Let it Snow!

As I write this, it is snowing heavily outside my window! Winter is really here and it’s cold! Thankfully I stocked up on snow gear from Polarn O. Pyret this year — my kids are staying toasty warm. Their collection of outerwear is superb — wind-proof, waterproof, and with added details like fleece linings, thermal insulation, inner sleeve cuffs with thumb-holes, and reflector detailing on everything. Trust the Swedish to do it well.

Polarn O. Pyret has recently launched in the USA, and they just opened a shop in Greenwich, CT (just outside NYC). They also, of course, have locations across London (Oxford Street, Brent Cross and Westfield) — I’m just waiting for them to launch a UK webshop!

-Courtney

My son’s favourite ‘toy’

For this theme week I asked my son, Elias, what his favourite toy is. Elias is 3 (nearly 4) and so it will come as no surprise to most mums with a 3 (nearly 4)-year-old boy that he answered, “my scooter”. Elias loves his blue Micro scooter and goes everywhere on it.  A boring trip to the shops can be turned into an exciting adventure if his scooter comes too.

However, the unoriginality of this choice brings me to tell you about another of Elias’s favourite toys (if it can be called that). Elias likes his ‘stuff’ — everyday he carries around with him 3 – 4 random objects and can not be with out these ‘things’, whether they are tied to him in some fashion or stuffed in his pockets or in his back-pack.  He is lost without them, he goes to bed with them and they are always the first things he asks for the next morning.

I did find the whole ‘thing’ obsession a little strange for a while, but now I love it about him — all his ‘things’ form so many ideas for games and imaginative play throughout his day. So what are his typical ‘things’? Well I just checked his pockets (see picture for proof) — this is what I found: (more…)

Crazy pinecone creatures

It’s technically still summer here in Amsterdam but in reality it’s been autumn at its worst these last few weeks. Crazy! The one advantage of autumn (the only one, really) is that there are loads of cool things falling from the trees, like for instance pine cones, which are fun to gather on a forest walk. And from which one can create very cool creatures like these pink hedgehogs. In the past we’ve made acorn men and chestnut chaps too. Fun!

xxx Esther

Little Nutty Helmets — for the coolest bikey in town


Nutcase is the maker of awesome helmets and their Little Nutty line caters the under five set. In Oz it is legal requirement to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle and given that so many are so cringe worthy (seriously lacking in the style stakes) these make me so very excited to hop on my bike once again.  There is a cool design to suit every member of the family — in fact there are so many cool designs I seriously defy anyone, young or old, not to find one that suits their personality or acceptable to their sense of aesthetic. The Little Nutty range is particularly adorable and ‘dial-to-fit’ sizing makes getting the correct fit for this helmet simple – just turn the dial on the back of the helmet to make it fit your child’s head exactly, growing as the head grows. So cool. Enough said!

For stockists of Nutcase and Little Nutty in the USA and Canada, click here; for Europe click here and for Australia, click here. For everywhere else in the world, see here.

- Sara

The Children’s Nature Institute: Tykes on Trails Program

I was so excited to come across Tykes on Trails — guided trail walks for youngsters to learn about local flora and fauna. I signed up for a program at nearby Temescal Canyon Park and it was such a fun activity. After a non-strenuous, sweet little hike, we came home with stories to tell about shamrocks seen through a magnifying glass, acorns that fell from a tree, rocks you could skip across a stream, and a treasured lizard tattoo for my son. (I got a butterfly). Our walk leader gave us a plant clipping in a wet strip of paper towel, ready to put in water by the kitchen window until it grew some roots. This hands-on learning is such a great experience for kids. They LOVE it and the leaders are incredibly knowledgeable and able to keep the attention of the little explorers. As the walk leader says, the kids are in training to be “nature spies.” How cool?!

x Kaela

Phoyo Playhouses

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…

– Sara

The brilliance of the SpringFree Trampoline


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…)

Giant Bubbles



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!

– Emilie

Arbor Collective Skateboards

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!

x Kaela

Things to do with BOYS in Paris

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.

– Emilie

The Santa Monica Airport — fun for the kids!

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…)

The Elephant Parade

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…)

Ships Ahoy! See-Saw Swing from Haba

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!

xKaela

Pedal Power

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…)

Pick your own

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…)

Metrotwin

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.

You can check out the Babyccino Kids London Address Book here and the NY address book here.

Enjoy! Mo.x

For the little budding gardener

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…)

Re-live the 17th century in Rembrandt’s House

Rembrandthuis - atelierLast 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.

xxx Esther

Top things to do in Melbourne (part 1)

headerWith 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…)

Kew Gardens

DSC_0096When 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…)

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