My First Opinel

h23143003-1My grandfather once told me that every good French woman had a pen knife in her handbag. Now, that might have been a slight exaggeration, but a lot of us do have a couple of Opinels, the ubiquitous French pen knife. I have a small one to slip into my handbag to slice apples and divide cakes for snacks. I also have a bigger one for picnics!

I think it is so cute that Opinel is now doing a pen knife for kids, with a rounded blade. It not a toy but a fully functioning knife that is relatively sharp and can be used to help out at picnics and possibly cut down a couple of twigs. I guess I am teaching my kids how to become good French woman from a young age. My grandfather would be proud. ; )

- Emile

A fun way to use all those conkers your kids have collected

conkers
conkers and tights
filling tights

My friend, AC, is one of those wild outdoorsy types (in the coolest of ways, of course) who embraces the outdoors, no matter the weather, and comes up with the most creative and fun ways to entertain her kids. She’s such a fun mama, and I’m really hoping she’ll rub off on me a bit in the coming colder months when we all start to get a bit stir crazy sitting indoors!

Anyway, I’m loving her recent idea for what to do with all those conkers the kids have collected. Fill up a pair of tights and create your own ‘massage octopus’ as she calls it. How fun is that? You can read her blog post here and find lots of other inspiration and activities on her blog here.

x Courtney

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

The Little Things… A Nature Scavenger Hunt

Beautiful leaves are falling on the forest grounds, beechnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts can easily be found (a tasty discovery!), and upon close forest floor examination, a world of interesting insects can be explored. A little walk outdoors, just a few steps in the autumn nature, opens up an entire world!


Ava and her two little friends Kate and Juul put on their wellies and went out for a Nature Scavenger Hunt the other day. The three three-year-old friends had such a beautiful time. They discovered that throwing up autumn leaves is wonderful! And it smells so good… That it is fun to gather nuts, leaves and other great finds in your backpack. That you can find caterpillars if you search between the leaves, or beetles! And fairytale like mushrooms… And they were wondering, is there a mouse hiding between the roots of that tree?



It’s easy to focus on the big things in life, and sometimes, we tend to forget about the little things… But small and simple experiences can make the biggest memories. Maybe this weekend, you can take your little things outside for your own Nature Scavenger Hunt. This free download will get you going! And when you’re home (and possibly drinking hot chocolate), it can be coloured in as well!
Happy Weekend!

xxx Esther

PS –  This is the first post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you Maud Fontein for taking such gorgeous photos, and Sara Musch for the beautiful download! Mini Kånken Backpacks and Bisgaard rain wellies are available from A Day With Kate, and the cosy knitted hooded coat from Mamy Factory.

Coq en Pate – Frisbee

School is out for the summer and we are so happy, we are kind of delirious! My children are off to see their grandparents in Italy, so we are packing suitcases (I sooo much prefer packing suitcases than unpacking them!).

Shorts, leggings and dresses have already been thrown in and I just remembered this cool frisbee I picked up the other day – made in France out of seaweed; how cool is that! There is nothing quite like throwing a frisbee around on a beach and I love the fact that this frisbee is actually made out of a product you find in the sea!

- Emilie

Molkky

If you are in any way a follower of Instagram or read Babyccino Kids on a regular basis, you might have noticed that we all have been suffering from a very, very cold winter which has continued long into April. Well, this weekend was the first sunny weekend in 2013 and I think EVERYONE in the whole of Europe went outside and smiled.

We were challenged by some friends to a game of Molkky in our local park. Have you heard of it? It is the best – it’s a bit of a Skandinavian skittles, perfect for parks and gardens as you throw a piece of wood at the skittles, as opposed to rolling it. (As an aside, it is also really good for learning how to count in your head, as you need to get 50 points exactly).

I can just imagine a gang of Vikings playing this somewhere along a fjord…

- Emilie

DIY: seashell Koalas

During the summer, it is very nice to go and look for shells at the beach. This year we got inspired by Martha Stewart and turned our shells into little Koalas. It is such a fun and easy DIY!

What you need for this activity is: shells, some beads for the eyes, and for assembly, a tacky, quick-drying glue works best. It is good to experiment with different combinations before gluing, so you find the one you like best.

We didn’t use the beads for the eyes, but it worked well, and this is what turned out. It’s also a nice little present to give to family when you get back from holidays!

- Maria

Games for kids of the world


Games for Kids of the World is a free downloadable ebook that gathers a collection of games that kids around the world enjoy playing. The games are simple and don’t need complicated equipment, so they can be played anytime and everywhere. There are games from Italy, South Africa, India, Argentina, and more (15 countries in total). Each chapter (or country) starts with a sweet little introduction and lovely watercolours illustrate the games. Such fun too read about the different games children play — and interesting to see that some games from the other side of the world are known here too (Di? Sh?u Juàn from China, for instance). In any case, I’m going to play ‘What time is it, Mr Wolf?’ a game from the UK, with my kids tonight! It will be fun!

xxx Esther

A beach scavenger hunt

My kids and I spent last week at my family’s beach house on Bainbridge Island, just off Seattle. We had friends from Belgium join us, and our six kids ran around from dawn until way after dusk playing on the beach and swimming in the cold water.

When we woke up one morning to blustery weather, we had to be a bit more creative in planning that day’s activities. We ended up organising a big scavenger hunt, and it was so much fun! We wrote up a list of scavenge-able beach items and then we all went out to hunt for the treasures. (We divided up into teams and each team had a grown-up to help read and decipher the list.) It was a perfect cloudy day beach activity, and was actually quite hilarious to look through the contents of the bags when we got back to the house. It’s amazing how many crazy things you can find on a beach!

x Courtney

DIY: a Teepee (and what to do inside one)

Last weekend, with a kind of boring and grey afternoon here in northern Spain, we decided to do something fun and so escape the dull weather. So, with the stuff we had at home, we tried to do a teepe. It was fun to put the bamboo sticks together. As we were not very skilled in the art, it took us a while, but it was so much fun!!. This is what come out.

Today, 3 things you can do on a grey afternoon in a “do it yourself” teepee:

1. Draw: I always take with me paper and pens, and also a little fruit box which makes a great table! Such fun to spend the afternoon drawing inside a teepee!

2. Take a summer nap under a tree… that’s nice!

3. Have a little snack. Nico was hungry after the lovely nap!!

Three simple things to do on a grey, but not boring, afternoon!!!

- Maria

The Maxi Micro scooter


After years and years of daily use and fun, Pim sadly outgrew his beloved Mini Micro scooter (we put one of the sweet O-bars on it so it’s now Ava’s scooter, and she’s loving it!). Pim without a scooter wouldn’t be Pim, so we got him the Mini Micro’s big brother, the very cool Maxi Micro. My friend Joanna, the owner of Micro-step.nl, advised me to go for the ‘Joystick’ instead of the ‘T-bar’, and after one minute of getting used to it Pim scooters (is that what you call it?) like he never did before, and he even wants us to go to the skateboard stunt field (or whatever THAT is called, you can see I’m at a loss here) all the time. My little boy is getting big, and so is his scooter!

Do your kids have scooters? I really find them fantastic — fun to play with, and such a great way of transportation!

xxx Esther

Gardening time!

This weekend we had such a treat: one day without rain and even (yes!) a few rays of sunshine!! Hurray for May! Seriously, the weather has been so lousy here in Amsterdam, we’re in much need of sun. Anyway, we decided it was time to spend a day in our little garden to plant all the seedlings we’d grown in the windowsill of the kid’s room the last weeks: tomato, pumpkin, courgette, sunflowers, nasturtiums, sweet pea… They had by now grown into little puppy plants so it was time for them to hit the rough Amsterdam climate outside.


Carrots, radishes, salad and rocket are best sewn in the full ground (outside). If you don’t have a garden or balcony, you can also easily grow these vegetables on your window sill. Just one word of advice (we keep doing this wrong!) — don’t sew the seeds too close together, or the carrots, radishes etc don’t have room to grow! Plain salad and rocket are also super easy to grow (even in the windowsill), and you can keep cutting their leaves for a long time.

Of course we set the children to work immediately. They love gardening! Obviously the small scale of our vegetable garden-to-be will far from feed our entire family, but it’s a real pleasure to harvest our own grows, little as it may be, and it’s educational for the children. Here are some really fun ideas for gardening with kids:

Sara received this super cute Gardening Giftbox (from French brand Moulin Roty) as a gift and it comes filled with little pots, compost, seeds, a watering can and gardening tools — all packed in an adorable little suitcase. So cool! Sara and her friend spent hours working in the garden, preparing the soil, sewing their seeds, watering the plants, etc.

I got some bags of seeds at the Balcony Gardener. These bags are really pretty and also make gorgeous gifts (I just ordered a few more of them!). They also sell beautiful quality kid’s sized gardening tools which we love.

Finally, if you live in the Netherlands or Belgium (or speak Dutch), this little Moestuinkabouterpakket is such fun and so very, very cute. It comes with seeds, bags to sew them in, labels, a little book about the garden gnomes that will help you to look after the seedlings (provided you make sure their hat and coat is hanging ready for them to wear!).

xxx Esther

Monkey Feet

One of the great things about living in the Netherlands is that you’re never far from the beach. Dutch beaches are wide and sandy and perfect for wintery, windy walks, but even better to enjoy on a sunny summer day — what’s better than playing in the sand for hours and hours? Even I still like to build a good sand castle! Besides the obligatory buckets and spades, these fantastic Monkey Print Sandals found at the new web boutique Sweet Pea will also provide hours of beach fun this summer. My son has already tested them out endlessly on our wooden living room floor, he sounded like the perfect clog-wearing little Dutchman but thankfully no foot-stamps were left. I can already imagine the fun he will have at the beach pretending to be a little monkey!

xxx Esther

Ice skating!


Ice-skating is something of a national sport in the Netherlands, especially in winters where we’re lucky enough to have temperatures so low the many natural waterways in the city and countryside are frozen. Last week was such a lucky week, and children and parents alike put on their skates and hit the ice. Even the canals in the city centre here in Amsterdam were frozen, which is pretty rare! After some initial hesitation on whether or not to get the kids their own skates (after all, you never know how much they will be put to use) we did give in to the temptation. Especially after I found out that skates these days are expandable! Sara’s pair for instance is size 32-36, which means she will be able to wear them for years to come. (We got their skates at Decathlon.) It’s amazing how fast they pick up the skill, and how they love the activity. Fun, fun, fun!

xxx Esther

PS Photo of Pim (4) skating on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam over the weekend.

Bell Tents


I snuck off to a music festival in the UK last weekend, leaving my two little lovelies behind. It was great — good music, great company and one of my top favourite things to do: camping! I think my most cherished childhood holidays were spent in a lurid, orange A-frame tent, which always sagged a bit in the middle and wasn’t always water proof.

The bell tent we took last weekend was in a different league altogether and I don’t think I can ever go back to a small tent. My friend Russell had it left over from a film shoot (here is actually a clip featuring our tent!). It was super easy to put up and soo roomy and cosy! I thought we were being wildly original, but these tents are now hugely popular with the Brits and were all over the festival camp ground.

I am seriously thinking of getting one. It would be perfect to pitch up in a garden for the summer, or go for a comfortable camping trip with the whole family. I am even thinking it could work as a spare guest room in the garden, when lots of people come to visit!

Mini Micro — clip on bags

Gosh, I wish I had invented something as simple and successful as the Mini Micro Scooter! City kids everywhere are riding them, and no wonder why: finally they can keep up with the faster pace of grown-ups without becoming exhausted, and have a fun ride too! The Mini Micro scooters come in really fun and funky colours (you can personalise different elements of the scooter), but best of all, there are little clip-on back-packs available that are brilliant for little snacks, or for all the little treasures children gather on a trip to the park (feathers, stones, acorns etc.). So clever!

xxx Esther

Swimming Exams


My 5-year-old daughter, Sara, just passed her first swimming exam! Swimming is taken really serious here in the Netherlands, which is not surprising if you consider the amount of water which surrounds us. Children are taught how to swim at an early age and have to prove their abilities by passing a difficult exam. They have to dive through an underwater hole, show they master different stroke techniques such as breast stroke, back stroke, front crawl, and lifesaving techniques which mean they have to swim fully clothed (with shoes on even!). I remember having to pass the same test as a child and it was very difficult and tiring. I hated having to swim with all my clothes on! How do you teach your kids to swim? Are there similar swimming exams in your country?

xxx Esther

P.S. Photo of Sara during her exam.

Micro Step — (not just) for kids!

We’re all big fans of the Micro Steps here at Babyccino (I think we all have them for our children) — Mo was the last one to rave about them here. So, about time to understand what the kids are talking about and try out the grown-up Micro White myself! And… although a little bit scary at first (I could hardly keep up with my kids) I did quite enjoy myself! It’s still a bit cold here in Amsterdam, but I’m thinking I will use mine loads as soon as it gets a bit warmer — such a great way to keep in shape and a welcome change from the (here in Amsterdam) ubiquitous bicycle!

xxx Esther

Jamie at Winter Wonderland

As children are starting to break up from nurseries, kindergartens and schools for the Christmas holidays, a typical London holiday attraction to visit is Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. We went last weekend and whilst crazy busy I was really impressed with the fairground — lots of really beautiful old-fashioned fairground rides, mixed up with more crazy modern ones.  Also there is Zippo’s circus and an ice-rink and of course a German Christmas Market to browse around.

Jamie Oliver even has a presence there (for those of you who don’t know Jamie — he is the UK’s culinary cheeky chappy).  He has taken over the band stand to offer some proper outdoor winter cuisine — Jamie’s Fabulous Feasts offers hot pork rolls, polenta chips and much much more, all of which looked delicious.

But the best bit of Jamie’s presence was the ‘decorate your own gingerbread man’ bit, set up for children.  For £5 my son and I gave it a go.  We got a naked man and tree and an egg box filled with various decorations — dolly mixture sweets, white and milk chocolate buttons, cranberries, apricots, dessicated coconut  and an icing tube (to act as glue).  We had a lot of fun jazzing our biscuits up and I have to admit, when we finally felt we had admired them enough, they tasted pretty good too.

Winter Wonderland is open in London’s Hyde Park until the 4th January.

Outdoor ice baubles

I picked my son up from his kindergarten today and these were hanging on the trees outside — what a ‘cool’ (get it?) idea! Yesterday, the children had chosen leaves and set them on plates covered in water with a loop of string hanging over the edge.  Overnight the ice had frozen into these beautiful baubles to hang on the tree. So I think I have found something positive to come out of the freezing temperatures we’re having here!

-Mo. x

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