A playhouse that is portable, practically indestructible and NOT made of plastic! I’m so excited by this new discovery! Isn’t it great? New Zealand architect, Robin Hannah, set about constructing a nifty slot-together version for her kids way back in the ’70s and well … fast forward and she’s kindly decided to not only repeat the design for her lucky grandchildren, but also to make it available to us! The best part? The Phoyo is made made of sustainably grown pine so it’ll last more than one generation (which means technically I can classify this type of plaything as an ‘investment’ — should my plastic-loving husband question the viability of the new purchase!)
On a practical level, the Phoyo comes with a clear varnish or you can receive it bare sanded so that you and the kids can jazz it up with your own bespoke design. I must say though, I kind of like it au natural. Oh and one more thing — aside from the fantastic utility of being completely screw/nail free, the clever six piece set simply flat packs away when not needed. Perfect! For dogs too I would imagine…
I was quite adamant that we would never get a trampoline. I had visions of concussions, broken limbs and teeth knocked out (hey, my brother-in-law is a neurosurgeon). That we live in a townhouse with a little courtyard didn’t help. The trampoline would take up at least half of this and wasn’t really the kind of view I had in mind for the glass walls looking out. But that was before I discovered the brilliance of the Springfree Trampoline.
The hours and hours of fun we have had (me included), not just jumping but reading, playing cars, throwing balls, picnics, performances… drying my washing and airing out my blankets — even taking our pillows out for a spot of stargazing. For my daughter it doubles as her ‘clubhouse’. For my son it is his batman cave. For me it is a padded cell to place my kids when I am in dire need of peace and quiet. All this has well and truly compensated for my view (or lack thereof). But really the best aspect of all is that it is a great and fun source of exercise for the whole family (apparently every muscle gets a go). (more…)
I just read this post about how to make girant bubbles on Bambino Goodies and I am hooked. Imagine making huge bubbles out of hula hoops and bent, metal coat hangers? I seriously cannot imagine anything more fun. I personally recommend adding in a couple spoonfuls of sugar. Who knows why… but it makes the bubbles even stronger. I am now off to my local pharmacy to pick up a bottle of glycerine and some non-eco washing up liquid to produce the perfect bubble!
Like most little boys, my son wanted one of these four-wheelers for himself after he first laid eyes on some local skaters enjoying their rides. We went through several superhero-themed “kid” skateboards only to come to the conclusion that they were practically disposable due to poor quality and cheap materials, not to mention the absence of any decent performance. I realized that this was an activity not soon to be outgrown, (most of my friends’ husbands are still proud owners of at LEAST one) and decided it was time to step it up a few notches for something with staying power. I turned to Arbor Collective. I loved the sleek design and use of natural wood. I also happily discovered that on top of incredible aesthetics, performance and craftsmanship, Arbor is committed to creating products in the most environmentally responsible way possible and the owners fully stand behind every snowboard and skateboard they make. They use ecologically based alternatives to harmful chemicals, water-based finishes and recycled materials to produce impressive skateboards in a huge variety of shapes and sizes with designs by featured artists (this mini Pocket Rocket is the choice for my eldest). Arbor Collective has a sweet little showroom in Venice with friendly, helpful staff, and their website tells you about other places you can purchase their products. Have fun!
I have been discovering lots of BOY friendly activities here in Paris — a far cry away from the usual shopping and coffee-drinking that you normally associate with this city. I reckon our Babyccino Boys Theme week is the perfect opportunity to share them with you…
The Argonaute at the Parc de la Villette: The Argonaute is a 1950’s submarine that was taken out of commission in the ’80s and is now moored in the Parc de la Villette, right beside the Cité des Sciences, Paris’ science museum. It is fascinating. The submarine has been kept exactly the way it was and you get a real feeling of what it was like to live and work in such a confined space. The motors are completely exposed and the audio tour (available in several different languages), describes the life on a submarine really well.
Dinosaur exhibition at the Grand Palais: All the boys I know are going wild about the Dinosaur exhibition at the Grand Palais. The exhibition is not too big to be overwhelming but it is a great way to get to know this species that fascinates so many boys. The animated models are VERY realistic, so small children might be slightly scared. Children discover how dinosaurs lived and ate and there is even a replica of a dinosaur poo (somehow poo never fails to get a rise out of the under-18 crowd).
Play area at the Parc de Belleville: This play area is our favourite place to go at the moment. It has been built specifically for city kids to get them to use their imagination and get to know their physical capabilities better. It is such an unsual structure that every kid interprets differently: for some it is a boat, for some a village, for some a jungle and for some just a great place to let go of some steam.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• A late Father’s Day reading
For most of us living in Southern California, kids + outdoor activities = the way to go. Yes, of course we have many parks and beaches (and parks AT beaches), and I definitely have my favorites, but here’s a different idea (at least to those who don’t know about it yet!) – the Santa Monica Airport. “Airplane” being one of my son’s first words, I knew that this would be a home run when I first discovered from another parent its entertainment potential (other than a possible ‘Brangelina’ sighting). This small, un-crowded, easily accessible airport is a great spot for KIDS!
Once you reach the “public view deck” of this little unassuming airpot, voilà – you have front row seats to take-offs and landings! My son was enthralled and totally mesmerized each time a little prop plane or private jet would arrive or take to the sky – or even just start to taxi on the runway. (more…)
I happened to be in the heart of London, on Oxford Street, the other day when I came across some wonderful painted elephants at Selfridges. As I continued my stroll through town I saw more and more … on Bond Street, in Green Park — what were they all about?
London has become home to The Elephant Parade. During May and June, 250 colourfully painted elephants will be dotted around the capital to shine a spotlight on the plight of the endangered Asian elephant. The campaign is from the charity Elephant Family, whose aim is to try and protect the elephant’s habitat which is increasingly threatened by human expansion.
The elephants here in the capital have each been painted by an artist or celebrity and together they make up London’s largest outdoor art event on record (with an estimated 25 million people viewing them over the next weeks). (more…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Shirin Kids
We got this fantastic Ships See-Saw Swing for my son’s fourth birthday and his boat-themed party, and it really is the gift that keeps on giving. It was and continues to be SUCH a huge hit with the kids – my own and every single friend that comes over to play. We attached it to our swing set where it’s easily removable when we want to swap it for the regular swing. This was our best option as we’re lacking the great, big tree branch that would be a perfect home for a swinging sailboat to take kids to far away fantasy lands of storms, pirates and princesses. The swing has another convenient feature — holding many children at once (we’ve had up to seven), thus avoiding the dreaded and inevitable “my turn, MY turn!!” from the less-than-patient youngster.
There are several places to purchase it online, or if you’re in Los Angeles, check it out at The Acorn Store in Santa Monica. This is my go-to spot for creative and wooden toys – great for gifts!
Having recently returned from one of my all-time favorite cities in the world, as well as Esther’s stomping ground — Amsterdam, I now have a serious case of bicycle-itis. The whole bicycle culture over there is just completely enchanting to me. Visions of every age using the power of the pedal as the main form of transportation, unlike Los Angeles, where the smallest of errands usually entails a full car load up. Not only that, but the bikes in Amsterdam are works of art as far as I’m concerned. My husband and I would duck into any bike shop we’d come across and excitedly “choose” which style ride we needed to have in our possession back in the States. My kids couldn’t get enough of piling into a cargo bike and away we’d go! And not only does bike riding appeal to my “green” side, it appeals to my “fun” side and totally takes me back to my childhood and the feeling of freedom that goes along with riding a bike. The geography of L.A. makes it highly unlikely (i.e. only in my dreams) to become a bicycle driven city, but that does not mean we can’t have our own little slice of the Dutch life. Thanks to the super friendly brother duo, Adam and Josef Bray-Ali, owners of Flying Pigeon LA, we Angelenos now have direct access to the SUVs of bicycle family fun. (more…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Du Pain et Des Idées
May is here — we can officially start the count-down to Summer (which I have been doing since 1st Jan but now the goal is in sight!). With May comes the start of some of my favourite Summer activities (eating outside, picnics, French cricket, boules, paddling in pools to name but a few). The best of these has to be ‘picking your own’. The very brilliant Garsons Farm in Esher (Surrey) opens up for ‘pick your own’ this month and the season continues until October. Over the next 6 months there will be 42 different crops, in a total of 106 different varieties, available for picking. Whether you are in the mood for gooseberries or cucumbers, cherries or cabbages, Garsons can accommodate (seasonally dependent of course). It is such a fun day out — all the kids getting their own punnets and picking which crop to collect… with the occasional cheeky fruit ’scrumped’ (picked and eaten) on the way round the fields. (more…)
I was recently approached by Metrotwin to do a guest-list for them of my favourite places in London with kids. I said “hey! I can do one better than that — I can ask our fabulous Babyccino NY contributor (Dina to you and me) to do a NY list too”. They were very excited.
You see Metrotwin is a site powered by British Airways to offer reviews of all the best things to do in the London and NYC. It is a fabulous resource if you happen to be travelling to or even if you live in either of the cities.
Considering how gardening helps children learn about the cycle of life and about time, patience, nature, and cause and effect… I can’t think of a better gift for a child than this mini greenhouse by HaPe. Not to mention the cool design — it is made of birch plywood and bamboo and cleverly designed to allow gardeners to open the rooftop for planting and watering. Two sliding doors offer a second access to four double-walled, fully functional plastic trays that can be filled with earth and seeds. It is pretty fantastic! I have ordered one for my daughter for her birthday — a real step up from the pint milk containers and fast-to-sprout seeds she has been tending to. A little garden of her own to love and nurture!
Incidentally, HaPe International is the maker of a great line of all natural bamboo games that were developed by designers, teachers, and technicians from over 15 different nations. It is the world’s first collection of bamboo toys. (more…)
Last weekend we did something unexpectedly fabulous: we took the children to Rembrandt’s House. Rembrandt, as you might know, was a very famous Dutch painter who lived from 1607 till 1669. From 1625 onwards he lived in Amsterdam. For a big part of his live he was very rich, already well known in his time, and he lived in a beautiful house that is amazingly well conserved and restored and can be visited today.
I didn’t really know what to expect with two little children, but they were SO impressed. Our daughter (4 yrs) listened to her own audio tour, aimed especially at kids, and I can say that at the end of our visit she could give me specific information that I didn’t pick up myself.
If you’re in Amsterdam and want to combine some culture with history and a fun family activity, the Rembrandthuis comes recommended. There’s no restaurant, but walking down to the Staalstraat takes less than 5 minutes and you’ll find Pucinni, with great coffee, good sandwiches and amazing cakes. In the same street you’ll find cute kids gift shop Beestenwinkel, my favourite grown-up gift shop Klevering (that happens to stock some really lovely kids items as well), and a bit up the road there’s Droog Design, a showcase of the famous Dutch design group.
With a steady stream of visiting friends over the Christmas holidays, and many with young children, we have been busy! Whilst we treated them to the hedonistic pleasures of the Aussie beach culture, we also spent a great deal of time indoors appreciating the ‘higher arts’. This can be tricky with young kids in tow, especially those who are jet-lagged and tantrum prone, but Melbourne has some fabulous museums and galleries, several of which are especially wonderful for children. Here are my top 3.
1. Melbourne Museum – This fabulous museum, located on the northern border of the Carlton Gardens behind the Royal Exhibition Building, is futuristic and interactive and connects architecture and nature – in the middle of the museum, you can walk through a forest! The Children’s Gallery is designed for children 3 to 8 but I would think it would delight even the younger toddler. The children’s exhibition, entitled 1,2,3 Grow, explores the many ways things, including humans, grow. Activities, children’s art, stories, an indoor sandpit with fossils beneath the sand which children are encouraged to discover, a kids puppet theatre and an outside play/picnic area including games such as skittles for the whole family, are just some of the attractions. It doesn’t matter how often we visit (we try to put our membership to good use after all) my children are always stimulated and engaged. Young children particularly love the insect section and the Forest gallery. Click here for more details. (more…)
When the girls asked me to write for Babyccino one of my first ideas for a post was Kew Gardens. We got to know the Royal Botanical Gardens when we moved down South and immediately became members. We now go every couple of weeks and still love it just as much — it is such a great place for kids.
Apart from being a huge space to run around with fascinating trees, flowers and plants, there is also a dedicated indoor children’s area called Climbers and Creepers. All the zones have an educational element relating to plants and their habitat and have been so cleverly thought out to cater for a really wide age group (quoted as age 3 – 9 but there are great touchy-feely bits too which are good for babies).
On the other side of the gardens is the Treetop walkway (designed by the architects of The London Eye) which is 18 metres up in the air and 200 metres around — giving you an opportunity to see the tops of the trees and those who inhabit them. At ground level there is a tunnel with an exhibit giving insight to what happens under the trees (good for any bug and creepy-crawly enthusiasts!). (more…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Jamie Oliver
It was lovely to meet Courtney recently as she began her big adventure along Australia’s east coast. It’s funny the feelings it stirred in me. I really wanted her to have a good time in Sydney. And I wanted her to love my neighbourhood of Bondi as much as I do. So I sent her off a quick list of things to do with children, and I thought it might be useful for anyone else visiting Sydney.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive and is skewed to areas near where I live. So I’d love to know your suggestions if you live locally.
Nielsen Park, Vaucluse – a Harbour pool that is kid-friendly with the most amazing view of the Harbour Bridge while you swim. There is a kiosk where you can get takeaway food, a café or you can just take a picnic. There are a few walks in this area too. There’s loads of great advice on this blog – Family Fun Sydney too.
Watson’s Bay – you can get ferries here to the city or just enjoy the park and wander around the streets which have the cutest cottages – used to be a fishing village although now highly coveted for real estate so everything is made over. But still has lots of charm. You can eat with your family at the pub there – Doyles or get takeaway fish n chips. (more…)
Weekends are always for adventures and when we stumbled from our cosy little burrow last summer into Battersea Park we hit upon treasure. The Park is situated just south of the river between the Albert and the Chelsea Bridge. We drove and parked up at one of the many car-parks around the park. We got all of our paraphernalia out of the car: buggy, 2 children, nappy-bag … (you know the drill) and hoped that the trip was worthwhile. We were aiming for the children’s zoo that we had heard about, but before even getting there we saw a boy driving around the park lanes in a cross between a bike and a go-kart. Then we saw 5 or 6 more children come flashing past in similar vehicles — there was no way that coincidence could have situated 6 recumbent bike owners on this one park path? It turns out Battersea Park is one of only two parks in London (Dulwich being the other) where London Recumbents hires bikes, trikes, tandems and various other bike-like contraptions (hiring starts at Easter and goes through until the end of Summer). It looks like so much fun, and in fact Time Out called it “the best family biking this side of Amsterdam” — it must be good, hey Esther? (more…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• LOL x
I love traditional toys that allow my children to use their imaginations — toys that inspire their creative play. I also love toys that look great in my home. (Hey, I haven’t earned the title ‘toy snob’ from my friends for nothing!) Enter Dobbin and Drum’s hobby horses. Just gorgeous. They are made from 100% natural fabrics — Australian hardwood dowel, leather trim and are filled with the highest quality 100% lightweight pure Australian merino wool. Now these hobby horses are no ordinary run of the mill horses, they are of heirloom quality and completely and lovingly hand-made. In a world of electronic toys and high tech gadgets, I am proud to say my children love their hobby horses and they regularly feature in their creative play. To be honest, they also make the odd appearance when they are fighting….
Dobbin and Drum are a small Australian company that produce a select range of natural fibre quality crafted toys — toys with ’soul and substance”. For the full range of hobby horses (including the fabulous unicorns and dragons) and for stockist information, refer to their website. Despite being a little tricky to wrap (I always end up resorting to just a ribbon) they make the perfect gift for a young child.
P.S. I can also recommend Dobbin and Drum’s teepee’s and drums — the very best I have seen.
I took the kids the other night to a fun park filled to the brim with people, and it occured to me how easy it would be to lose them in the crowd. Especially the eldest, whose birthday we were celebrating, and who was running around like an excited little puppy with her friend. That is when the friend’s dad had a stroke of genius: he simply wrote our mobile numbers on their arms with a pen and instructed the kids that, if they ever got lost, they should go up to one of the booths to a person in a uniform and ask them to call the number on their arm. The kids completely got it, and would have known what to do in the case of getting lost! So simple, why had I never thought of that?! (I am sure most of you had, I just wanted to write a post about it, in case you were a bit clueless, like me.) (more…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Lili & the Funky Boys
Nestled in a bend of the Yarra River, amongst the river red gum and paperbark trees (a very typical Australian setting!) is the Collingwood Children’s Farm…. a little slice of country life right in the heart of Melbourne, only 4 kilometres from the CBD. It’s a magical place for city children (and adults) and an absolute favorite with family and friends.
Here, children can get up close and personal with all the typical farmyard animals and immerse themselves in farm chores. They can get their hands dirty milking the cows, bottle feeding the lambs, waddling with the ducks, patting the rabbits, feeding grass to the horses and all the while marvel at the sight and smell of the pigs. They can also look for eggs — a great way to teach them that eggs and milk don’t come out of cartons (as I am lead to believe some ‘other’ children think is the case… not mine, of course! ) (more…)