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!

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Sally Test
Everything in its place…

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

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Rifle Paper Co.
Man Gift

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.

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Third Drawer Down
Back to Blighty

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

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Lion Mask
Whippet Grey

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.

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Happy Holidays from Babyccino Kids!

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

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…)

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Muji Christmas
Les 400 Coups

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

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Choice of buggies
Poppies for Grace

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

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Carrot Cake
Millie’s Mayday

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…)

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

The science of shopping
Little Wings

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

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Chouquette
Custard

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

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Robot bubbles
Bookbinders Design

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

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

A late Father’s Day reading

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…)

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

My Little Paris
WIN a maxi-micro scooter!

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…)

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Shirin Kids

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

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Sam Sam
Cacharel
Older Posts »