I love Taro Gomi’s illustrations and we’ve always enjoyed his books (My Friends, Bus Stops and Everybody Poos) so I was really interested when I discovered Taro Gomi’s Play All Day activity book. Since then, I have bought it for everyone I know — I feel like I’ve found treasure! The book is basically the BEST book in the world for a rainy day (which we are prone to over here in Blighty).
It is cram-packed with things to make and pretty much everything you need is already in the book. There are more then 100 innovative ‘punch-out’ pieces for making games, cities, landscapes, sculptures, hats, finger-puppets, picture frames and all in Gomi’s distinctive style. All the ideas are simple enough for my 4-year-old to construct with a little bit of guidance. But what I love (other then the end result actually looking good — unlike our ’start-from-scratch’ craft ideas) is that all the ideas inspire play — we made the ring-toss game last night and once made my kids played with it for 45 minutes. It’s available from Amazon (UK and US).
I don’t know about you but my i-phone is becoming an increasingly important tool in retaining my sanity as a parent. It now holds a dozen or so children’s Apps which get us through those boring, frustrating daily-life melt-down moments. As boredom levels peak whilst my 2-year-old is pushed around in the Supermarket trolley, I whip it out and let her paint pictures, guess the animals (in Peekaboo Barn or Peekaboo Wild which we wrote about here) or just blow up some balloons with the fabulous Balloonimals.
These games are perfect entertainment… but can a book work as an App? I guess you all know by now that I love children’s books and don’t mind telling you I was a touch conservative about the idea of a book being on my phone or i-pad. However Nosy Crow’s Three Little Pigs App has totally converted me and I’m now so excited what new technology can bring to brilliant stories. (more…)
I love a wedding as much as the next person but I have to say I must be one of the few who hasn’t quite got into our imminent Royal Wedding … yet, I’m sure I will. And maybe this is the start for me. I saw these in a card shop yesterday and couldn’t resist — the comedy photo opportunity was just too strong to resist. And looking online for them I realise there is endless fun to be had — a mini Brad & Ange, Cheryl & Simon or how about John Travolta and Lady Gaga? Available here.
I have spent the whole day filing away a pile of papers that was approximately as tall as I am. It is something I loathe doing, hence I let the papers pile up. It does feel great though once the papers have dissapeared into their respective binders and order has been restored. To make the task slightly more pleasant, I popped over to Muji for some nice nutural binders and, of course, left the place with about 30 other things I had never planned to buy!
One of my new purchases is the brilliant coulouring and sticker book called Funny Face Sticker Book, which Courtney had introduced me to. This book can be a source of entertainment for literally hours. Lots of stickers, and shape faces, just waiting to be coloured in. I am stockpiling it for our next train trip.
I have been trawling the internet for presents as we have a ton of birthday parties coming up. I’ve decided I’m going to stock up on nice presents to avoid a rushed, last-minute trip to a random supermarket which always results in buying something cheap and nasty. During my research I came across this lovely knitting set by Moulin Roty for little girls, and have been completely seduced by it. It is so cute and old-fashioned. I wonder if girls (and boys) are still learning how to knit, crochet and sew? I remember making wonky little sweaters and dresses for my dolls when I was young– I was no Coco Chanel, but it was a great way of keeping me occupied for hours.
Inspired by the rainy day project I saw on the Tokketok blog (via A Cup of Jo), I sat down with the kids this week to create a zoo scene! It was such a fun way to incorporate so many of their toys and interests. We used their Schleich animals, their Plan Toys Plan City cars and road signs, and their Lincoln Logs. The kids also had fun writing the animal names and drawing the zoo setting on the paper. A fun activity for a rainy day!
Cute, this mini theatre! Especially since it features the characters of Little Red Riding Hood — my kids’ favourite fairy tale and one they know by heart (I do too). It features four adorable woollen little finger puppets and a cardboard theatre. What a wonderful little gift (and it comes flat-packed so it’s perfect to send overseas as well). One for the gift drawer!
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Suga Candy Kitchen
• Sweet, from Sweden: adorable onesies from Sture & Lisa
Last weekend was Coco’s 5th birthday party, and you would have thought the Queen was coming over for tea. The excitement made the whole house shake. We had a pinata (a huge success), face painting, and a few party games — nothing outrageous but great for this age group.
As usual I racked my brain (and the internet) to find a good assortment of games to play with a dozen 5-6 year olds. The game that was the biggest hit this year was a pre-school form of charades. We drew pictures of different things or animals to act out onto little bits of cardboard and put them all in a hat. Each kid got to pick a piece and act out the object/ animal on their card. Most of the kids were great at coming up with ideas of how to play out their part — they were so imaginative. Sometimes we had to help them out a little bit, but everyone definetely derserved their little prize after their performance. (more…)
The lovely Joslyn from Shak-Shuka recently sent this Natural Paint Kit for me to test out, and after spending over an hour today with the kids in an eco paint session, I can give it my full approval. The kit comes with everything you need including 6 color packets, 6 compostable jars, and two bamboo paint brushes. And everything is 100% natural and botanical — you can even smell the fruits and flowers in the paints. (You could probably even eat the stuff, which is what kept me from panicking when my daughter literally licked the paint from her fingers!)
My kids loved that they got to mix the paints themselves — and depending on how much water you add, the paints can be thick like finger paints or thin like watercolours. It was a huge hit.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Auckland, NZ
After having come back from a recent vacation with the kids I have developed a new-found love and appreciation for the I-Pad. True — I was skeptical at first… but there are actually a bunch of really great applications you can download to thwart meltdowns, kill time on rainy days or simply to secure time when you just need a few minutes to yourself. As a family, we have all became obsessed with Cupcakes! by Maverick Software. It’s so simple yet so satisfying. You can select your batter, tin liners and all the icing and toppings you can imagine (sprinkles, jelly beans, even bacon!) to build the most elaborately delicious cupcakes you can conjure up. At the end you can even light birthday candles, blow them out, and “cyber eat” them. It’s so oddly fun and engaging you have to check it out for yourself. I am planning to get the rest of their delicious apps — cookies, pizza and even grilling!
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Screech Owl Designs
• Kids clothes in France… don’t have to break the bank
During the holidays it is great to have the family together, but it always fun to have a couple of crafty projects up your sleeve, as sometimes it is necessary to entertain the young and restless. I found this post about how to make a mobile on the Famille Summerbelle blog and it is perfect for a craft afternoon. It looks really lovely, and it is a great family project — it could even be fun to let every member of the family design a shape or two and see what everyone comes up with.
I love Julie’s solution for balancing out the pieces of the mobile by using cut-out shapes, craft jewels and beads, as the mobiles I have built previously have always ended up a bit lopsided. I can’t wait to try this one out with my girls!
I think I might have two budding Gordon Ramseys on my hands. My girls love cooking and playing… so their number one favourite toy must be their Momoll toy kitchen. The amount of cups of coffee, cups of tea, cakes and sandwiches that have been produced out of this kitchen are innumerable. The children’s dolls all have had birthday cakes baked in the kitchen and if I am really lucky, I get served a steak/frites — these girls know what their mother likes…
The thing I love about this particular kitchen is that, apart from the fact that is really cute and really easy to put together, it is so multifunctional. If you turn it around it becomes a puppet theatre, which again is a source of hours of fun and entertainment.
This classic doctor’s bag has been, I am guessing, our most enduring, regularly used toy. Of course it helps that it is made of wood and not plastic and has withstood the test of time, over-zealous budding anesthetists included (that would be my son I am referring to!) My daughter was gifted her kit when she turned 3 and the role-playing is showing no signs of decline – it is just a little more sophisticated these days! She is now 9. Over time we have added other items like cotton wool and bandaids, a pad and pencil for prescriptions and a real but broken mobile phone/pager… (more…)
I cannot recommend the Paperpod Cardboard Dolls House enough. I like it so much that it is the only toy allowed to live permanently in our living room, and it now has become a work of art. I love the fact that children get to decorate it themselves and let their fantasies go wild. We have had this doll house now for over a year and we have redecorated it several times. I don’t think it is ever going to be featured in “Ideal Homes and Gardens” but it is such a fun family activity and it makes the doll house very personal. Our house is inhabited by anyone and everyone, from toy dinosaurs to a Barbie sporting a mustache, and we now have started crafting furniture for it — the fun never stops.
Available from Smallable.
If you are a ‘paperphile’ (aka ‘paper – lover’) or even just a paper craft enthusiast you must check out Aussie online boutique upon a fold for its brilliantly curated collection of papery goodness! This gorgeous little shop showcases paper artistry from all around the world, particularly from Japan where ‘paper’ is big business. From beautiful jewellery and pretty stationery to fun paper planes and perfectly engineered pop-ups, they carry pretty much any papery bit that can be folded, scribbled, written, read, created, coloured and displayed! You cannot help but be inspired — even me, the ultimate non-crafty! On a side note, we did try to emulate these cool storage milk cartons to make some money boxes but alas, we failed miserably. (Let me know if you have better luck than we did!)
The thing I possibly like the most about Babyccino is that I get to meet some pretty talented people with a lot of passion and a huge amount of energy. The other week I had a coffee with Florence, the lovely designer of these new dolls, which she christened the Pigmées. The idea for the Pigmées came out of a whole creative process: Florence wanted to create a world of children’s designs completely based on her own taste and instincts (and luckily she has great taste and instincts). The Pigmée dolls are very simple as they are neither female nor male, nor necessarily human. They are whatever a child wants them to be.
The dolls come in different ranges –the limited edition dolls are made out of vintage linen, the special edition ones have been designed under the Ketiketa umbrella with the little Ketiketa symbol hand stamped on them, and the simple edition is made out of 100% white cotton. You can pick up the Pigmée dolls at Serendipity, Paris’ best children’s interior decoration store, or contact Florence directly by email.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Family dinners
Joëlle Jolivet, the French graphic designer behind one of my favourite children’s books, Zoo-ology, is really kind of amazing. Just check her website — how wonderful it all looks. It’s exactly like Paris. And that’s only her website!
Joelle has also made the most beautiful colouring book I know: Coloriages. It consists of amazing B&W graphics with, and here comes the best bit, little pull-up flaps with secret pictures behind. Mother goose can lift her wing for her three little ducklings, for instance. The windows of the house open. The queen lifts her manteau. And so forth. This book has kept my daughter entertained for hours already. She absolutely loves it! Such a pretty sight… And it makes a great present, too!
My 5-year-old son was ready to start reading last summer and I didn’t know where to begin. He’s crazy about superheroes and villains and his favorite books are action-packed, and I was thrilled to find an online learn-to-read program that got my beginning reader’s attention the minute he saw the action figures. It’s called Talking Fingers. Admittedly, the site itself could use some aesthetic and navigational improvements, but we clicked on the link for a free kids’ demo of the “Read, Write and Type Learning System” and he was off and running. His job was to defeat a green, snarling villain named ‘Vexor the Virus’ who tries to steal letters from storytellers. I helped him out for a little while and then my 3-year-old started to wail so I left him on his own. Animations called ‘Lefty LaDee’ and ‘Right Way McKay’ showed him where to put his fingers on the keyboard so he could type a letter. From the kitchen I could hear him pronounce sounds like “h” “th” and “sss” – and I heard him whoop when he won a game and watched Vexor blow away in defeat. We signed up for the whole program, very inexpensive at $35, and by the time Kindergarten started my son was in love with letters and the sounds they made. He was proud of his four “certificates” – and eager to get more.
Last week my kids invited friends over for a play-date so I had a busy house with 4 pre-schoolers and a baby! After we had quesadillas for lunch and did some painting, the 4 friends started to fight over the only nurse-hat we have. So I made them all a doctor’s hat of their own (white paper, red marker and some staples) and some prescription notes to go with them. Hours of fun to follow! Simple does it — again.