Tuesday Tips: Bringing up children Bi-lingually

IMG_8495Having bi-lingual children is great — it is so impressive to see them jump from one language to the other seamlessly. For our Tuesday Tips series I wanted to jot down a few things I have learned about bringing up children with two languages (though I am by no means an expert). I hope they help and I would love to hear your tips and your experiences!

I was born in Germany to a French mother and an Irish Father who had met in San Diego. So we were tri-lingual: I went to a German school, my brother and I spoke German together (and still do), but my father spoke English to us and my mother spoke French. It was a great experience and something I am so grateful my parents insisted on, because, my gosh, I really rebelled as a kid. We were living in this teeny village in Germany and I did not want to be different from all the other kids. But every time I answered back in German to my mother, she did not answer me until I repeated myself in French… so I did not have the choice!
Interestingly, I have always gravitated towards English. I moved to England to study right after finishing high school, so English is now my most dominant language and the language I naturally felt the most comfortable speaking to my children.

My two daughters are now also totally bi-lingual, but the circumstances are very different to my German childhood. We live in a huge cosmopolitan city and, though the kids go to the local primary school (and speak French, of course), they have always had at least two other Anglo-speakers in their class and numerous bilinguals from all across the world. It is so normal for them to speak two languages, they don’t even think about it.

So here are a couple of tips:

  • Stick to the one language you have decided to speak to your child – Of course there will be moments when you will have to switch (homework for example), but it is important to stick to one language and build up a relationship with your child in that language. I read somewhere that a child needs to be exposed at least 30% of their waking time to an environment where the foreign language is spoken to be able to learn the language properly.
  • Build a network – one of the things that has been really helpful for us here in Paris is to have an English speaking network of friends. Joining the local Anglo parenting Network helped a lot. The children have grown up together and still speak in English to each other, though, when they are with French friends, they will swap back to French. It means that it feels normal for them to speak to other children, not only adults, in English even when in their home city.
  • Don’t listen to and don’t worry about myths – I have been told that bringing up my children with two languages may delay their development or might even give them a speech impediment. Total nonsense if you ask me. As long as your children are thriving and happy, I don’t see a single reason why speaking two languages should harm them. And in all cases, the benefits outweigh any potential downside.
  • Books and Films – I mostly read books in English to the girls to counteract a whole day of French in the classroom. Again it is also interesting to expose them to a different culture via books. When we watch films, we watch them in the original language they were filmed in. We also have the international BBC Iplayer to watch nature documentaries etc. in English and Netflix if we want to have a movie night and watch a film.
  • Travel – We are lucky, as we are only a short plane ride away from my family in Ireland and a train ride away from all our friends in London. Traveling to English speaking countries is really helpful as there is nothing better than emersion once in a while to develop language skills. It also helps for my children to put their second language within a context. They read books about children wearing uniforms to school, riding double decker buses and eating fish and chips, but there is nothing like being able to see and understand the culture of the language you are learning with your own eyes.
  • Reading and Writing and Music – For Coco, who is nine now, learning how to read and write in English has opened a new world to her. Again so much of learning a language is also getting to know a different culture. Listening to the lyrics of songs, reading books and also writing has been a massive step. Interestingly she has never had a formal class in English but, because of learning how to read phonetically in her French school, she managed to teach herself how to read in English.
  • Ideally I would love to send my kids to live in a host family abroad when they are 16 or 17 for 6 months. I did this when I was 17 and lived in the USA for 6 months. It not only improved my English a lot, but also it was an amazing experience to get to know a different culture.

The photo above is of my kids on yet another little trip away to Ireland. The moment they get onto the plane, they start speaking English to everyone around them.

Easter Craft: Hen Egg Cups

egg carton hen
Easter holidays are here and I’ve prepared a new Easter craft for you. This one I absolutely love because it’s so very simple that even very young children can make it, and it takes very little time to finish so it’s also perfect for those types of kids that can’t stay still for very long, like my Tila. She loved this craft and has even made one for her (boy)friend from school! (Also, it’s a great way to make use of all the left-over Easter eggs.)

Hen Egg Cups
Things you need are:
-Egg carton (you can only make 2 chicks from one carton)
-Orange and Red Crafting Paper
-Feathers (I used white and yellow)
-Wiggle Eyes (or black paint)
-Scissors
-Crafting Knife
-Glue

Hen Egg Cups
1. Cut out the edge part of the egg carton like on the photo
2. Trim the excess around the upper edge
3. Take the red paper and cut a comb (or as we call it – the crown) and an orange beak (shape of rhombus, folded in half). Check the width of the top of your cardboard’s peak for the comb first and then about a centimeter below the top for the beak. And make both a few mm narrower to leave a little room for the edges. Cut notches the notches to fit the comb and the peak
4. Put a little glue at the bottom of both pieces
5. Insert them into slots and either glue on wiggle eyes or draw them on.
6. Put a generous amount of glue on the inner side of the back part (where the should be) and glue feather on.

Now wait for it to dry and insert an egg! Give it away or not 😉

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Tuesday Tips: The Dummy Fairy

Marlow sleeping with dummy

The ‘Dummy Fairy’ came to our house last week and flew off with all of Marlow’s dummies! And just like that our baby became a ‘big girl’ (no more bottles, no more nappies, no more dummies!). Marlow went to bed that evening telling all of us that she’s a big girl now — she hopped into bed, fell asleep quickly and hasn’t asked about her dummies ever since! Indeed, a very big girl (sob!).

All four of our babies used dummies, so this is the fourth time the Dummy Fairy has visited our house, and in all four cases I was surprised by how easy a transition it was. I think it’s one of those things that we build up in our minds to be worse than it really is: we worry how they’ll ever fall asleep, that it will mess up their good sleep habits, we worry they will cry for hours and become very unsettled or that they’ll find another emotional attachment to replace the dummies, etc. As with any big transition, whether it’s sleep training, potty-training, weaning, or taking bottles away, I think it must be very natural for mothers to overthink and dread it, but in my experience I’ve found that it’s almost always easier than we anticipate it will be. Perhaps it’s actually us mothers who aren’t really ready? (Although in our case it’s definitely Michael who is the bigger softie. I think he would have let Marlow keep her dummies well into her teenage years! Ha!)

Because it’s fresh in my mind, I thought I would share some simple tips for taking away dummies (or bottles, even) and making it a smooth and easy transition. NB: we’ve always gone down the Dummy Fairy route, but there are other ways too that don’t involve a fictional fairy (like the concept of the ‘dummy tree‘ in Denmark and Sweden, or the idea of ‘giving’ dummies to another baby who needs them more, or Esther’s idea of leaving the dummies in the Christmas tree and asking Santa to replace them with gifts!). Here are my tips:

  • I think the most important thing is to get your child excited about the idea and to be really honest and direct with them. Start casually talking about the dummy fairy (or dummy tree, etc.) and mention that they’re getting so big and don’t really need a dummy anymore. Be really positive about it — make them feel like it’s a really cool thing to be too big for dummies! You can even discuss the benefits of being so big — like eating with the ‘grown up’ cutlery, choosing their own outfits, sitting in big chairs, eating without a bib… whatever it is!
  • If you have bigger kids, start talking to them about it too. Get their support in encouraging the little one.
  • Think about timing: don’t do it during any other transitional period, or if they’re sick, or if you’re traveling or if you have visitors in town, etc. (I always like to do these sorts of things on weekends when I know I have my husband home and we can do it together and when our sleep schedules are more relaxed.)
  • Talk to your child about the dummy fairy. Discuss that you’ll be giving away ALL of the dummies and won’t get them back. Write a card/draw a picture for the dummy fairy together (we usually write something like ‘Dear Dummy Fairy, please come and collect my dummies. I’m so big now – I don’t need them anymore!’).
  • Collect all the dummies in the house (don’t forget any strays!) and stick them in a paper bag with the card. Stick it somewhere special for the fairy to find (we hung ours on our front door) and hope the dummy fair comes to collect them (this is where the husband comes in handy).
  • In our case, the dummy fairy collects the dummies and leaves behind a small gift and a note saying how proud she is. I’ve found that giving a cuddly toy or something they can take to bed with them is a good idea because it gets them excited to go to bed and distracts them from the missing dummies — it also offers them something to grab for in the night if they wake and would normally reach for their dummy. (Although the boys got Schleich animals from the dummy fairy, and it really didn’t matter that it wasn’t so cuddly. : ))
  • Don’t make too big of a fuss about it — try to be very straightforward. Put them to bed as usual without mentioning the dummies, kiss them goodnight and walk out of the room. If they ask for their dummy, just remind them that the dummy fairy took them away because they’re a big girl/boy now. I think the key is to be firm on your decision, don’t wobble or doubt yourself. Ivy was the only one of my kids who asked for her dummy as I walked out of the door. She had a bit of a restless first night, but was fine by the second night.

That’s it! I really have found this transition to be a pretty seamless one, but perhaps we’ve just been lucky. I’d love to hear your experience with this and any tips you have to share.

Courtney x

p.s. We usually took away the dummies when the kids were between two and three. We also had a rule that dummies were for sleeping only, so they weren’t allowed out of their beds.

Design Mom’s book ‘How to live with Kids: A room-by-room guide’

Design Mom book How to live with kids

A few months ago my friend Gabrielle Blair, the famous Design Mom, asked me to share some photos of our home, for the use in the book she was working on. I was super flattered to be asked, because I have been a Design Mom fan from the moment we started blogging. Gabrielle is so incredibly talented, so entrepreneurial, so creative, so stylish, and so real. I love her down-to-earth style, her guts, and her drive to connect people. Also — I love how she shares her successes, as well as her difficulties. So you can imagine that for months I’ve been awaiting the highly anticipated launch of her book, and this week a preview copy of the book landed on my doormat… and it’s even better than I could have imagined!

Design Mom book How to live with kids
Design Mom book How to live with kids

‘How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide’  is a family lifestyle book full of inspiration, with beautiful photos of real homes. It’s full of useful tips stemming from real life experience with 6 children. Gabrielle shares easy decor tips and doable DIY projects, lovely family traditions and sweet tips. (Like: keep a box of Band-Aids within children’s reach in the bathroom, to make children feel in control when they have an owie, plus, when a little friend needs a band-aid, your child can help and get a positive experience with empathy. Or, one of my favourite phrases from the book: ‘Ugly couches can make beautiful childhoods’. So true!)

Sometimes parenting, interior or DIY books can be so terribly overwhelming. What I like best about Design Mom’s ‘How to live with Kids’ is that’s it’s all so approachable, so doable and so real. Gabby shows us that it’s no about what to buy, it’s about working with what your already have, to make your house happy, and wonderful.

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon (US or UK ).

xxx Esther

Hattie the elephant (from Four Monkeys)

Hattie_1

When Pim was 2 years old, he pulled over a marble sculpture that my mum had made as our wedding gift and it broke in half. Thankfully we were able to restore it, but — better safe than sorry — we now keep our delicate sculptures in storage until our children are bigger. And I’ve been missing something cool on our floor ever since!

But then, I was browsing the super well curated collection of the awesome Austrian e-store Four Monkeys and my eye fell on Hattie the Elephant. And I couldn’t resist. Here we have a sculpture, a piece of art really, that is absolutely fine to display on the floor, within children’s reach, for children to play with, even. Because it is designed as a toy!

How cool is that?


Hattie the Elephant, heirloom toy from Four Monkeys (via Babyccino Kids) Hattie_3

Hattie the Elephant is made from beech wood and really royal in size, and it can be placed in different poses due to the elastic-band muscles, making it a fun and interesting toy that children will keep coming back to to play with. It is absolutely beautifully made and it is such a cool design element! (I also saw it on display in one of the world’s coolest shops, Hay House, when I was in Copenhagen recently.) Also, it is an extremely sturdy and durable sculpture, which makes the (steep) investment worth it, because this sculpture will survive generations of play in our living room. It probably will survive me! ; )

xxx Esther

How to care for your tulips

adrem tulips

I grew up in a small farming town about half way between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. The area is known for the wonderful produce that is grown there, including all the delicious berries in the summer, but is probably best known for the hundreds of acres of tulip fields that bloom each spring (I have previously shared photos of the tulip fields here and here. Isn’t it so pretty?!)

My father and his brothers are tulip farmers and run what is now one of the biggest (bulb) flower farms in the world, shipping flowers to people and businesses all over America (you can read a little bit about the family business here). I grew up on the tulip farm and remember how exciting it was every spring to watch the surrounding fields fill with colour. Our spring break from school always fell in the middle of tulip season and my dad always put me straight to work in the flower stalls selling tulips. I think, by the time I was eight, I knew all the different names for every tulip variety and I could answer any tulip question, no matter how random. (Of course I have since forgotten all those different varieties! My dad would be so disappointed.)

Every year at this time, as the flower stalls around London fill with tulips, I’m reminded of my childhood and the tulip farm back home. I spoke to my dad over the weekend and he told me that the tulips are blooming really early this year due to a really mild winter. So, now that it’s tulip season I thought I would share some tulip tips I’ve learned from my dad over the years. (Please forgive me if you’re a long-time reader. I posted a similar post back in 2008, but thought it was worth re-posting since it’s been so long!) Here are some handy tips for buying tulips and keeping them alive as long as possible:
tulip tips
cutting tulip stems

  • Try to buy the freshest tulips. Don’t buy tulips that are limp; make sure the stems are thick, plump and strong. (In general, the bigger the stem–the bigger the bulb– the healthier the flower).
  • Make sure the leaves are tight and curled inward toward the stem. If they are already bending outward, they are not very fresh.
  • The bud should be closed and on the tighter side, but you should still be able to see the color of the flower.
  • Cut ½ an inch from the bottom of the stem and place immediately in cold water. (Remember that the stems will continue to grow in the vase, so you can cut them down to be a bit on the shorter side).
  • If the tulips came in plastic wrap, you can leave the plastic on for the first couple hours. This will encourage the stems to stay straight instead of bending over. (As soon as you cut the bottom of the stem, the tulip ‘comes back to life’ and will begin to respond).
  • Leave the vase in a cool spot (not in direct sunlight or near a radiator). You can even place the vase outside during the night (unless it is freezing) for even longer ‘vase life’.

*Don’t ever mix daffodils and tulips in the same vase. The daffodil juice taints the water and will ‘poison’ the tulips!

And apparently all those silly things we’ve all been told about putting a penny in the water or adding sugar really don’t work!

 

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.

DIY: Brown Paper Flower Pots

Paper Flower Pots
A couple of weeks ago I spotted these cute flower pots (that were really brown paper bags) neatly set down the stairs in front of some shop in Stuttgart and I loved it so much I went to buy craft paper bags and a few flower the same day!
This is such a simple and inexpensive DIY perfect for this time of the year.
I need to say am the worst when it comes to flowers, herbs or any kind of plants in general – my husband even calls me “the plant serial killer” and I’m afraid he’s not that far from the truth! How do you people do it? I always either water too much or I forget they exist for a few days too many. But I don’t and won’t give up – one day I’ll get it. Right? But until I do I’m buying the least expensive kinds, like the ones on the photo – don’t know their names, I just know they smell good. Or at least they did for two more days after entering my house. But the good news is they are still alive!

Anyhow, the steps for making these cute paper pots are super easy and you only need three items:
Brown Craft Paper Bags (mine are 12 cm wide)
Plants (mine are in 10 cm pots)
Pot Trays

Paper Flower Pots
First fold the top of the bag down a few times (put the pot beside the bag to see how far down).

Paper Flower Pots
Now fold the edges backwards along the fold lines and insert the tray first, then the flower.

That simple!

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

One Day Young by Jenny Lewis

One Day Young cover
I get goosebumps just thinking about it: those magical first days after your baby is born, when the rest of the world is fuzzy and the only thing in focus is your beautiful baby in your hands and your loving family surrounding you. The sweet smell of your baby, the little sounds of yawns and sneezes. The intense energy you feel followed by the sleepiness that overcomes you, the way that night and day blend together, the way that life just seems to stand still. A happiness like no other kind. Magic. If only we could bottle it up and save it forever.

HMP_JennyLewis_ODY_KarlaRiver
HMP_JennyLewis_ODY_XantheLouie
One Day Young book
HMP_JennyLewis_ODY_RebeccaOsiris
One Day Young by Jenny Lewis

In a sense, this is what Jenny Lewis has done in her new book, One Day Young, a stunning book featuring portraits of women and their newborn babies, all taken within 24 hours of birth. The book is a celebration of intimacy, joy and the resilience of new motherhood. It is both powerful and beautiful. I just can’t stop looking at all the photos.

I met Jenny last month and she excitedly showed me her about-to-be-launched book. She unwrapped it from a carefully bundled package and beamed when she showed me. I could not put the book down and have been looking forward to the launch ever since. The book is finally out now and available from Hoxton Mini Press with free shipping in the UK. Here’s to women, motherhood… and babies!

Courtney xx

Find us in this month’s issue of Red Magazine

Adamo family in Red Magazine
Adamo famil in Red Magazine_outtake
We are super duper excited to be featured in this month’s issue of Red Magazine! The team from Red Mag came over last month for an interview and to snap some photos, and I’m excited to finally see the photos and read the article. I chat about family life, my views on TV, the pros and cons of social media, and how I’d feel about having more babies (I wish!).

Unfortunately, they don’t post the articles from the magazine on their website, so you’ll have to pick up a copy to read it… but I wanted to share a couple photos. They sent me an outtake (the second photo) and it’s my favourite! Marlow was refusing to sit still for the camera, so of course Michael had to do a little upside-down-child action on her. Haha!

Also, the team from Red Magazine have asked me to take over their Instagram feed this week. Each day I get to share some of my favourite things to do, read, decorate, wear and play. I’ll be there until Friday, so please head over and say hi!

Courtney xx

(Photos by the lovely and talented Jenny Lewis)

Color-Learning Easter Egg Magnets, Montessori Style

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

I’m trying to teach my 14-month-old simple things like colors or at least color distinguishing so I wanted to make something that would help him with that and since Easter is approaching soon I wanted to do something in that spirit so this is what I came up with. Easter eggs magnets in 6 basic colours made of two pieces that can be mixed and one day hopefully matched correctly. But since I didn’t want Tila to feel left out I made some for her as well. Hers are also a little decorated and made of three pieces. She has so much fun creating all sorts of combinations.

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

They are really easy to make and there are various materials you can paint and decorate them with like acrylic paint, deco markers and even washi tape. You’ll also need a few other items like:

Hard cardboard
Sharp scissors (you can also use crafting knife but I prefer a sharp pair of scissors because I’m simply too clumsy for the knife)
A pencil
Egg Shaped Cookie Cutter
Self-Adhensive Magnetic Sheets (Ebay and Amazon are full of them)
Sealant or Varnish (optional)

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

I know I say that every time but this craft is as easy as they get.
First you need to make an outline of that egg cookie cutter on the cardboard with a pencil and cut it out (like I said, you can use crafting knife or scissors).

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

Then you paint the eggs. If you want to decorate and divide them into three parts you should first paint them and after the paint is dry, divide the eggs into three equal horizontal bands with a pencil. Then decorate each segment separately so try not going over the lines when drawing textures.  And you don’t need to erase the lines, you’ll cut along the lines later and they’ll be gone.

If you want the magnets to last a little longer than a few days, use a sealer (if you’re using water colors or regular markers you need to use spray sealer otherwise the paint will smudge; tried and tested!).

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

After everything is thoroughly dry, cut out a piece of magnetic sheet, stick it on the back of the egg and trim the excess.

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

Mix and Match Easter Eggs Magnets

If you’re doing the single-color eggs draw a horizontal guide line on the back, in the middle (you can use a piece of paper measuring equally in height and a little bit more in width as the magnet with a guide line in the middle to help determine the centre; see the photo above). Cut along the line and you’re done.
If you’re doing the other ones cut along the lines you drew previously on the front

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

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

Tuesday Tips: Raising Happy Sleepers

three sleeping babes

As I’ve written before, it always surprises me how much pressure our society puts on baby sleep. It seems that from the moment babies are born, the questions inevitably roll in from friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers in the supermarket: ‘how is he sleeping?’, ‘how long is he sleeping between feeds?’ and even ‘is he sleeping through the night?’. I remember fielding these many questions after the birth of all of my babies and consequently feeling guilty that I couldn’t astound them with stories of my amazing sleeping baby. My babies never slept through the night until they were around one year old — they usually slept in bed with me and nursed on demand, which is something that always felt natural to me and worked for our family. Apart from the pressure from others, I never really minded that my babies weren’t ‘perfect sleepers’.

Sometimes I wonder if all of this pressure for babies to sleep through the night has a knock-on effect on whether they eventually do. I wonder if these societal expectations encourage parents to turn to techniques that might not necessarily feel natural and that in turn interfere with our children’s natural sleep development. In her new book, The Happy Sleeper , Heather Turgeon aims to teach parents that babies have an innate capacity to self-soothe, as well as the brain machinery to sleep well, and that by being more mindful and open we can encourage children to do exactly that.

We’ve asked Heather Turgeon to share some tips for raising happy sleepers. I love that these tips are more about creating a positive association with sleep and less about following strict methods that might not feel instinctive. Here are her tips below:

1. Build a good relationship to sleep. Schedules, feedings, nap issues…it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of sleep, but think about your children’s relationship to sleep (they have a one, just like they have a relationship to food). We influence our kids’ feelings about sleep in our subtle choices of language and tone. If we approach sleep as a “must do” or even a negative consequence, by saying things like, “You have to go to bed!” or “You’re cranky, do you need a nap!” with an anxious tone, or give kids a time out in their beds, it grows into a negative association. Instead, talk about sleep as the fascinating subject and welcome treat that it is. Sleep is something we get to do, not something we have to do. The more we convey that to our kids in small moments, the healthier their relationship to sleep for the rest of their lives.

2. Know that sleep is not learned, but habits are. Sleep is a natural, biological human activity—it doesn’t require “training,” because it’s programmed deep in our children’s brains. But even though sleep itself isn’t learned, the habits and associations around sleep are. Those habits include where your child sleeps, her specific routine, her blankets and loveys, and the sounds, sights, and feels of her room as she falls asleep. Our little ones are creatures of habit and their brains are primed to follow and latch on to patterns. That means (for good or ill), that what you do one night, your child usually expects you to do the next! The best sleep patterns stay the same from bedtime through the rest of the night—bedtime sets the stage for everything.

3. Do a “last call for stuff”. If you have little kids, you know the amazing and random statements they make after bedtime: “My bunny jumped out of the bed,” “I need the water filled exactly to here”… Last week my son called me in and said, “My toenails are pointing inward!” One really helpful idea is to make a “last call for stuff”—in which everyone knows it’s time to gather the right animals, fill glasses, blow noses and ask questions. Once the lights go out, remind your kids that they’ve already had their last call, and now they’re in charge of their own “stuff.”

4. Work with your child’s biology. There are certain facts about our kids’ biology—use these to your advantage. For example, little babies are ready to sleep after about 90 minutes of awake time because they have a very strong “sleep drive” (the amount of time before the pressure of sleep builds to warrant a nap or bedtime). The internal clock is very powerful after the age of 6 months, and it likes consistency. Having a regular bedtime and routine harnesses this power.

5. Run sleep patterns by two criteria. When my partner and I do sleep consultations, we get asked whether certain sleep patterns are okay (like baby coming into bed for the last half of the night, child only napping in the stroller, or baby only sleeping in the parent’s arms). There’s no “right” way to sleep (look at how differently people sleep all over the world!), but a good sleep pattern meets two criteria: 1. People are sleeping enough (except in the case of having a young baby), and 2. The pattern works for everyone involved. If your child starts the night in her own room and joins you at 2:00 a.m., everyone still meets their sleep needs and feels happy with it—no need to change a thing. If one or more of you isn’t sleep well this way, time to change. The good news is that sleep patterns are adaptable regardless of age (remember, they are learned!).

 

I don’t know about you, but her first tip particularly resonated with me. I definitely need to be more mindful about the way I talk about sleep. I’m sure I’ve said things like ‘if you do that one more time, you can go straight to bed’ (making bed be a punishment). Ooops! It makes so much sense why this is exactly what you shouldn’t do!

The Happy Sleeper is available from Amazon (both in the UK and US ).

Courtney x

p.s. The image above is one of my very favourite photos found on Pinterest. Isn’t it the sweetest?

Valentine’s Craft: Animal Brooches and Magnets

Animal Magnets and Brooches

Valentines day is tomorrow already and a DIY is in order! Tila has a few very good friends in her kindergarten and I thought it would be nice if she gave them something tiny to let them know how special they are to her.

Animal Magnets and Brooches

So I bought a box of plastic animals (the whole box of about 15 animals cost around 5 euros) and decided to make them into magnets and pins. Tila also wanted me to paint them but you can easily just leave them as they are (especially if they are hand painted, like Schleich figurines) and only glue magnets and/or brooch pin-backs on one side.

Animal Magnets and Brooches

I painted them with Montana spray cans but you can easily go with acrylic paints (just don’t forget to use a primer first to prevent chipping). If you decide to spray paint, apply several thin layers and wait a few minutes between coats or until completely dry to the touch. (Don’t spray too close like I did or you’ll get one very thick layer of paint that will take ages to dry! Spray about 15-20 cm away.) After the final coat is done it’s best to wait overnight or at least a few hours before gluing the magnets and pins on. We also added tiny hearts on their behinds (except for the lion, because the boy it’s meant for hates hearts. But we still hid one on the back ; ) .)

-Polona

PS The glue I’m always using and is also on this photo is UHU’s Bastelkleber and I absolutely love it! I used it on almost every surface already and I think it works even better than super glue plus it’s solvent free and transparent when dry.

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

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.

laikonik_2

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!

An interview on The Daily Muse

Courtney and Marlow
Courtney and Kids_the daily muse
easton and camera_the daily muse
girls in reception room_the daily muse
marlow on bed

I was extremely excited to be asked for an interview over on Fenwick’s online magazine The Daily Muse. I have always loved the children’s department at Fenwick — for years it has been my go-to place to find unique children’s gifts, and I’ve recently been really impressed with their blossoming childrenswear department which includes many of our favourite brands: Millie Manu, Caramel Baby & Child, Rachel Riley, etc.

When they asked to come over last weekend for a little photo shoot and dress-up session I just couldn’t resist. Not only was it fun to see a sneak peak of all the pretty new spring/summer children’s clothes, it was also a great chance to have the kids photographed in the house for what will probably be the last time (we’ll be moving very soon). I’m so thankful to have these photos, including some silly outtakes from the shoot (featured above).

I also enjoyed answering questions about motherhood, family, work, Instagram, children’s fashion and other parenting topics. You can read the full interview and see all the photos here. There is a reference in there to Maria Von Trapp, and if you know me even a little, you’ll know there is no bigger compliment. : )

Courtney x

Stylish maternity dresses from In Pig

courtney with four kids
I’m not pregnant (promise!), but I still love wearing my two-tiered shift dress from In Pig, which I’m wearing in the blurry photo above. : )

In Pig have recently released this shift dress in new fabrics, and I’m loving the black and white ikat cotton version below. Isn’t it beautiful? I love how comfortable and versatile it is — layering over tights in winter or wearing as is in the summer time.
InPig maternity dress
Of course I also give extra bonus points to any maternity dress that you can still wear beyond pregnancy (without looking pregnant!). Best kind of maternity pieces in my book!

Courtney x

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

Weekly book reviews by Mo (she’s back!)

Mo de Graaff

Do you guys remember our friend, Mo, who used to be a contributor here? You might remember her stunning children’s room with the dark walls, or the Cops ‘n Robbers birthday party she threw for her son, or her lemon curd recipe, or, my favourite, her Christmas Book Advent Calendar idea?! We were so sad when she told us she was too busy to continue writing for us (or perhaps too bogged down with baby number three!), and honestly we’ve missed her ever since.

So, we’ve begged and pleaded and asked her to come back…and, lucky us, she’s agreed to return as our weekly book reviewer!!

There is honestly no one better for this job than Mo. She is the biggest children’s book enthusiast I know and always gives the best book tips. She once told me that she never reads a children’s book for the first time without her kids — she likes to wait to read it with her kids so she can experience it at the same time they do. Isn’t that so sweet?

You guys, we are in for a treat. I can’t wait for her weekly posts — I’ve been needing some book inspiration in my life! This week’s post is up next…

Courtney x

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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