Tuesday Tips: Traveling in Paris with kids

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Summer here and I thought it was high time to write down some random tips of what to do in my lovely city with kids. Paris is such a great place to visit and so easy to get around that it is a great destination with children, even young ones. But there are a couple of things that might be good to know:

  • Hilariously my very first tip actually has very little to do with kids and has everything to do with coffee and bars! Basically if you want to save a cent or two always order and drink a coffee at the bar in a Parisian café, not on the terrace. The price on a terrace can be more that double than the one if you sit by the bar. The same goes for most drinks. (By the way: a café is an espresso, a noisette is a macchiato and a crème is a cappuccino roughly speaking).
  • All neighbourhoods in Paris have little squares with play equipment (like place des Vosges on the photo above). They are simple, easy going and a nice way to get away from the crowds. If you are looking for a real park, go a bit further afield and head over to the Buttes de Chaumont, which is super French and has grassy areas, so a good place to go and kick a ball around.
  • My favourite Parisian street food is good old-fashioned crepes, and you can still find a lot of little hole-in-the-wall crepes stands that will throw together a “jambon-fromage-champions” (my personal favourite). My kids absolutely love them.
  • In restaurants do ask for a kids menu, even if it is not advertised. Especially less touristy places will often happily make a smaller plate for kids.
  • If you have the time to teach your kids just a few words in French, it is totally worth it. I have seen the sternest French waiter melt when he had been addressed in French by a little foreign tourist. Even “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “S’il vous plait” is enough.
  • When you ask for anything, be it a baguette in a boulangerie or directions on the street, start with “Bonjour” not “Excuse me”. It just the way we start a conversation over here. If not you might finish with your questions just to have a pointed “Bonjour” thrown back at you.
  • For me the best way to get around Paris, if you have a bit of time, is by bus. They use the same tickets as the metro, but are so much more pleasant and such a great way to see the city. The free public transport app is unfortunately only in French at the moment, but it is so easy to use that I think you could use it with even the smallest knowledge of French.
  • If you have even more time then the very, very best way of getting around Paris is to walk! Paris is much smaller than London and New York so it is actually easy to walk from one attraction to the next. On the left bank of the Seine a lot of the quays are closed to cars and are a lovely way to discover Paris. On Sundays the right bank of the Seine is also closed to cars.
  • As we now all know, French Kids don’t throw food 😉 which is actually only partly correct of course. But it is true that people expect children to behave in restaurants and will ask the waiter to ask you to be a bit quieter. Do not take it personally as it happens to French parents as much as it does to foreigners. I try to smile and apologise and that normally does the trick.

As I mentioned, this is a bit of a random list, but these are some of my top tips to visiting Paris. If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them!

– Emilie

A weekend at the Opal Coast in France

BoulogneSurMer_kidsWe’ve discovered that the Côte d’Opale (Opal Coast) in the upper North-west corner of France is aptly located for a Babyccino Kids meet-up — it’s only a few hours drive from Paris and Antwerp (where my dad lives), and it’s also just a 20 minute drive from Calais, where the channel tunnel connects France directly to the UK. So it’s pretty much on the doorstep from London as well!

A few weekends ago Emilie and I got to spend some quality time together and discover this pretty region of coastal France with our families in tow. A visit of only two days but absolutely jam-packed with activities!

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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!

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!

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!

Last-Minute Christmas DIY: Hand Print Santa Ornaments

Santa Ornametns

A couple of years ago my sister-in-law and I decided to start a tradition of no gift buying for us adults for Christmas. Or at least no big ones. It can be something tiny like our favorite chocolate or tea or something of that sort or we can make them ourselves. So this year I decided to do just that. I made these cute Santa Ornaments from salt-dough hand prints of my kids for the whole family. They didn’t cost much (nothing even since I had everything at home already) but they are worth more than money could ever buy. It won’t really be a surprise for them since they will probably see them here already but I know they will be super happy to get them.

I love this craft for several reasons: it’s super fun to make, kids are involved, they make a perfect keepsake for the family, they look absolutely cute and as I said – the things you need to make them don’t cost much. Unfortunately this time I can’t say it’s a super quick diy but it’s the perfect holiday craft and fun for the whole family. I think I’ll make them every year just to track the growth of my two Santas! 😉

So, to make these Santa hand-print Ornaments you need:

Santa Ornaments

Santa OrnamentsFor the dough (to make the prints) for about 3 kid-size prints

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water

1. Preheat the oven to 120 °C and line baking tray with baking paper
2. Mix flour and salt in the bowl then gradually add water, stirring until combined
3. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, roll out until about 7mm thick and transfer to baking tray
4. Press your kiddo’s hands onto the dough and cut them out leaving about 2mm edge. You can make ornaments with the left-over dough, just use some nice cookie cutters
5. Use a knitting needle or a chop stick to make a hole at the top of the palm, about 1 cm from the top edge. This will be used to string the twine through
6. Bake for at least 3 hours, turning them once after 2 hours. You can easily leave them in longer or even over night!

Santa OrnamentsNow, for the fun part you need:

White, Red, Black and Skin Tone Acrylic Paint
Acrylic Gloss Varnish (optional)
Twine

Santa Ornaments
Santa Ornametns

Santa Ornaments First paint the entire print white twice, waiting about an hour between coats
2. After the second one dries completely sketch the outline of the hat, the pom-pom and the face with a pencil
3. Draw a face (without the eyes, nose and mustache) and a hat (without the dots) using two coats again. But always remember to wait for about an hour in between! You probably have some red paint left so use that for the nose.
4. Now draw the fur on Santa’s hat and lastly the rest of the face (eyes and mustache) and the tiny dots on the hat. Leave to dry.
5. You can stop here and string the twine through the hole or you can seal the ornaments with two or more coats of Gloss Varnish, which will make the ornaments last for ages! Plus they look so much nicer with some extra gloss on them 😉

-Polona

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

A Berlin Christmas market

ChristmasMarket_Star ChristmasMarket_Smoked_Salomon ChristmasMarket_Candy ChristmasMarket_Nutcracker ChristmasMarket_Roasted_Almonds ChristmasMarket_Angels ChristmasMarket_WoodWorks ChristmasMarket_Toasted_Almonds2 ChristmasMarket_NativitySceneOur new Amsterdam team-member Nina just sent me some photos of her visit to the Christmas markets in Berlin, and I just had to share them with you here! I’ve never been to a German Christmas market, but now that I saw these photos I just know we’ll have to go next year. Aren’t they just amazing? Such an atmosphere, and I love the artisanal products, and the old-fashioned candy and nuts and traditional smoked fish. Thanks Nina, for sharing!

xxx Esther

Last minute advent activity calendar

adventTomorrow is the start of advent — only 25 days to go ’til Christmas! We do have an advent tradition in our family — my mum always had an advent wreath on the table with 4 candles in a circle, and one candle was lit on every Sunday in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and then a fifth candle in the centre was lit on Christmas day. But we’re not accustomed to the advent calendar, the countdown calendar with 24 pockets filled with little presents or candy, counting down to Christmas day. I think this might have to do with Sinterklaas, who’s in the country till the 5th, overlapping the first days of advent and overdoing, possibly, the idea of giving.

Where I love the idea of getting ready for Christmas, slowing down and focussing on togetherness and goodness, I don’t really want to overflow our children with goodies after the feasts of St. Maarten (candy) and St. Nicolas (candy and presents). But I want them to experience extra warmth, fun, and also to comprehend the fact that they have a lucky position in the world.

advent_2

Yesterday I spent some time working on a super last-minute advent calendar without gifts, but with ideas for fun, sweet, and genuine activities to make the weeks before Christmas extra special. I printed everything on grey card stock paper, folded and closed them with round sticky dots on which I rubbed transfer numbers beforehand. It’s nothing super fancy or special at all, but the simplicity reflects what I would like our advent to be!

advent2

Maybe you would like to play along? I’ve made the file I used into an advent activity calendar PDF. There are 29 activities, so you can choose the ones you like best. Just download, print, cut and fold, put a number on them and hang on the wall.

Enjoy, and happy first day of advent for tomorrow!

xxx Esther

 

Happy Holidays shoot by Maud Fontein (again at the ShopUp!)

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MaudFontein_2
Here are my four babies photographed by Maud Fontein for this year’s Happy Holidays shoot. They’ve grown a bit since last year, haven’t they? I’m always impressed by how Maud can take such sweet photos of all my kids — she is so wonderful, makes children so quickly at ease. My kids actually look forward to going over to Maud’s — they know they’ll be in for a laugh (which does have to do with the fact that Maud lets me sit on a whoopee cushion!).

MaudFontein_3 MaudFontein_4

Maud also (very quickly!) took some portraits of the kids individually. So sweet. I love how their personalities show so well, Sara already getting so big…

Maud_Sara Maud_Pim Maud_Ava Maud_Casper

Maud will be joining us this year again for the ShopUp, and she’s already taking bookings for her happy holidays shoots. I love this year’s theme! So if you’re in London on December 3rd or 4th, you can have your babies photographed this way as well. : )

MaudFontein_1

Also — Maud will again be bringing these great Christmas Cards Toolkits (designed by Vivian from de Liefdesfabriek) to London. Filled with 20 cards, black envelopes, masking tape, stickers and a white pen — everything you need to turn your photos into a beautiful holiday card. As you can see, I already started mine!

xxx Esther

Our 2014 Gift Guides!

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 12.01.24It’s almost incredible that it’s that time of year again, but yes it is. Christmas is creeping up on us. Only 7 weeks to go!! Time to get organised…

We’ve tried to make selecting presents for the little ones in your life as easy as possible, by creating four Gift Guides filled with amazing gift ideas. There’s one for boys, one for girls, one for baby, and then there’s a super handy guide with adorable stocking stuffers as well.

So handy! (I’m the number one fan of these guides!) And If I can give you an idea —  you can also forward these guides to your family. Especially uncles love receiving these kind of emails ; ). Enjoy the guides!

xxx Esther

A new breed of ’boutique’ youth Hostels

13-generator-venice-exterior-waterfront-giudecca

As you might have noticed we do love travelling over here at Babyccino. Being based in Europe, especially Paris, makes it particularly easy to jump on a train, into a car or even a plane and discover new cities and countries. I try to take full advantage of this, but travelling is definitely not cheap, especially accommodation for a whole family. We’re lucky enough to have a lot of friends spread over Europe that we can stay with, but not every city in Europe has a friendly bed for us to crash in. So I have gone back to my roots and re-discovered youth hostels. Turns out that they are ideal places to pack in a group of children and grown-ups.

Now, I have to admit that the youth hostels I have discovered are very different from the ones I stayed in during my days of Inter-railing across Europe. Gone is the flaky paint on the walls, the nasty neon lights and the horrendously uncomfortable mattresses. There is now a new breed of youth hostel — let’s call them “boutique” hostels — that have sprung up all over Europe and they are the perfect solution for traveling in a larger group.
Casa Gracia
Casa Gracia kitchen
Last year we stayed in lovely Casa Gracia in Barcelona (pictured above). We were travelling with friends so we had a big room with a bathroom all to ourselves. It had all the advantages of a hotel (a great breakfast, a good inexpensive evening meal and a excellent tourist service) with addition to a kitchen that all guests were free to use. It was, of course, a lot cheaper than a hotel could have been (I believe it was around 27 euros per night per person).

This year we went to Venice and stayed at the Generator Hostel. Again we had a big room and bathroom that we shared between kids and friends.  The view from the room is across the lagoon over St Mark’s square, which is quite a breathtaking thing to see first thing in the morning. Again it was super child friendly, with a laundry room, inexpensive food and an excellent laid back bar and common area, great to relax and play in after a long day of sightseeing.

I also like the look of the Woodah Hostel in Copenhagen, the Plus Hostel in Berlin or the U Hostel in Madrid!

Have you ever stayed in a youth hostel with your family? Do you have any places to recommend? I would love to hear as I cannot wait to get our bags packed up again!

– Emilie

Advent Calendars. Time to start planning!

Ferm Living advent calnedar

December is still six weeks away, and I’m refusing to start thinking about Christmas just yet (I saw the Christmas decorations up on Oxford street earlier this week and it didn’t seem possible! Can it really be that time of year already?!). But… I do love Advent calendars — it’s one of my favourite Christmas traditions.

I saw this cool Ferm Living advent calendar (above) at Cissy Wears earlier this week and love it! (It’s actually what has inspired this post.)

Maileg advent calendar

We have the Maileg advent calendar (as shown above) and it’s a similar concept with little pockets for presents on each day. I start collecting little gifts and knick knacks around this time of year, and then come December 1st, the kids take turn unwrapping each day. It’s such a fun and exciting way to celebrate the run-up to Christmas.

advent-calendarbk31

I also love the idea Meta wrote about, with little paper bags hanging along the stair railing. So fun and festive!

christmas-book-advent-calendar1

And lastly, there’s the wonderful idea from Mo who wraps up christmas-themed books every year for a Christmas book Advent Calendar. Such a great idea!

Anyway, I thought I would share all these ideas now… before it’s too late to prepare. The next six weeks will zip by I’m sure!

Courtney x

Adorable Halloween costumes from Thumbelina

©Maya Havkin- Photographer
©Maya Havkin- Photographer
©Maya Havkin- Photographer
Halloween is around the corner, and I’m as unprepared as ever. Hmmm. !! I was feeling guilty about my tired stash of three-times worn Halloween costume options for Marlow and was needing a bit of inspiration… and these adorable costumes from Thumbelina have done the trick. How perfect are they?!  I love a good fleecey zip-up costume that is as cosy as it is cute.

Now… what to do for the bigger kids?!

Courtney x

 

Context Travel – Tours around Paris

Sacrée Coeur

This weekend we went for a little adventure around Paris — the sun was out and it was the perfect day to discover Montmartre. It is ironic how, when you live in a city, you sometimes know less about it than all the tourists who visit!

We were delighted when Context Travel invited us for a tour around Montmartre, one of my favourite parts of Paris. The tour was tailormade for children, full of entertaining scary stories and legends. Our personal tour guide, Anais, was lovely, bi-lingual and could answer every single question that we asked her and, believe me, she was asked a LOT of questions!

We followed the path that St Denis (patron saint of Paris) walked after he, unfortunately, had his head cut off by the Romans. The legend says he walked from the bottom of the hill right to the very top, holding his severed head in his hands. The Sacrée Coeur was built on top of his final resting place (I do hope I have remembered this correctly!).

rue de l'abavoir

Following the path of St Denis we discovered the houses that Picasso and Van Gogh lived in and and got a glimpse of what Montmartre was like in the late 1800s (there were a LOT of cafés, cabarets and drinking establishments as Coco noticed). We saw the vineyards, the cobbled streets that are so different from the rest of Paris, and the hidden gardens and artist lofts. We walked up and down hill for 2.5 hours and could have easily continued!

vineyard

At the end of the trip we sat on the steps of the Sacrée Coeur and drew pictures of all the things we had seen on our walk. On the steps we also had an amazing view of Paris and of a street artist dribbling a football whilst hanging off a lamp post (nothing unusual in that).

Sacréé Coeur View

We did finish off the journey with a little ride in the Funicular which is part of the Paris metro. It is such a cute, random little train, that it is well worth the metro ticket it costs to use it.

Funicular

Such a fun way to discover Paris, I highly recommend it!

– Emilie

 

A day trip from Paris – Versailles

Louis14

Living in this lovely city of Paris is great… but it is easy to forget all the great things to do and visit just outside the city. A couple of weekends ago we jumped with some friends on a commuter train (the RER B) and within 40 minutes we had arrived in front of the stunning chateau of Versailles, known for its beauty and also the over the top extravagance of the Kings and Queens of France who lived there.

The children were amazed by the opulence of their surroundings and how crazy it was that this whole chateau was built just for one man and his entourage to live in! Good old Louis the 14th sure knew how to live it up!

Versaillesfront

The main palace is amazing to visit, but with a whole gaggle of children in tow, we opted for a visit of the gardens surrounding the palace and a visit to the smaller Trianon Palace together with Marie-Antoinette’s domaine, which has been restored very recently.

It was a lovely day: we picnicked, played hide and seek between the manicured hedges, strolled through the different gardens, and had a good look around Marie-Antoinette’s retreat.
kidsVersaillesGarden
neptun
We finished the trip with a boat ride on the Grand Canal, just like Marie Antoinette would have done, I am sure.

rowboat
These kind of day trips make me realise how lucky we are to have so much history right at our doorstep! Visiting Versailles is so easy, even if you are just visiting Paris for a week!

– Emilie

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! We hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend!!

xxx Courtney, Emilie and Esther

PS Ava is wearing the cute bunny ears from last week’s The Little Things download.

Valentines craft — love birds

Happy Valentines Day! Our kids woke us up with the sweetest handmade Valentines cards this morning… But I had nothing prepared! So I quickly made these ‘lovebirds’, by folding a piece of paper in half and cutting it in a heart shape. A piece of masking tape keeps it closed and forms the beak. Inside I wrote little love message and poems. So when the kids come home from school they will have a little surprise waiting for them!

xxx Esther

Sweet and girly Valentines gifts from Fantaserini

It’s Valentines day soon! Here in the Netherlands it’s not a traditional holiday, but we’ve adopted it over the years — after all, who can resist a day dedicated to LOVE?

These cute necklaces and hairpins, from the gorgeous and stylish online shop Fantaserini, make the perfect little Valentines presents for girls. The necklaces from Twiggy and Lou are beautiful, handmade out of tiny, real glass beads, pretty brass charms and a little pink pompom. (There’s an adult version too! So pretty!)

I also love the hair clips from Atsuyo et Akiko. They are just so sweet. I actually got both the necklace and the bow clip for Ava and I just know she’s going to love them.

xxx Esther

Heart Origami notepaper from Lollipop


As a young child, growing up in America, we would hand out Valentine cards to every child in our class. We used to create our own Valentine’s Day letterboxes and tape them to our desks and everyone would go around sticking the Valentine cards into them. I remember taking home all of my Valentines cards and reading them at home (and eating the candy too!).  I was talking to my husband about this and he also used to do this in class, so I’m assuming it’s an American thing? Children here in the UK (or at least in my children’s school) don’t do this. In fact, I don’t think my kids have ever gotten a Valentine’s Day card from one of their classmates?!

When I saw these Heart Origami Notes from Lollipop it reminded me all about this. And I think it’s a fun tradition to bring back for my kids. Maybe not to all their classmates at school, but to special friends or family members they might want to send some hearts to!

xx Courtney

Happy Holidays from us to you!

We took advantage of Maud Fontein‘s photobooth set-up at The ShopUp and got a sneaky photo of the three of us so we could send you our very own holiday card! : )

Happy Holidays from the three of us! We hope you have a joyful and relaxing holiday season. We’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break, hoping for some rest and some cosy family time (including lots of cookie baking!) … but we’ll be back in January with gusto!

Lots of love to you all,

xx Courtney, Esther & Emilie

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