to sew and knit as much as possible with my kids, passing on the skills that my mother and grandmother taught me), one day my children will be able to make a sensible and conscious decision when they will buy their own clothing… and that they will respect it and use it for what it entails. Anyway — so many words about fashion, reflection and values, all because of this sweet, beautiful little book. Thanks Kirsten, for the tip!

xxx Esther

PS Available through Amazon UK or US . I couldn’t find a large edition of the book, but if you can get your hands on that, Kirsten told me it’s so much better!

Tuesday tips: Open-ended play and evergreen toys

Evergreen Toys

Today for Tuesday Tips I would like to talk about toys. The kind of toys that I prefer in our house are the basic, evergreen kind of toys. I like toys that are well made, with a simple concept, that can be used and combined in different ways or played with in different settings. Toys that are beautiful to look at, as opposed to most plastic, brightly coloured and battery-operated toys.

I have always had a preference for these kind of toys; I remember telling my mum when I was pregnant with Sara ten years ago to please not give me any battery operated toys! Of course, plastic toys have occasionally entered the house… (and so has Hello Kitty!), but over the past nine years, I have really noticed that the toys my children play with most (if not exclusively) are those that encourage creative and social play, and are designed with ‘open ended play’ in mind. I just love watching my four kids play together, building houses, cities, and worlds, setting the stage for the different scenarios for their pretend play.

evergreen-toys-3 evergreen_toys1

I do agree that typical battery operated toys have great appeal to my children at first. They will love the sounds and colours and will be so easily entertained. Often, when the toy is first given to them, they will even fight over it (these toys are designed for the entertainment of the individual child, not with social play in mind!). However, very often my children will quickly lose interest in the toy, which consistently performs the same trick over and over again. So boring! The toy will end up standing in a corner somewhere until we decide to bring it to charity. Such a waste! Heirloom toys are not always the cheapest investments to make, but if you consider that they will be played with so much, for generations even, it’s all worth it. My children still play with some of my own childhood toys!

I thought it would be nice to write down a list of some tips for evergreen toys that have proven to be very successful in our household — toys that are played with by children of different ages and don’t lose their appeal, ever. I asked input from Emilie and Courtney and some of my friends, so this is very much their list as well. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about toys in general, and please do share your children’s favourite toys!

Toys we like (for inside play):

  • Wooden marble track: the perfect toy for all ages. Small children will like to play with the blocks and start stacking them (without the marbles of course), bigger children will build intricate tracks (and parents will gladly help).
  • Building blocks: stacking and building structures, but also great to combine with other toys (f.e. Schleich animals – build compounds, zoo, etc.) or just line them up. Any ordinary blocks will do (we also like this blocks set).
  • Dolls: Kathe Kruse and handmade Waldorf dolls look beautiful, but any good quality doll is fine. And some dolls’ clothes.
  • Doll’s bed: a simple fruit crate with some small towels will do, but a baby needs a bed, of course.
  • A sturdy dolls’ pram with little pillows and blankets. Invest in a good, sturdy dolls buggy and it will be played with forever.
  • Schleich animals: wonderful quality toys, they look beautiful and will be played with a lot. Great for all sorts of adventures.
  • Wooden play barn /house /dollhouse /structure: to combine with Schleich animals, Playmobil, all other little characters that children will find or create and need a place to live.
  • Lego & Duplo: building and inventing, creating. We love the original, plain blocks.
  • Puzzles (educational ones or just the old-fashioned jigsaws!)
  • Playmobil: we love the old-fashioned characters, great to mix with all sorts of other toys (see above).
  • Kapla: some of our favourite blocks for super creative tower-building (see building blocks).
  • Dress up clothes: some old shawls, hats, dresses and sunglasses and some pieces of fabric will get you very far. Let the children be creative – no need to invest in expensive dress-up outfits, which are much less imaginative anyway.
  • Train track: a simple wooden train track (Ikea) is great for all ages – a puzzle first, then a road, then it becomes a landscape (enter Schleich and Playmobil for surroundings)
  • Garage and cars: a wooden garage appeals to most children and it a great space to store the cars.
  • Nesting dolls: my kids love these! And they make great decor too.
  • Play kitchen & kitchen toys: a wine crate on the side with circles drawn on top makes a good enough play kitchen. And a little set of pots and some mini kitchen utensils will be played with loads. (Regular kitchen utensils are just as successful, BTW!)
  • Stacking cups: babies love playing with them, and all my kids still love them in their bath!
  • Wooden spinning tops: fun for everyone and they look pretty on your coffee table.

PS Like I mentioned above, these toys are mostly for indoor play — maybe we can share some favourite toys for outdoor play and some great baby toys later.

Something I noticed in Copenhagen…

IMG_1103Last weekend, Tamar (my husband) and I spent a few great days together in the wonderful capital of Denmark, Copenhagen. We really enjoyed our stay (albeit we had quite some rain!), and I’ll definitely share some of our favourite discoveries here very soon. In the meantime, I wanted to post about something fascinating I noticed in Copenhagen…

IMG_1102 IMG_1104Even though it rains a lot in Denmark, and it can also be quite cold in winter, the Danes believe it is super healthy for their children to spend most of their day outside. Every time a baby or young child naps during daytime, it sleeps outside. For this purpose, there are special prams that are much bigger than the practical pushchairs we tend to use here in the Netherlands (f.e. the Bugaboo). I was chatting to a mum and she told me that Scandinavian children consistently  sleep in their prams for daytime naps until they are at least three years old! It is generally believed this is healthier for the children, and also that they sleep much better outside. Amazing!

Even when it rains, the babies sleep in their prams. They all have a huge (black) cover that completely covers and protects the sleeping child. When out and about, and a child wakes up and wants to sit, there are are special banana shaped pillows to support it in the back. Also, prams (with the sleeping baby inside!) are often left outside of shops or cafés, while the parents shop, sip their coffees or have lunch inside.

Copenhagen parenting outdoor play rain suit IMG_1101Another thing I noticed, is that children of walking age all own a special one-piece ‘outdoor suit’. It’s like a thick, warm rain / snowsuit that is worn on top of the ‘indoor clothes’. I’m told that often, the ‘indoor clothes’ are very easy-to-wear: often these are leggings and long-sleeved tops or all-in-one jumpsuits, made out of cosy cotton jersey or thin wool knits. When the child goes outside, the ‘outdoor suit’ is simply put on on top of the cosy (and easy-to-layer) indoor wear. So practical! Even when it’s raining or snowing, Scandinavian children spend most of their day outside.

Tamar and I were so inspired by all of this. We pledged to take our children outside even more, and definitely be bothered less by ‘bad weather’. (We even went to a department store to check out the ‘outdoor suits’!) Because as the Scandinavian say — there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

xxx Esther

Petites Pattes, delightful baby socks

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baby socks petites pattes

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petites-pattes-4Petites Pattes are a UK based hosiery brand with just the cutest collection of baby socks imaginable. The brand’s philosophy is ‘to introduce an interactive experience between the customer and the product by offering unique designs’ and we can’t agree more — the darling patterns and colours, which can all be mixed and matched, are so sweet! Socks come in darling giftbox packages and make the perfect little baby present. And then there’s also a family gift box — how sweet is that?

Available through Scout & Co.

xxx Esther

PS we spotted Petites Pattes at Playtime Paris — read about more Playtime Paris favourites on the fabulous Pirouette blog!

Gommini Minigoms PlayScape

gommini minigoms playhouse gommini_2

Germany is in so many respects so much further with responsible and sustainable processing and production methods than many other countries here in Europe. There’s such a strong local manufacturing of eco products, with use of honest materials, but the research for new, innovative materials, which allow new product design and at the same time leave less of a footprint on this world, is a trend I’ve also been noticing in Germany. I’ve written about the admirable production processes of the German clothing label Macarons before, the wonderful eco-wines of Weinreich, but also toy manufacturer Gommini is such a company.
Gommini uses Valchromat for their toys, a high-quality, solvent free, wood-based material which contributes to an efficient and responsible environmental management and encourages sustainability. The products are then treated with a purely natural oil, resulting in a very smooth and pleasant feeling, ‘soft’ surface. I love the modern look of their products.

We gave our children the Minigoms play scene for Christmas — a selection of 2D buildings, landscapes and openings that can be assembled and combined in different ways. The toy is not offering a fixed scenario — it can be used in all sorts of manners, allowing for the input and creativity of the child. It can for instance be a stable for the Schleich animals, a garage for the cars, a city for the train track, a house for the Playmobil characters, etc. It’s been a grand success by all means — it’s easy to assemble, wonderful to play with for all ages, pleasant to look at, and easy (flat) to store.

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If you’re ever looking for an evergreen kind of playhouse for your children that will stand the test of time, then this Gommini Minigoms playscape is certainly something to keep in mind.

xxx Esther

Lennebelle, an interview and a little video

A few weeks ago, sweet Lenneke, from the gorgeous Dutch mother & child jewellery line Lennebelle, came over to our house with her husband Joey to shoot some photos and the little video above for her beautiful series ‘The Mama Stories’, in which she regularly interviews a mama about motherhood and her lifestyle choices. It was a really fun day, and I got a deep respect for Lenneke, who was 36 weeks pregnant with her second child at the time (now over 38 — I’m waiting for baby news!), and Joey, who is such a talented photographer / videographer. It’s so nice to get to know all these wonderful people through our job, entrepreneurs who seek the adventure and fulfilment of making something beautiful, and Lennebel is definitely a testimony of the talent and energy of the couple behind the brand.

I have shared some photos of the day below, you can see my children (and me!) wearing Lennebelle‘s beautiful bracelets and necklaces. And you can see more photos and read the interview here if you’re interested!

The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-2 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-11 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-15 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-49 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-51 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-3 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-25 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-1 zThe-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-1 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-48 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-41xxx Esther

 

Pretend play — and the past tense

pretend play

There’s something funny that I have noticed: when they pretend play, my children (and their friends) often use the past tense.

I’ll give an example. Playing goes something like this (imagine, in this case, lots of Playmobil characters and horses with accessories, and a completely engaged couple of friends, moving different horses and characters around):

[CHILD 1] I was the horse riding teacher at the manege, and you were the student… And I had the white horse… 

[CHILD 2] Yes, and I had this black horse, with this brown saddle, and the brown pony…

[CHILD 1] Yes, and I had the other black horse as well and the two grey ponies with these saddles…

[DISPUTE — change to present tense]

[CHILD 2] No! That’s not fair because now you have two horses and two ponies and I only have one horse and one pony, so I want to have one of the grey ponies with the saddle!

[CHILD 1] OK but I’m the teacher so I want to have the horse blanket for my horse then!

[CHILD 2] Alright then…

[RESUME — back to past]

[CHILD 1] OK so I had the white horse and the black horse with the blanket and the grey pony, and I was riding the white horse when you came for a lesson on your black horse and you said ‘Please teach me to galop and to jump over these hurdles?’

[CHILD 2] ‘Please teach me to galop and to jump over these hurdles?’  And then my horse saw your horse and they became friends, so their stable had to be located next to each other…

etc

It’s really such an interesting way of communicating, and I find it fascinating that they use this special past tense while negotiating their pretend activities and to outline the ‘stage’ in their pretend play. I even developed a little theory about it — I think that if in play, children use the past tense, it’s more of a ‘done deal’ (since it basically ‘happened’) and evokes less arguments. (In the case that it does, the argument are settled in the present tense, only to go back to the past tense quickly after.)

I also noticed that it seems to happen more in girls’ pretend play then that of boys– the above (fictional) example could well have been played by Sara and one of her girl friends, where Pim with a boy friend is more likely to build giant Lego rockets or marble tracks or dinosaur parks or things like that, without much discussion or negotiating at all. However, Pim and Sara can play together for hours, cleverly combine dolls and horses with knights, war and dinosaurs — and then they do use this special past tense then.

I just wonder — does any of you also recognise this phenomenon? Or is this something that just happens in our little family? I would love to hear more about it — I find it so sweet and funny!

xxx Esther

Laikonik Once A Year Books

Laikonik Once a year book

I have written about the beautiful Once A Year Books from Autralian company Laikonik before, but now that I’ve started Casper’s book, I thought I should share them again. They’re just so beautiful.

laikonik once a year book

The concept is simple: once a year, a photo can be placed in the harmonica-style notebook, and a little story can be written on the page behind, highlighting key events that took place that specific year. There’s space for 18 photos, and to see all of the portraits after each other will give such a sweet overview of the growth and development of the child.

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For Casper’s once-a-year book I got the special edition Once A Year Book which comes in a gorgeous wooden box and has beautiful letter-pressed covers featuring an owl or (in our case) a fox. I have Once A Year Books for all of my kids, and I think that once they’re 18 they will make such an amazing overview of their childhood! (They make very special newborn gifts too, especially this special edition with the wooden box and matching letter-pressed gift tag!)

xxx Esther

PS Laikonik kindly offers our readers a 10% discount– just enter code “LAIKONIKBABYCCINOLOVE” at checkout!

kidO magnatabs

kid O magnatabs
kidO magnatabs is an ingenious toy that works with little metal beads which are permanently sealed in the plastic magnatab base and a magnetic pen that brings the beads to the surface once you draw over the base. The geometric creations simply erase with your finger once you’re done. It’s incredibly simple, but it’s the kind of toy that my kids pick up all the time — Casper (2) loves playing with it as much as his big sister Sara (9) does.

kid O magnatabs

The kidO magnatabs are great for traveling as well — it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your luggage and will keep children perfectly entertained in the back of the car, the train or the plane. I got ours at the adorable brick and mortar children’s boutique Big & Belg here in Amsterdam, but Perfectly Smitten sells it online, or you can get it from Amazon (US or UK ).

xxx Esther

Tuesday Tips: Potty training

potty_training

This week for our ‘Tuesday’s Tips’ series, I would love to talk about potty training. Very soon, we will be potty training Casper (second try!), so I thought it would be good timing to dig up some potty training wisdom from my personal archives and share it here with you. And to hear your tips and thoughts, of course. (Please!)

I think the first and most important question raised with regards to potty training is:

When is the child ready?

So here’s what I have learned. Over the years, I have found out that there are quite a few cultural differences with regards to potty training. Compared to the UK, where the consensus seems to potty train around the age of two, here in the Netherlands parents generally seem to wait much longer – until around or after the third birthday, or until the child itself shows an active interest in the potty. Or, until there’s no time left to postpone longer! (At the age of 4 all children here in the Netherlands need to be potty trained in order to start school. The nursery teachers told me that even then, some children are still not fully potty trained — which must be such a huge burden on the poor teachers!)

Because we lived in London when our first babies were born, I followed the English way for Sara and Pim, and they were both successfully potty trained around the age of two. After we moved to the Netherlands, I stuck with this idea and Ava was also without nappies shortly after her second birthday.

In my experience, most children are ready to be potty trained around the age of two – in general, they are communicating well enough to understand basic commends and they understand the concept of potty training. They are open to new ideas, but are also still young enough not to overthink the whole idea. (I have heard stories of potty training being a long, emotional and stressful affair with older children).

Some indications that my children were ready to be potty trained included the ability to understand basic commands, the ability to pull down their own pants, and the awareness that something was happening in the wee and poo department. (Some of my children verbally communicated that they were weeing or pooing, and some simply got up from what they were doing and stood quietly in a corner – all indications that they felt it coming or at least that something was happening.)

To give you an idea about the exact age: Sara and Ava were potty trained within a month of turning two, Pim was not ready until about 4 months after turning two. Emilie’s girls, Coco and Vivi, were potty trained before they were 2 1/2 as well, and Courtney’s little girl Marlow, exceptionally, basically potty trained herself when she was 18 months! They do say that girls are a bit faster with things like this than boys, and I think you can generally say this is true.

On a completely different note, I’ve always been quite eager to get my children out of nappies sooner than later out of an environmental point of view. (Plus, nappies cost a heck of a lot of money too!)

How to prepare for potty training?

A few months before their second birthday, I put a potty in our bathroom and sat the child on the potty for a bit before their bath. Just to get them accustomed to the idea of the potty. We started to casually speak about the potty, read books, and play with dolls (and stuffed animals used the potty as well, of course). We’re all really easy going in our household (nobody closes the bathroom door when we’re on the wc) so we would talk about how mama or papa would use the wc, and of course the bigger siblings once they were there.

Then, we simply picked a weekend where we would ‘do it’. I think it’s best to choose a weekend where there’s little else going on, when you’re home, and you have your partner, a friend or family member around to help. In general, don’t mix major happenings if you can avoid it – so don’t take the dummy away when you’re potty training or around the time you’re expecting a new baby.

A note on the weather: I have potty trained my children in warmer and colder weather, and although it is generally perceived that it’s easier to potty train during the summer (just let the child run around without clothes), I don’t think that to be necessarily true. I think that it might be better to keep the child dressed, so he/she really feels the result of an accident. More of a hassle, maybe, yes, but I don’t think it’s best to wait ’til summer if your child is ready to be potty trained in winter.

What do you need?

Some items that are handy to have around before you start are:

– At least ten pairs of fun underpants for the child
– Plenty of easy-to-pull-down trousers with an elastic waistband, such as jogging pants or pyjama pants
– A few potties – depending on the size of your house, you may want one on each floor or in each bathroom
– A sticker chart with fun stickers – you can just make this yourself, it’s just a big sheet of paper with squares on it. One sticker for a wee in the potty, two for a poo!
– Two buckets prepared with soapy water: one to soak dirty underwear and clothes, and another used to wipe the floor clean
– A portable potty and wipe-clean shoes such as Crocks or Native shoes, for when you’re out and about

So how does the process work?

I strongly believe that the most successful way to potty train quickly and successfully is to go ‘cold turkey’. Which means, take the nappy off, and don’t put it back on unless you put your child to bed. No pull-down nappies, no nappy when you go to the grocery store or music class, no matter how tempting it is. Yes, there will be accidents, a lot of them! But I really think that this way, you’re giving the child a very clear and non-confusing message that a change has occurred and that it is time to adapt: no more nappies.

So on Saturday ‘potty training’ morning, immediately after the child woke up, I immediately took the nappy off and replaced it with the cool big kid underwear (make a big fuss! so exciting!) and set the child on the potty.
The key is to put the child on the potty every 10 to 15 minutes on the first days. We always sat next to the child in the beginning to keep them entertained, reading books (I like the classic books from Alona Frankel for boys or girls ) or watching little films on the Ipad. It’s pretty full on! (This is why it’s nice to have some help around during the first days.)
And, in our case, the first days, most of the poos and wees actually happened next to the potty, so it was pretty frustrating as well. (And yes, it was so very tempting to put that nappy back on!)
But, perseverance and patience was always rewarded, and there were more and more successful attempts. When there was a wee, we made a big fuss about it (cheering and applause!), and we let the child participate in pouring the wee in the toilet, we let the child flush and wave bye bye. And of course, we put a sticker on the sticker chart!

If there was no wee, we would remain encouraging and just try again a little later. In case of accidents (many!), we remained positive but at the same time we made clear to the child that this was not the place were the wee belonged.

When you feel things are absolutely not working well after the first days trying, just go back to nappies for a few weeks and try again later. I’ve heard that some children simply don’t have the muscle control to hold their wee even at two years of age. Or they’re not mentally ready — when we first tried a few months ago, Casper hated the idea of the potty so much that he absolutely refused to sit on it so we quickly abandoned the idea. Now, he actually thinks the potty is really cool, so time for a second try (he turned two back in October). So if it doesn’t happen the first time, don’t fret! Simply take a break and try again in a month or two.

How long does the process take?

For my kids, the first days it seemed that they were just not getting it. I would dutifully sit next to them every 15 or so minutes, but still most of their wees would end up on the floor. By day three, I was so frustrated and so very tempted to put that nappy back on… But, magically, after a few days, they started to suddenly get the idea. So I’ve learned to hang in there! When the child started to really wee on the potty (in my experience by day 3 or 4), I could make the potty intervals longer, and things would really get easier. About a week after the start, my kids were all pretty much potty trained.

And I say pretty much, because there would still be the occasional accident, but less and less of them. And in the beginning, we would still have to very regularly remind the child to think about the potty. Also – in the beginning they would tell me they needed to go, but wouldn’t be able to hold it up very long, so we would need to act fast. But they have always learned very very fast!

What to do for naps?

Some kids can be potty trained during the day for years before they master holding their wee overnight. So for nap time and nighttime, we always put the nappy back on. When we saw that the nappy would be consistently dry after the day nap, we would start trying without. And then eventually, when the child would be ready, we would try without during the night as well. (Waterproof bedding is really helpful during that period.)

Out & about

Although it’s probably handier to stay around the house the first few days of potty training, there is no need to stay housebound during the rest of the process. Just make sure that when you leave the house, you have at least one change of clothes including shoes that can be wiped clean, and a plastic bag for the dirty laundry. We always brought a little potty on the road (for Ava, someone gave us a portable potty and it was brilliant!) because in the beginning of the potty training process, little children can not keep in their wee for very long, so if they need to go, they need to go! Right where you are! (On the pavement if necessary!)

Daycare

If your child attends daycare, I really believe that the staff should respect your choice and parenting method and should be willing to accommodate your efforts and work with you on potty training your child when you think it’s the right time and the child is ready.

Fallback

All my kids (and I hear it from friends too) have had a fallback about half a year after we potty trained them. For a few days (up to a week!) they start wetting their pants again! It’s crazy, but it just takes a few days and then they ‘get it’ again. I’m not sure why this happened, but it did!

So… that was a long story, but I felt it would (or could?) be helpful to write it all down. Of course these are just my experiences, and every child, and family, and parent is different. This weekend we’ll be potty training Casper, and we will see how it goes this time around!

xxx Esther

A quick morning make-up solution

DayWear2 DayWear

With four children to get ready in the morning for their school and daycare, lunch boxes to prepare, gym bags to collect, my mornings are a bit hectic to say the very least.  Most of the time my husband drops the kids off to school on his way to work (all of them piled up on the bakfiets!), but when I do the school run, there’s not much time (like none) to apply any make-up before we run out the door. Enter Estée Lauder Daywear Sheer Tint Release Moisturiser, a one step morning solution I swear by. If there’s no time for anything else, this cream will make my skin look smoother and more radiant. It works a little like magic — it goes on without colour, but when you apply it the tint and glow will magically appear on your skin! That, and some lip balm, leaves me feeling just that little bit more pulled together. In less than ten seconds.

As always, I’m very curious to find out about great, easy-to-use beauty products that have a nice, natural effect. Please share your favourites?

xxx Esther

Brio labyrinth game, suitable for 6-99 years!

brio labyrinth toyThis labyrinth game by Brio was one of the presents we gave Pim for Christmas and it was such an immediate success. During the courses at our Christmas dinner that evening, the kids were literally fighting over it, together with their grandfather (see photo!). So the fact that Brio markets this toy as suitable ‘for 6 to 99 years’ is really spot on : ).

brio labyrinth game

The classic labyrinth game was introduced in 1946, and it’s all about fine motor skills, reactivity and… patience. The little ball is balanced by turning the two knobs at the side simultaneously to keep it from falling in one of the holes. Different levels can be chosen by inserting a different board.

It all sounds really easy, but it’s much, much harder than you think!

xxx Esther

Pim’s bed, and wonderful Jim Flora wallpaper

wallpaper

wallpaper_2

Last weekend, my husband and I did something new for both of us: we wallpapered a wall. We learned a lot about measuring, cutting, and patience, and got to deeply respect the skills of professional wallpaperers. But after hard labour I’m proud to present the results: the wall behind Pim’s bed is covered in gorgeous blue wallpaper! Pim picked this design, featuring original drawings by the late Jim Flora, because he loves music and plays the trumpet. So it’s perfect.

wallpaper_1

I love the quirkiness and originality of the wallpaper design, and the dark colour makes his bed really stand out. The bed is made of brass and antique, we found it in France last summer, stuck in a corner somewhere at a ‘Vide Grenier’. The plexiglass Star Wars sign was found on the street when we lived in New York 13 years ago, before we were married and had children. We stored it all this time, until we had sons who would appreciate it in their room! I found the bedside table on the streets here in Amsterdam, and it displays all of Pim’s little treasures. (He is such a hoarder!) The house shelves were an investment I made a few years ago for the old room, and we still love them. The badger rug is from Molly & the Wolf.

xxx Esther

Everyday is a party! Gorgeous leather crowns from hubble + duke.

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My kids had a little party on our bed this weekend (like most weekends), and they were being so cute, wearing their leather crowns from Hubble + Duke, that I just had to take a few photos. And then, I even got them to sit still just long enough for a portrait! Yay!

Hubble + Duke crowns

Hubble + Duke is an Australian company run by three creative mums, offering some gorgeous goodies like soft mocassins, sweet rompers, adorable bloomers, and beautiful handmade apron dresses. And then, of course, there are the before mentioned crowns, which are so beautifully made and so comfortably soft. To be worn for dress up, birthdays, or just any day, because everyday is a party, isn’t it?

xxx Esther

Pretty stamps from PSikhouvanjou

PSikhouvanjou PSikhouvanjou_3
As a child I always loved stamps, but I remember them as something that belonged to teachers, not really to children. These days, I’m free to play around with stamps as much as I want to and I’m loving it. My inner child released!

PSikhouvanjou_2 PSikhouvanjou_)1

These pretty stamps are from PSikhouvanjou, and designed by talented designers Ingela P Arrhenius and Andrea Maasen. They’re darling to use to create gift wrap, cards, tags, or just about anything that requires a special detail.

xxx Esther

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