Topsy Turvy World, By Atak

Topsy Turvy World 1
Topsy Turvy World 2
Topsy Turvey World 3

As soon as you pick up this book you know you are not dealing with your average kids book.  Atak is a German folksy illustrator and this book is like turning pages of an art piece – each page thickly covered with colour and detail. This book , with no words, just uses pictures to play the typical kids game ‘Verkehrte Welt’ (direct translation – wrong way round the World). The mice chase the cat, the baby spoon-feeds the mama, cars fly and airplanes float, firemen have fire coming out of their hoses and the Punk gives the Banker money on the street. This absurd and fantastical World is not only funny but thought provoking – when we see things the wrong way round we can question if the ‘right-way’ is really right after all? This particularly strikes me on the front cover as the Circus Lion holds up a flaming hoop for the clown to jump through. Kids of all ages (and by that I mean grown-ups too!) will really enjoy staring into this book and looking at this Topsy Turvy World .

The book is available from Amazon (UK and US), and from Flying Eye Books.

-Mo x

Hair style: a messy top-knot

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This hairstyle is one of my favourites for Sara — I think it reflects her style really well (plus, it suits her face). It’s easy, but the technique is a bit tricky to explain. I’ll do my best, and I think the photos help!

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Have an elastic band handy. First, brush the hair up high (high!) and form a pony tail with your left hand. Then, with your other hand, start bringing the elastic band around the hair, while you make a small loop around your right thumb with the hair. Don’t pull the hair through the band! Take the elastic band in your left hand.

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Twist the elastic band to secure the loop of hair, and keep holding it (together with the loop) with your left hand. Now with the right hand, twist the remaining hair around the loop (underneath the elastic band).

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Add the twist of remaining hair to your left hand and with the right one, secure the elastic band around the knot.

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Gently pull the knot a little to loosen it up, and voila!

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xxx Esther

All photos by my friend Maud Fontein

Woody knitting toy

woody sewing sheep Ivy with woody sheep
sewing woody sheep
wool and sheep
ivy sewing

This past Christmas I discovered the ethical French toy brand Les Jouets Libres when looking for gifts to give my nieces and nephews. They make the most beautiful, old-fashioned wooden toys, the kind of toys you keep forever. I ended up buying this pretty stacking toy for one and this colourful blocks set for another, both which were made from sustainable wood and eco-friendly dyes.

Les Jouets Libres has come out with a new toy, this lovely wooden knitting sheep, and I recently picked it up for Ivy who has lately been showing interest in sewing and weaving. The concept is really simple — it’s a wooden sheep with little holes, and kids can thread the wool in and out of the holes to cover the sheep in a woolly coat. It’s a great way to teach kids the basics of sewing, encouraging them to learn dexterity and patience. Ivy has now covered her sheep in wool twice, and it was impressive how much better she was the second time she did it.

“Woody” is available from the Les Jouets Libres site in France or from EeenyMeeny Kids here in the UK.

Courtney x

Tuesday Tip: Girls and Math and Science

schoolrun

Since my last post about multiplication tables I have been thinking about how similar one of my daughters is to me when it comes to learning maths and science. She lately has had a defeatist attitude pop up using the famous phrase: “je suis nulle en math”, (I am just terrible at maths). I think it is a ridiculous thing for a 9-year-old to say, as who knows how her talents are still going to develop. But, if I remember rightly, I said exactly the same thing. Turns out it was a self fulfilling prophecy: as a kid I was terrible at maths and only started to enjoy it when I began working.

I have been reading up on why girls are still under-performing versus boys in maths and came across this interesting article. Girls still seem to lack confidence when it comes to maths (and science), even in the year 2015, and I wanted to write down a couple of tips I am trying to use on how to counteract that!

  • I think, as a mother, being a role model is key. I don’t tell my girls that I was terrible at maths at school, but I tell them that I now love it and use it every day.
  • I also want to make sure that they know that a woman is as capable at using maths in an everyday situation as a man. Maybe this is a silly example, but say we are in a restaurant and the bill arrives, I don’t ask a man at the table to break it down or check it, I do it myself.
  • Make math fun, as solving a math exercise is like solving a riddle or figuring out the facts like a spy. When kids start understanding the logical patterns of math and how similar they are to a game, they seem to enjoy it more.
  • Buy science books for girls as much as you would for boys. Some of my favourites are Older than the Stars and Big Questions from Little People (though these are more science book than purely math books). For older children, a friend of mine recommended Feynman, a comic book about the life of the Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman. (I have not found any fun maths books).
  • Whatever job you have, you very likely use maths on a daily basis: a carpenter uses it to measure, a bookkeeper to balance his books, a scientist to figure out the beginnings of the universe, a ballet dancer to calculate the amount of steps it takes her to dance across the scene (I think ;)) so I try to see the numbers in everyday life and to play around with those numbers with the kids.
  • This is just for New Yorkers, but apparently the Museum of Mathematics is brilliant and every child walking out of it is convinced they want to become a mathematician.

This is all I can come up with, but I do think it is an interesting subject, so I would love to hear your views and tips!

– Emilie

PS. After re-reading this post, I do want to point out that though I am focusing on girls, but of course the majority of these tips are applicable to boys too. 

 

WalkyTalkies — talking socks

walkytalkies hand-puppet socks

In essence, WalkyTalkies are simply socks — albeit fun and good-quality ones. But that’s not all… WalkyTalkies offer an extra little bit of great usability to make them really awesome: the socks double up as hand-puppets!

hand puppetsI just love this clever idea from a Dutch mum (and so do my kids). Aren’t the best ideas often the simplest ones?

xxx Esther

 

How Things Work, by Okido

Okido Magazines
How Things Work 1

Do you know about Okido magazines? We have been subscribers for years. Okido is an arts and science magazine aimed at 3 – 8 year olds, published every 2 months. Each magazine has a theme – recent ones include Dinosaurs, All About Me, Celebration, Hair and Machines – and the topic is imaginatively bought to life through a variety of games, stories and things to make and do. Okido is the brainchild of Dr. Sophie Dauvois (a multimedia designer and scientist) and illustrator, Rachel Ortas and they now work with a team of talented designers to teach children through bright and fun illustrations.

The Okido team have released some great factual books for kids and we recently got ‘How Things Work’ because, to be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question and my son asks me it a lot! Our guides through the book are Koko and Alex – 2 inquisitive kids who like to see how things work and try and build things. The book is really interactive with games and ideas and poses questions back to the reader to try and figure out by looking at the pictures or by experimenting themselves.

How Things Work 2
How Things Work 3

Rather then just explaining things with text and pictures the book gets children to look at things differently – to start to question: how are things made? What materials are they made from? Why are they made with those materials? How materials can change in different circumstances.

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How Things Work 5

The book covers a wide range of subjects – How is a book made? How water can change in different temperatures. What is a machine? How things are made in nature / how we can copy those ideas. Electricity. Light. Sound. How a car works? How TV works? It goes on. And there are so many ideas of how to bring these subjects to life for children – games, experiments, things to make etc.

This is a great book to dip into again and again. It offers great support to subjects kids will be learning at school and makes them fun. I learned a thing or two!

The book is available from Amazon (US and UK).

-Mo x

Stitch ‘n Kids: the braid star

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I saw this braid star at my friend Elke’s house and went to buy one for my children as I’m always interested in these kind of simple crafting tools. And it has become an instant hit in our household! Simply a wooden disc with 8 slots, it’s the perfect entertainment for children aged 4 (depending on their motor skills) and up.

When we were visiting Courtney and co in London last April, I brought braiding stars for all of the kids. They all made each other friendship bracelets and it kept them busy and calm at the same time (exceptional!!).

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With the summer holiday rapidly approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to mention the braid star as it is such a perfect item to bring along while traveling. Small enough to keep in your handbag, and it will keep children perfectly entertained on an airplane, in the back of a car, on a train, etc. Plus — they can make presents for all the little friends they meet on their travels!

I picked up our braid stars at De Zaailing in Amsterdam, but I found similar items on Etsy, and here, in case you’re interested.

xxx Esther

PS I really like the thought of asking my children to weave their own colourful shoe laces with the braid star!

Odette Williams new collection

Odette Williams basics and children's clothing

We met Odette Williams in New York a few years ago, when she was just starting her line with adorable kids aprons and cooking sets. We’ve since remained in touch as she is such a lovely lady, and her products are so beautiful and well made, and really capture the essence and innocence of childhood.

Odette Williams basics and children's clothing Odette Williams basics and children's clothing

Odette just launched a whole new product line: a collection of the softest ever, organic children’s clothing. The pieces are mostly unisex, very simple in design but as such just perfect — so sweet and oh, so comfortable.

Odette Williams basics and children's clothing Odette Williams basics and children's clothingI love the baby onesies (one even has hand drawn flowers, delicately silkscreened with gold foil — so pretty), the beautiful chambray dress, the easy pieces for babies and bigger kids. Odette send my kids some tanks and shorts to try, and since they arrived, they have refused to take them off. That’s how comfy they are!

xxx Esther

 

Ivy’s colouring party

Ivy's party

colouring in

ivy's colouring party

Ivy turned six last week and we hosted a little party in our back garden to celebrate her big day. It’s become a tradition in our family of hosting parties at home and on the actual day of the birthday rather than waiting for a weekend day to celebrate — it’s our way of keeping things small and intimate, and I always think it makes their  birthday that much more special for them. Ivy got to invite a few friends to come over after school, and we spent a sunny afternoon celebrating the birthday girl.

Ivy’s favourite thing to do right now is to colour and draw, so we loosely themed the party around colouring. We bought her these cool, eco-friendly Kitpas markers which colour on windows (seriously cool!) and the kids had so much fun colouring our glass sliding doors. We also gave each of the kids a pack of sidewalk chalk to decorate the pavement and write messages to Ivy.

happy birthday to you

ivy colouring at party
party decor from Little Lulubel

Marlow at party

writing

Ivy on her birthday

window grafitti

writing on windows

I picked up some colourful party decorations from Little Lulubel and ordered their colour-in party kit, which, in addition to all the cute tableware and accessories, included colouring sheets/placemats for the kids to colour in. I’ve mentioned before how much I like party-kits — they make it so easy to decorate your table and throw a pretty party together at the last minute, which admittedly is always the case for me.

What I liked about this party was that we really didn’t need to organise games or provide any entertainment. It was super relaxed — we played music, the kids danced, they coloured, they chalked, they ate, they played… and that was really it. Just good old-fashioned party fun!

Courtney x

Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman & Valerio Vidali

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I think real life is usually a bit over-rated – in the fact that ‘stories’ can be so much more exciting than ‘real-life’ could ever really be. But this ‘real-life’ story is really quite remarkable.
In the early 1800s Captain Robert Fitzroy set sail from England to the islands of Tierra del Fuego (South America). He found the native people to be savages, lacking in any kind of sophistication. He believed it was possible to transform one of these wild children into a fine English Gentleman if given the right education. He brought a boy named Orundellico back to England with him. He gave his parents a Mother of Pearl button in payment – which gave rise to his new name – Jemmy Button.

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Of course Jemmy flourished in England with schooling in Christianity and upper-class Victorian manners and even attracted the attention of King William and Queen Adelaide. In 1832 he returned to his home islands – where the hope was he would spread his learning of civilisation – Darwin joined him on his journey home to study him in his original habitat. What happened I’ll leave for you to find out ….
Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali have adoringly illustrated this real-life ‘My Fair Lady’ tale. The two illustrators met online with a shared appreciation of each other’s work – but with Jennifer only speaking English and Valerio only speaking Italian their friendship was formed using online translators to talk about their ideas. They finally met when they had the idea to illustrate this story together and it is such a beautiful partnership – one of those books where every page could be framed.

The book is available from Amazon (US and UK).

-Mo x

Hair style: messy side buns

buns_7This hairstyle is so sweet, and also a fast one once you get the hang of the technique. I like the crazy, messy look!

buns_5 buns_1 buns_6 buns_3 buns_2Have two elastic bands handy. Brush and part the hair. A messy parting is fine! Form a side pony tail with your left hand. With the other hand, pull the tail through the elastic band until halfway, so it loops. Don’t pull it through completely! Depending on the length of the hair, you can now secure the elastic band, or pull the hair through to form a second little loop.

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Easy!!

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And this final photo is one of my favourites ever from Ava. Isn’t Maud the most talented photographer?

xxx Esther

PS All photos by my friend Maud Fontein.

Colouring-in fairytales from Caroline Ellerbeck

CE3Fairytales never bore, do they? I can read them over and over again, my kids can dream them and so can I, but they are always exciting and scary and they always end with a happily-ever-after.

Dutch illustrator Caroline Ellerbeck has designed a beautiful ‘colouring-in fairytale’ of some of the most famous fairytales (Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White), and they are now also available in English, French and German. I really love the sweet illustrations and how cute is the idea to personalise your own fairytale?

CE@ CE1You can find international retailers here (Scout & Co sells the English version of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood).

xxx Esther

 

Early exclusive discount at Elias & Grace

Elias and grace boys discount

Treat week at Elias & Grace is coming up next week with 20% off all non-sale items, and they’ve offered our readers first dibs before the sale starts! Babyccino readers can shop all weekend (starting now!) with an exclusive 20% discount code before the sale opens up to everyone else. Wahoo!

Elias & Grace discount
If you haven’t yet picked up summery sandals, shorts, swimwear and pretty summer dresses, then now is the time to do so. Use code BCTREAT15 to receive 20% off your order (more details here).

Happy weekend, everyone!

Courtney x

Use Your Imagination, By Nicola O’Byrne

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Use Your Imagination 2

Imagination is brilliant isn’t it? … except when its not. I have a boy who has a wild imagination and whilst that is great for games and play it can be horrible for him at night-time when his imagination starts spinning tales of robbers and monsters. With him I have to be careful what stories are read at bedtime – anything slightly scary can cause him all sorts of problems to calm down and let himself sleep. And we all know kids books, even some of the stories we learn as very young children can be quite scary. Take ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ for instance – phew! That wolf is not someone you want to come across in your dreams.

That’s why Nicola O’Byrne’s book, Use Your Imagination, is so great – a book that tells kids that it is THEIR imagination and they are in control of it.

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Rabbit is bored and Wolf wants to help – maybe they can write story together? We can quickly see what sort of story Wolf would like to write – he tries his best to twist and turn Rabbit’s imagination into a story he’d like to eat hear but Rabbit is not so easily fooled – he realises that this story is up to him and he decides where it is going.

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With wonderful pictures (that, with a simple white backdrop, also allow us to use our imaginations a little) and a fantastic lift-up crescendo to Rabbit’s tale (no pun intended). This is a book that will surely delight children and maybe empower kids to change the direction their imagination sometimes goes in. The book is available from Amazon (UK and US).

Mo x

 

Little Scosha, bracelets for kids

Little Scosha bracelets
Little Scosha birthstone bracelets
Scosha children's bracelets

When I was in NYC in March, my mom and sister flew in from Seattle to spend a rare girlie weekend together without kids or husbands. We spent an afternoon exploring the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn and luckily popped into Scosha to take a peek at all the pretty jewellery.  By chance we got to meet the designer, Scosha, and talk to her about her handcrafted jewellery, art, travel, and kids (photos were exchanged and you should see how cute her kids are!!).  She then showed us the studio in the back of the shop where all the pieces are designed and crafted on site. I always love getting a behind-the-scenes peek at how other mothers run their businesses and how their products are made. It gives you such an appreciation for the final product.

Little Scosha

Before we left the store, Scosha very kindly handed me four friendship bracelets to bring back home for the kids.  The bracelets are so cool because they’re adjustable to fit any sized wrist, but include a little bead woven into the plait so it can’t stretch too far to fall off. My kids have been wearing their bracelets since I got back from New York and I really think they look so sweet on their little wrists.

This past week Scosha launched her children’s line, Little Scosha, which includes the friendship bracelets as well as the pretty birthstone cuffs (featured above). I think they make such sweet gifts!

Courtney x

 

Hair style: double pinned-up braids

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This is a hairstyle that I remember from my early childhood. My mum would pin up my braids for festive days, and I would feel so, so special the entire day. (Again, my friend Maud has taken all of the photos.)

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I started with Julie’s hair. Julie is Maud’s daughter and Ava’s little friend, you might know her from our The Little Things series.
Just brush the hair and divide in two — I never like the parting to be too straight so I work with how the hair falls naturally on the top of the head and just use my fingers at the back. Make two braids — they can be a little loose in the beginning so they’re easier to pin up later. Keep braiding for as long as possible, and secure with a miniature elastic band in the colour to the hair.

flower_girl_23 flower_girl_18 Then I used bobby pins to pin the hair up. (I like the non-slip bobby pins, they stay put for much longer than the regular ones.)

flower_girls_14 flower_girls_16 flower_girl_19 Isn’t Julie’s hair so pretty with all those different shades?

flower_girl_20 As a finishing touch, I stuck some tiny branches of Baby’s Breath in the braids. Just to make it extra special.


flower_girls_7 When she saw Julie’s hair, Ava wanted the same treatment — of course! (more…)

When the sea calls…

Birling Gap
flying kites
Ivy at Beachy Head
walking to the lighthouse
Ivy and Quin

playing cards
Marlow on the beach
This past Saturday, despite the weather being quite cold and windy, we felt the urge to drive out of London and get ourselves to the seaside. Friends laughed at us when we told them we were going to drive two hours only to spend a cold day at the beach, but it turned out to be the medicine we all needed. Even though the English coastline doesn’t really resemble the one where I grew up, I still always feel at home when I’m standing on those rocky beaches with the smell of saltwater in the air.

We bundled ourselves in woollen hats and scarves, we packed a big picnic and brought kites and board games (and blankets!), and we spent the entire day outside in the prettiest setting, tucked away from the wind. Birling Gap in Beachy Head is one of my very favourite spots, and I thought I would mention it in case you’re also in need of a beach day to blow away the cobwebs or planning a trip to the UK and want to see these stunning white cliffs.

After a day at the beach, we always stop at the Tiger Inn for dinner on our way back home. They have several outdoor tables that often catch the evening sun (if it’s out) and a big grassy field where the kids can play while you wait for your food.  We always drive back home feeling re-charged and inspired by a day out of the city. (We’ve also stayed overnight in the nearby Blue Door Barns B&B and it’s really lovely!)

I feel like I’ve just shared a secret with you. It’s such a special spot!

Courtney x

One Thousand Things, by Anna Kövecses

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One Thousand Things 2

I knew as I approached the stand this was going to be a dangerous meeting. I had ‘eyed’ up the Wide Eyed Editions stand at last year’s Babyccino ShopUp event from across the room, and eventually gave in to temptation. I already had the Atlas of Adventures book and as soon as I looked through their catalogue I knew this would be the stand where I’d spend my Christmas presents budget.

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One Thousand Things 4

Otto (aged 3) found One Thousand Things by Anna Kövecses in his stocking. I love books that simply help encourage first words and conversation with young children. Here a little mouse takes us on a journey to learn 1000 words – split into 7 sections. The images look almost like cut-out images with flat and bold colours which are very beautiful.

One Thousand Things 5
I have also found this book great for helping to teach my older daughter to read her first words and I have ordered this book a couple of times for new babies – I always like to buy a book for newborns and the simple graphics in this book make it a lovely book to look at with very young children. The book is available from Amazon (US and UK).

-Mo  x

Pretty Spanish dresses from La Coqueta

La Coqueta dresses
La Coqueta and flowers
La Coqueta spring dresses
La Coqueta headband
girls in La Coqueta
La Coqueta dresses and headbands
I was driving the kids to school the other day when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a clan of the most beautiful children scootering down the pavement next to my car. From smallest to biggest, five small, smiling kids whizzed past me followed quickly by their mama, Celia Muños, the owner/designer of La Coqueta. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself, because I’m sure she was frantically trying to get the kids to school, feeling frazzled from a busy morning (I’m only assuming), but from the outside, her sweet family looked so, so cute.

I think what I love most about La Coqueta, apart from the beautiful clothes of course, is that it is a brand started by a busy mother of five who designs every piece with an eye for timeless Spanish design, all the while knowing how important it is to find easy care clothes that will stand the test of time so they can be passed down from one child to the next.

Celia brought these dresses over for the girls when she came for tea last month, and with spring weather finally here, the girls have happily been able to wear them. (Oh, and cute cat-ear headbands too!)

Courtney x

All photos above are by Sarah Winborn who kindly agreed to snap some photos of the girls. This is not a sponsored post; I have chosen to write about a brand I know and love. 

Picking daisies (and floral bloomers!)

Marlow and daisy
Billie Blooms bloomers 2
floral bloomers 2
marlow picking daisies 2
I recently signed up for a photography course with Lesley Colvin in an attempt to really learn how to use my camera. For years now I’ve taken decent photos in auto-mode (all thanks to a good camera and some good lenses), but lately I’ve become frustrated with the photos I’m getting and I decided I really, really need to learn how to use my camera in manual mode if I want better results. I’ve tried to learn by reading and taking online courses, but what I’ve learned about myself is that I learn best by doing and that I need someone to actually show me how to do it.

Ivy picking daisies
daisies

I’ve now taken one very enlightening class with Lesley (the first of a 3-part course) and I’ve been trying to practice with my camera all week. I took my camera to the park over the weekend and got some photos of the girls picking daisies — they were so focused on their daisy picking and crown making that they actually stayed still enough while I played around with my camera settings, and I managed to take a few photos I really like!

Also, can we talk about Marlow’s floral bloomers? Aren’t they so adorable? (This style is conveniently called ‘Marlowe’ so how could I resist?!) They’re available from Darling Clementine, and if you’re interested I curated some favourites from the shop this month and you can find them here.

Courtney x

The girls’ jumpers are from Babaà (Marlow’s is from this current season and is available online). 

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