Oli&Carol natural rubber bath toys

Oli&Carol natural rubber bath toys Over the years I’ve learned that bath toys should not have a hole. Even though you’re a clean person (which you are, of course), there will eventually grow a nasty, black substance inside that toy. Also, independent of their age it seems, children love to put everything they find in the bath into their mouth. So bath toys are best made of a natural rubber.

Enter the new label Oli&Carol, launched by two sisters from Barcelona aged 15 and 20 (15 and 20!!!), which offers the most darling rubber toys, without a hole, and made from 100% pure latex and painted with food grade, non-toxic dyes.

oli&carol natural rubber bath toys Oli&Carol natural rubber bath toys I really love the sweet, retro designs that the girls came up with — simple ‘paper’ boats, cool beetle cars, fruity teething rings, the original rubber ducks, etc. My personal favourites are the red toadstools — I love the look of them in our bathroom (and my kids love playing with them!).

xxx Esther

Aether Cone, a Thinking Music Player

Cone Thinking Music PlayerI’m sure every family is the same, but we love a bit of a swing in ours. Very often, after breakfast or dinner, we turn up the volume and dance in our living room. It’s crazy! We all join in, and it’s just so much fun. And very often, we end up with a big fat group hug in the end.

Also, sometimes when I’ve had a busy and difficult day, and I feel stressed and tired and my patience is low, it helps to get up and move, to be crazy, and sing along. Music surely is medication for the soul.

casper dancing on cone music player dancing children

It has recently become much easier for our children to initiate their own dancing because the awesome Aether Cone entered our house. The Aether Cone is not only a striking music player (in fact the most beautiful looking one I’ve ever seen), it’s also incredibly easy to understand and to work. Not only easy for me (too many buttons and screens put me off completely), but really handy for the kids as well! The only thing they need to do, is press the center button and ask out loud for any artist, song, or radio. Within seconds, the Cone will be playing their choice and our family will be in full swing!

dance2 dance3

And last weekend, my dad was here, and he just had the best of times with the Cone as well. He kept thinking of song and artists from his childhood (the early sixties), and voila — the Cone followed his commands without fail. Just to indicate how simple and fun it is to work with!

I’ve also understood that the more we use the Cone, the better it will get at playing the songs we love. I’m currently writing this with some lovely random background music in the background — I just took the Cone into my office (it’s portable with an 8-hour rechargeable battery). On the associated app on my phone I read that right now I’m listening to Isobel Campbell, a Scottish singer-songwriter. Nice suggestion, I must say!

xxx Esther

PS This post is sponored by Aether, a company we respect for making beautifully crafted products that use powerful technology and simple, natural controls to make everyday moments nicer.

Sweet Smokks Summer Dresses (for mama and daughter)

smokks summer dresses

There’s something a little bit cheesy about matching mums and daughters outfits, but also something incredibly cute. Definitely cute. And especially these dresses from NYC based label Smokks. : )

smokks summer dresses smokks summer dresses

Hallie started Smokks a few years ago, after her husband dressed their daughter in her pyjamas for a ballet graduation, while she was away on vacation — because, as he said, he couldn’t deal with all of the buttons, zips and otherwise complicated dresses in his daughter’s wardrobe. I must say this sounds very familiar; my husband would totally do the same thing (or maybe, he would simply dress her in her jeans like he always does). Anyway — Hallie figured there was a market for effortless girls’  clothing: no zips, no buttons, no ribbons. Just a very cute and simple dress, a uniform, almost.

Smokks are, as the name implies, old-fashionedly smocked, but definitely have a modern feel to them. They are, as said, simple, but not actually as simple as it seems. I can tell that a lot of thought went into these dresses! There are deep pockets for treasures. The neckline is wide and comfortable, but flattering. The length (with royal hem) and the low arm hole means these dresses can be worn for years — layered with legging or tights and a cardigan for colder days. They are totally cute for everyday wear and play, but can definitely also be used for more formal occasions.

Hallie messengered over some dresses for our girls to try when we were in NY a few weeks ago. Since her biggest girls’ size is a size 9, she sent over a women’s size S for Sara, which is still a bit big on her… Haha, lucky me! I love it! : )

xxx Esther

PS I love Ava’s curled toes in the photos above. The photos were taken by Sara, by the way — roles reversed!

Vriendenboek (A Friends’ Book)

Esther van de Paal vriendenboek Snor vriendenboek Esther van de Paal Julie Summerbelle Snor(All photo credits: Yvonne Eijkenduijn of Yvestown)

I’m super proud to announce a little project I’ve been working on with my friend Julie Marabelle (the super talented lady behind the well known brand Famille Summerbelle) and Snor, the coolest publishers here in the Netherlands: we made a Friends’ Book!

vriendenboek Esther van de PaalNow, if you’re not Dutch (or Belgian, or German) you probably have no idea what a Friends’ Book is… Our ‘Vriendenboek‘ (Friends’ Book) consists of 31 double pages with pre-printed questions — one to be filled out by the owner of the book (the ‘This is me’ section), the rest is meant for 30 friends and/or classmates. There are passport-like questions (like name, address, length, hobbies, sort hair, favourite school subject, etc), but also more creative questions such as ‘What is the nicest thing you and I did together’, ‘Draw your dream house’ or ‘This is what my bed looks like’. There’s  space for a photo, which is carried by a character in underwear that can be dressed with the cool clothes stickers that come with the book.

vriendenboek Esther van de PaalThe book is typically aimed at children of the age of 4 to 12 (primary school age), and the idea is that it’s a record of a specific year in your childhood, a record of your friends, but also of the zeitgeist of a specific era. My dad just emptied out his basement and he dropped of some boxes of stuff my mum had kept for me, and coincidentally I found my own friends’ book from 1984/85. It’s just brilliant reading the answers! Some examples: best film: Annie, E.T., Ghost Busters, First Blood (!). Best pop group: Wham, Duran Duran, UB40. What I want to be: Farmer, Housewife, Truckdriver, Horse Stall Cleaner. And goes on. So good! I wonder what has become of all of those childhood friends. I hope they are living their dreams! : )

vriendenboek friend's book vriendenboek06 vriendenboek friends' bookJulie and I have been brainstorming and designing to come up with a modern, cool and good-looking friendship book filled with fun and interesting questions, and it is finally here. And I’m so happy with how it turned out! The way the paper feels, the way the colours turned out, the quality of the stickers in the back — it’s all beautiful!

vriendenboek13 vriendenboek friends bookAt the moment, the Friends’ Book is only available in Dutch… You can get it here for shipment in the Netherlands, or here for international deliveries. And hopefully it will soon be available in English, and other languages as well!

xxx Esther

PS All the beautiful photos above are by my friend Yvonne from Yvestown. Thank you Yvonne (and your neighbours Josefien and Pauline, such sweet models)! And a big thank you to my Dutch blogging friends Bubbelmint, Oh Marie!, Moodkids and UrbanMoms for their lovely reviews. Julie also wrote a nice blogpost about our book, with great photos, here.

Tuesday Tips: how to survive the first months of pregnancy

how to survive the first months of pregnancyI’ve been very lucky during my pregnancies — they have always been fairly easy. I was (of course?) extremely tired in the first months, and feeling nauseous here and there (especially when brushing my teeth or when I smelled the exhausts of cars), but overall, I have actually always really enjoyed those nine months.

But it’s not so easy for all of us — over half of the pregnant women suffer from worse pregnancy sickness. Feeling nauseous during the entire day, vomiting even. (And then there’s Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a rare but extreme form of morning sickness, characterised by uncontrollable nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.)

Our lovely Helen, who runs the Babyccino Kids Shopping Portal, is currently 21 weeks pregnant with her third baby, a little girl. (See photo above!) I’m so excited to have a little baby joining our Babyccino Kids team this summer!

Helen did suffer from pregnancy sickness until a few weeks ago, so I asked her to share her experiences and tips to cope below. (I would love for you to share your advice in the comment field below as well — it’s always so helpful to know that you’re not alone!) So here goes:

– For me, the mornings were the best. Around 10ish the nausea would kick in, getting worse through the day to a peak in the evening. Everyone is difference but ‘morning’ can be a bit of a misconception. If you do suffer the classic symptoms in the morning, apparently having some crackers on the bedside table, ready to eat before you rise, is the way forward.

– For me morning sickness lasted past the first trimester, until week 17/18, but many people feel relief as they get to the second trimester. If you really struggling, finding you can’t cope and especially if you’re vomiting often, don’t suffer in silence and don’t be afraid to go to the doctor.

Eating little and often. Plain, not too oily and definitely not too sugary. Lots of plain carbs seem to be what the body wants — bananas, avocado on toast, plain toast.

Fresh air

Rest (!)

Drink a lot. Helps avoid headaches too.

Ginger. Specifically fresh ginger and lemon tea helped me. (Peel and thinly slice ginger, pour boiling water over and add some slices of lemon.) Ginger beer or ale is a perfect treat, especially if you do manage to make it out to a social function and don’t fancy ordering mineral water all night. And although some can find it a bit much, but I found that mint tea helped to settle my stomach.

– For me the biggest challenge of the first few months – especially when it’s not your first – is getting dinner on the table. Thinking about food is awful. And then you have to eat it! Make life easier for yourself with services that provide you and your family with healthy food options – be it a service providing home-cooked meals or visits to your local deli.

Floradix (http://www.salusuk.com/products/floradix.html). It could be a coincidence but I have suffered less from exhaustion this time (and I discovered floradix after I had my second baby).

– If you are working mum and IF you feel comfortable with it – you could tell your employer in confidence in these early days. Often we don’t want to tell before 12 weeks because what if it goes wrong? What then? With the knowledge of your situation your employer can help make sure you don’t get any additional concerns in those first tough few months and frankly, if things don’t end up happening as you hoped, you’ll probably need to tell them at that point anyway!

Thank you, Helen!

xxx Esther

So Awesome Wallet cards

So Awesome wallet flash cards so awesome alphabet cards These So Awesome wallet cards don’t just looks beautiful, they’re also super practical. A selection of cards the size of a credit card, made from durable, easy-to-clean, biodegradable and kid-safe (non-toxic, food-safe) plastic, are kept together by a re-closable ring. The size makes them super easy to throw in your handbag or nappy bag. They can be kept together and read as a book, or they can also be played with individually. So fun! I have found them especially handy when we’re traveling, or in restaurants. Casper and I like to play with the Color and Shape cards — I ask, what colour, and he says ‘blue’. For all the colours. ; )

xxx Esther

 

 

Sweet summer dresses by Neige, from Ladida.com

Sweet summer dresses, Neige at Ladida.com Sweet summer dresses by Neige, from Ladida.com

When we were in NYC a few weeks ago we met up for drinks with Rebecca, the owner of the exquisite (and extensive) webshop, Ladida, and it was such a fun evening. Rebecca really rocks! She’s fun, honest and interesting, plus, a clever and inspiring business woman. She runs a gigantic online children’s fashion emporium, offering a well curated collection of the best high-end brands of the world. Also worth mentioning is that she has 5 small children (the littlest one is only a few months old!).

I brought back a few presents for my kids from NY, of course, and amongst them were these two matching Neige dresses for my girls that I got from Ladida.com. The sweetness! (I’ve been getting matching things from Rebecca for the past few years — remember these cute pointy hat winter coats? Or last year’s matching summer dresses?)

Sweet summer dresses by Neige, from Ladida Sweet summer dresses by Neige, from ladida.com

My girls love to match. And I love to see those two sweet sisters, tall and small, being so cute and excited together! (Of course they had to immediately try their new dresses, inside the house because it’s still way too cold outside. A prelude to warm summer evenings and impromptu garden parties!)

xxx Esther

A LEGO party for Pim’s 8th birthday

Lego Party decoration (Babyccino Kids)Birthdays are a big deal for children, and we like to celebrate it appropriately. We make a big deal out of it. Our children get a party for family and close family friends (the ‘family party’), and then they get to invite a few classmates for another party (the ‘friends’ party). For his 8th ‘friends’  birthday party, Pim had decided he wanted a LEGO party.

I honestly admit that I was a bit at a loss what to do with this theme. I mean, a strawberry high tea, a cooking party, or a disco party — I didn’t have to think long with coming up with some fun activities and decoration for those. And in the end, the interpretation of the adventurous treasure hunt of Pim’s party last year was quite straightforward as well, once the concept was there. But Lego?

And then I thought — the best thing about Lego, is Lego. We don’t need to provide anything else, than lots and lots of Lego! So we went to Ebay, and bought two second-hand batches of Lego bricks. We got loads!

Lego-party-cups Lego-Party-centerpiece Lego-Party_boat Lego_Party_decorationTable decoration was kept simple. I drew Lego faces on little glas jars, and poured orange juice inside. Pim made the center setting for the table, his name in giant 3D letters! And above the table, we strung yellow balloons, again, with Lego faces on them.

Lego birthday party - babyccinokids.com Lego-Party Lego-Party-Lego-Brick-Cake

We served rectangular carrot cake with M&M’s on them to resemble Lego bricks.

Lego Party cracker with cheese (babyccinokids.com)

And later, I prepared some ‘Lego’ cheese crackers, with cheese dots on them.

LegoParty tower babyccinokids.comAnd then, we dunked all of the Lego on the floor and the kids could play! We gave them two ‘missions’ — the first one was to build the highest tower in three groups of three (which were properly measured afterwards of course). Simple but super exciting! And then, we asked one group to make a vehicle for the land, one group for the sea, and one group for the air. After 10 minutes we rotated the groups, and again a bit later.

Lego_party_cleanupIt was a really fun afternoon! And a perfect party for the lousy weather as well — it was raining outside the entire time, but cheerful and bright inside!

xxx Esther

New adorable collection at Macarons

Macarons SS15 collection

The new spring/summer Macarons collection is online and it is so sweet! I love the timeless but at the same time modern design of the pieces.

Macarons SS15 collection

I especially love this stripy pinafore dress. Pinafore dresses are so versatile — they work great for this colder time of year, layered over a long-sleeved shirt and tights, but can also be worn with a short-sleeved tee or vest and leggings for when it gets warmer, or just as is for when we’re at the height of summer.

The denim Dora dress is another great evergreen dress. It looks absolutely adorable on, and can also be warn all year long, layered with tights and a cardigan. Oh, and this sweet overall Ola (I’m so bummed that Ava has outgrown the Macarons sizing for it! But Courtney got it for Marlow — I can’t wait to see it on her).

Macarons SS15 collection

Other pieces I love in the new Macarons collection are the Piroz pants that Casper is wearing in the photo above (with the super comfy pullover Paula).  It’s super sweet and can grow with him for a few years, it will just gradually become more cropped.  And — I’m a big fan of cardigans for my kids — cool cardy Clara is great for both Ava as Casper (in fact, they share one — I got it for Casper but Ava keeps stealing it). Like all Macarons pieces, it is made in such a clever way that one size fits more years.

xxx Esther

Design Mom’s book ‘How to live with Kids: A room-by-room guide’

Design Mom book How to live with kids

A few months ago my friend Gabrielle Blair, the famous Design Mom, asked me to share some photos of our home, for the use in the book she was working on. I was super flattered to be asked, because I have been a Design Mom fan from the moment we started blogging. Gabrielle is so incredibly talented, so entrepreneurial, so creative, so stylish, and so real. I love her down-to-earth style, her guts, and her drive to connect people. Also — I love how she shares her successes, as well as her difficulties. So you can imagine that for months I’ve been awaiting the highly anticipated launch of her book, and this week a preview copy of the book landed on my doormat… and it’s even better than I could have imagined!

Design Mom book How to live with kids
Design Mom book How to live with kids

‘How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide’  is a family lifestyle book full of inspiration, with beautiful photos of real homes. It’s full of useful tips stemming from real life experience with 6 children. Gabrielle shares easy decor tips and doable DIY projects, lovely family traditions and sweet tips. (Like: keep a box of Band-Aids within children’s reach in the bathroom, to make children feel in control when they have an owie, plus, when a little friend needs a band-aid, your child can help and get a positive experience with empathy. Or, one of my favourite phrases from the book: ‘Ugly couches can make beautiful childhoods’. So true!)

Sometimes parenting, interior or DIY books can be so terribly overwhelming. What I like best about Design Mom’s ‘How to live with Kids’ is that’s it’s all so approachable, so doable and so real. Gabby shows us that it’s no about what to buy, it’s about working with what your already have, to make your house happy, and wonderful.

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon (US or UK ).

xxx Esther

Hattie the elephant (from Four Monkeys)

Hattie_1

When Pim was 2 years old, he pulled over a marble sculpture that my mum had made as our wedding gift and it broke in half. Thankfully we were able to restore it, but — better safe than sorry — we now keep our delicate sculptures in storage until our children are bigger. And I’ve been missing something cool on our floor ever since!

But then, I was browsing the super well curated collection of the awesome Austrian e-store Four Monkeys and my eye fell on Hattie the Elephant. And I couldn’t resist. Here we have a sculpture, a piece of art really, that is absolutely fine to display on the floor, within children’s reach, for children to play with, even. Because it is designed as a toy!

How cool is that?


Hattie the Elephant, heirloom toy from Four Monkeys (via Babyccino Kids) Hattie_3

Hattie the Elephant is made from beech wood and really royal in size, and it can be placed in different poses due to the elastic-band muscles, making it a fun and interesting toy that children will keep coming back to to play with. It is absolutely beautifully made and it is such a cool design element! (I also saw it on display in one of the world’s coolest shops, Hay House, when I was in Copenhagen recently.) Also, it is an extremely sturdy and durable sculpture, which makes the (steep) investment worth it, because this sculpture will survive generations of play in our living room. It probably will survive me! ; )

xxx Esther

Tuesday Tips: (trying to) raise good and healthy eaters

kids healthy eatingHow come some children are good, healthy eaters, and some are super picky and have a difficult relationship with food? Is it a matter of nature, or of nurture? I was recently chatting with my girls’ ballet teacher, a lovely lady of sixty-something, and she was telling me about her baby granddaughter, who basically refused to eat anything from the day she was born. She’s been in and out of hospitals, being fed with drips, feeding tubes in her nose, and all sorts of astronaut kinds of food. There doesn’t seem to be a physical reason that the baby is refusing to eat — the little girl simply has no interest, probably even an aversion, to food. (I can only imagine how difficult this must be for the baby’s parents.)

So we can’t say that difficult or picky eaters are always a product of their upbringing. I do however think that very often, our own attitude to and relationship with food is of an enormous influence on our children.

My own four children happen to be very good eaters. They are interested in food, they try new things, and are not overly picky or fussy. Probably my husband and I have partly been lucky, and we’ve partly been doing some things right.

Eating is a much debated and quite sensitive topic amongst parents. This weekend I was talking with some girlfriends after we just had lunch with our families. We were discussing how we raise our children, and what parenting choices we have made to help our children become the good eaters they are today. I thought this would be an interesting (but difficult) topic for our Tuesday Tips series, so I have made a list of tips that in my experience can help make eating a positive and fun part of the day. Here goes:

Involve the children in the dinner preparation. They can start helping at quite an early age. Tell them what you are doing, let them try the ingredients. Trust them with a knife — Ava has been making a really good Caprese Salad from the age of 4. Even Casper (2) chips in with cutting the mozzarella! Also: grow your own veggies if possible (even on the windowsill). Take your children shopping (f.e. to the (farmers) market), let them choose some food and prepare that food that evening. When your children have been actively involved in the dinner preparation, they will be more open to try and enjoy the food.

Eat with the children as often as you can. Sit at the table, and have a proper family dinner experience. Don’t turn the tv on (you could even argue to turn the music off). Dinner is a social experience, it’s about connecting with each other and sharing the pleasure of each other’s company and good food. Set the scene, make a nice table, use little bowls, napkins, light candles, etc

Don’t allow negativity about food, instead be positive and adventurous about food. Set the right example; don’t ‘dislike’ food yourself. If you love food, your children will love food. I’ve had children at my table who started to be negative as soon as I served the food on the table. ‘Oh, tomatoes! I hate those! Eeeks, I don’t eat brussels sprouts, they are disgusting!’ I personally don’t allow my children to use those kind of strong associations in connection with food. In general, I want my children to understand that the food that I buy, prepare and serve on our table, is good, healthy and delicious food. I don’t allow my children to be disrespectful to this food, or to the cook (me!) who has done her best to prepare a yummy meal.

Be relaxed about food. When introducing a new food — don’t overhype or over-react, be casual about it, make it a part of the regular eating experience. I also have experienced that some foods, which I expected my children not to like (sauerkraut, for instance, or olives), have been received with great enthusiasm. So instead of being doubtful (‘you can try, but you probably won’t like it’), be casual. You might be surprised!

Always encourage your child to try everything on the table. Don’t let them get away with ‘not liking’ something too easily. If my children, after positively trying the food, don’t like it, I ask them why they have difficulty with it — for instance, the food can be too spicy, too bitter, too salty, etc. I then try to get where they are coming from, and most often understand, but maybe we talk about how ‘too salty’ can also be good in combination with other things. Overall, this has made eating and trying food a more positive experience and a fun interaction.

If a certain food is disliked, just let it pass, but don’t ban it from your kitchen. Positively offer it to them again at other times. Encourage them to keep trying; their taste might change and chances are that at some point, they will (learn to) like it. Especially if they see other people enjoying that food!

When your kids don’t want to eat their dinner, that’s ok, but don’t offer a substitute.

Expose your children to different varieties of food from a young age. Don’t generally cook ‘child-friendly’ dishes for your children, serve them regular adult dishes with regular herbs and spices. (I personally believe that even during pregnancy it’s important to eat a variety of dishes!) Take your children to restaurants, and choose from the main menu (most restaurants will be happy to serve half of a main dish to a child, or split one main dish on two plates). Emilie told me that she encourages her children to be flexible in their eating so she can take them to friends places and she can travel with them and experience different cultures. She told me that she refuses to be a guest in someone’s house and have her child turn their nose up at a meal, so if her girls want to come, they will have to eat without making a fuss!

That’s it! I realise this is a tricky subject, so please remember that these are tips that stem from my own experience. I’m curious to find out what your family’s relationship with food is. What’s your attitude? What are your tips and routines?

xxx Esther

Triangular crayons!

Triangular crayons

Last week in New York we had dinner with the ever so sweet Annie from Brimful, and she brought us a few sweet and thoughtful gifts. One of them is a little container with crayons, which is nothing that special in theory, except for the fact that the crayons are triangular! How clever! Not only are they easier to hold for little toddler hands, but also, they won’t roll from the table to break on the floor. So simple, and yet such a major improvement. (The crayons Annie brought us are from P’kolino.)

xxx Esther

 

The Little Things… making pompoms for a spring branches bouquet

The Little Things, making pompoms for a colourful spring branches bouquet
For this The Little Things post, we’ve been making pompoms for an Easter Tree-inspired, spring branches bouquet. The great thing about making pompoms, is that it appeals to different ages, and both boys and girls absolutely love making them.

The Little Things -- pompom spring branches The Little Things -- pompom spring branches
Isn’t there a magical attraction to wool? The moment I pull my suitcase with yarn leftovers out, my kids are in for a treat!

The Little Things, mocking pompoms for a spring branches bouquet The Little Things -- making pompoms for a spring tree The Little Things -- making popmpoms for spring easter branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things -- making popmpoms for spring easter branches
There are two easy ways to make pompoms. For bigger pompoms, we cut out two times two circles of thin cardboard. You can just use a cup and an egg cup for example, to determine the shape. Layer both cardboard circles, cut through them so they have an opening to the centre, and start winding the thread around. The talented Sara from SakaDesign made a super handy (and very cute!) tutorial for us, that you can easily print if you would like to:

pompom tutorial

The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things -- making pompoms for a spring tree
We gave Ava and Juul, both 4 years old, a thicker yarn so they saw quick results. Pim and Sara used a thinner thread, and they also liked to use different colours for their pompoms. (Just cut the first colour and start winding with the second one.)

The Little Things, making pompom spring branches Juul’s little brother Mees was too small to make pompoms, but he was super helpful on his messenger bike, delivering the yarn to whoever needed it!

The Little Things -- making pompom spring branches TLT10 TLT11 The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches

Once there’s a thick layer of yarn around the cardboard shapes, you can cut through the sides, in between the two layers of cardboard. I took care of this part of the process, as it’s really a bit tricky to do.  It’s a kind of scary at first, but once I discovered that the cardboard keeps the yarn in place it was pretty easy. Then, secure the pompom by knotting a string of yarn around the middle, in between the two cardboards. Get rid of the cardboard. You can leave the ends of the yarn you used to knot the pompom together quite long so you can hang the pompom from the branches later.

The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches

The second method we used, to make cute, tiny pompoms, is even easier. You just use a fork, wind some thread around, then secure it by knotting around the thread through the middle tines of the fork. Cut the edges, and done!

The Little Things, making pompom spring branches The Little Things, making pompom spring branches

You can make the pompoms more fluffy by holding them in the steam for a few seconds. (Be careful for the heat!)

The Little Things, making pompoms for a colourful spring branches bouquet The Little Things, making pompoms for a colourful spring branches bouquet The Little Things, making pompoms for a colourful spring branches bouquet

xxx Esther

PS – This is the newest post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you Maud Fontein for taking these beautiful photos, and Sara Musch for the handy download. Postman Mees’ adorable outfit is from La Coqueta, Ava’s dress is from Kallio, and Sara’s dress from Mabo Kids.

Our visit to Copenhagen, a few favourites

Copenhagen city tips copenhagen city trip tips

The last weekend of February, Tamar and I (without our kids!) spent a few days in Copenhagen, the beautiful capital of Denmark, and we loved discovering this wonderful city. There’s just so much to appreciate — the beautiful architecture, slightly austere and with deep, beautiful colours. The very kind and handsome people. The amount of bikes! The food culture (no surprise that the best restaurant in the world is located right here). The sea, right there. And, of course, the design, apparent in each and every detail of society.

Here are a few of our favourite discoveries. I definitely recommend visiting Copenhagen — we definitely want to go back soon with our kids!

Hay House Copenhagen Hay House Copenhagen (more…)

Tuesday Tips: visiting museums with children

Museum visit with kids

My husband and I love culture and history, and one of our favourite (weekend) activities is to go to museums. When traveling to new places, but also when we’re at home here in Amsterdam, we love to discover the information and inspiration that museums can offer us. Our love for museums has certainly rubbed off on our children — when on a Saturday morning we sit at the breakfast table and we’re making plans for the weekend, the first thing that all of our children will want to do is to visit a museum!

I think the reason that they have grown to love going to museums as much (or maybe even more) than we do, is that during a museum visit both my husband and I really engage 100% with our kids. We take the time to explain the artefacts, art and content. We read the titles and descriptions of the artwork together, talk about it, look at colours, shapes and subjects, discover the meaning, find the connection between one piece and another, or link them with travels we’ve made, books we’ve read, things we’ve seen, etcetera. I think that our own enthusiasm, passion and eagerness to learn makes our children as enthusiastic, passionate and eager to learn as we are!

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Sometimes, I hear from other parents that they are unsure to visit museums with their children, that they’re afraid they will misbehave, will be bored or uninterested. And yes, sometimes it is definitely not a good museum day. But in my experience, most of the time they love it! Be it a museum of history, art, nature, objects or culture — there is always something to discover in a museum.

I have tried to write down some tips that I think are relevant when taking your children to a museum. Of course these tips stem from my own experience, and some museums are certainly easier to visit with kids than others…

  •  We like to visit museums early in the day if possible. When you have children, chances are big that you’re up before other people, and you can make it to the museums when it’s still reasonably quiet.
  • Don’t overstay — make the visit long enough to enjoy it, but not too long as to bore your children. We have a yearly national museum membership, so we don’t have to pay the entrance fee for individual visits. This way, we can visit a part of a museum, without having the urge to see everything as to make worth for our money. I’d rather only visit one room of a museum and really take the time to discover a few pieces well, than to end up tired and annoyed, with tired and annoyed children.
  • Make sure the children are well fed before your museum visit! Unless, of course, you would like to start your visit in the museum restaurant.
  • Make use of the toilet when entering the museum. I also prefer to hang our coats and put bags away in the cloakroom, so I don’t have to schlep them around, making it easier to bend or kneel down next to my children.
  • I think no props, books or tools are specifically needed for a museum visit — we love the time we spend with our children and the interaction we have with them. Also, when you discover the museum together, you know what the other one has seen and learned, and can refer to the experience at other times and locations. I’m not always crazy about specific children’s museum tours — we recently went to a museum where the kids were given a ‘find the artwork’ children’s tour, which had our children running through the museum, looking for a few specific pieces to cross of their list, and not even properly looking at those paintings, let alone the rest of the art! Having said that, some museum books or tours are great, and can also be a good tool to prepare your visit at home. (I find that audio tours can be fun and informative for older children, but I don’t think they work well for younger ones. Plus — you will miss out on the special interaction you will have with your children when discovering the museum together.)
  • Although it’s definitely easier to visit the more child-friendly sort of museums, we try to to visit the more ‘serious’ museums as well. Museums are for everyone! Also, I feel that it’s fine to repeat the museum visit. Museums are like books — our children don’t mind reading them over and over again. : )
  • Adjust your visit to your children’s speed and needs. If you would like to see a specific exhibition and for instance have the time to spend 20 minutes in front of a Rothko, then it’s best to come back another time without kids. Having said that, I did take all four of my kids to a Rothko exhibition a few weeks ago, and found that they all had an interest in the pieces (well, except Casper, who preferred to run around, despairing the guards and his mama! Hurray to my Iphone apps to keep him entertained for long enough!). Pim especially reacted remarkably to Rothko: he felt the paintings were really embracing him, and drawing him in. I’m sure he understood the art better than me.
  • Let the children be your guide — you will find they will indicate what pieces they find specifically interesting and start to direct your tour. For instance, my mother-in-law told me that she visited the Rijksmuseum here in Amsterdam recently with Casper and Ava, and that Ava was enthralled by a 17th century painting depicting cows on a ship. She thought that was amazing — cows on a ship! The rest of the visit they spent searching for paintings with cows. : )

museums with kids

What do you think about visiting museums? Do your kids love it? Do you have any tips to share? And, what are your children’s favourite museums? I asked my children, and Sara’s favourite is the Open Air Museum (one of my favourite too!), Pim likes the National Maritime Museum here in Amsterdam, and Ava said she simply loves all the museums in the world.

xxx Esther

PS First two photos were taken in the Egyptian gallery in the British Museum in London, the third foto shows my children in front of Rembrandt’s famous painting the Nachtwacht, here in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, together with Claire of Thinkingmuseum.com.

Pelle’s new suit, and some thoughts on clothing production

Pelle's New Suit children's book by Elsa Beskow Pelle's New Suit Courtney and I just came back from a little trip to New York, where we scouted venues for a NY ShopUp event (more later!), where we had lots of meetings with friends in the business (we’re so lucky to call so many of the brands and boutiques we work with our friends!) and where we visited the US edition of the Playtime fair, where we met even more wonderful friends. It’s always so fun to spend time in this bustling, busy city — I came back feeling full of great memories and inspiration! One of the friends we met in New York was Kirsten Rickert, an amazingly talented lady originally from Australia, who now lives in the US with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Kirsten is such a beautiful, pure lady; just have a look at her blog and her Instagram account. It was Kirsten who recommended the darling book ‘Pelle’s New Suit’  to us.

Pelle's New Suit‘Pelle’s New Suit’ is written by Elsa Beskow and was first published in Sweden in 1912. It’s a simple and sweet story with beautiful illustrations, taking place in a time before ready-to-wear clothing existed. Pelle is a little boy who owns a little lamb, and one day shears off all its wool. He then visits different relatives and neighbours in his small community village, asking them to help him with the different steps that are needed to transfer the lamb’s wool into a new suit (carding, spinning, dying etc.). In return, he will help his friends with different chores. For example, when his grandmother cards the wool for Pelle, he pulls the weeds from her carrot patch. When his mother weaves the cloth, he takes care of his baby sister. And when the tailor finally makes his suit, Pelle rakes the hay, brings in the firewood and feeds the tailor’s pigs. At the end of the story, when wearing his new suit, Pelle visits his lamb to show it his new suit and to thank it.

Pelle's New SuitIn our modern, consumer society, a piece of clothing is often mass-produced and simply picked up from a store. Sometimes the amount of money that is paid for clothing is so impossibly little, or so incredibly high… and many times it is discarding after a season, after a certain fashion is over. Or it is just valued for the brand it displays on its front. Clothing is often taken for granted, and there’s no ‘respect‘ for it — no real knowledge of the effort it took and the actions that were needed to create that piece of clothing. I love how this book describes the various steps of making a wool garment, the understanding of where the clothing actually comes from. I also love how it shows that when you don’t have the specific skills that are needed to do something yourself, you can ask others in your community to help you, and offer your help or skills in return.

Pelle's New SuitI hope that with the help of this little book (and trying to sew and knit as much as possible with my kids, passing on the skills that my mother and grandmother taught me), one day my children will be able to make a sensible and conscious decision when they will buy their own clothing… and that they will respect it and use it for what it entails. Anyway — so many words about fashion, reflection and values, all because of this sweet, beautiful little book. Thanks Kirsten, for the tip!

xxx Esther

PS Available through Amazon UK or US . I couldn’t find a large edition of the book, but if you can get your hands on that, Kirsten told me it’s so much better!

Tuesday tips: Open-ended play and evergreen toys

Evergreen Toys

Today for Tuesday Tips I would like to talk about toys. The kind of toys that I prefer in our house are the basic, evergreen kind of toys. I like toys that are well made, with a simple concept, that can be used and combined in different ways or played with in different settings. Toys that are beautiful to look at, as opposed to most plastic, brightly coloured and battery-operated toys.

I have always had a preference for these kind of toys; I remember telling my mum when I was pregnant with Sara ten years ago to please not give me any battery operated toys! Of course, plastic toys have occasionally entered the house… (and so has Hello Kitty!), but over the past nine years, I have really noticed that the toys my children play with most (if not exclusively) are those that encourage creative and social play, and are designed with ‘open ended play’ in mind. I just love watching my four kids play together, building houses, cities, and worlds, setting the stage for the different scenarios for their pretend play.

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I do agree that typical battery operated toys have great appeal to my children at first. They will love the sounds and colours and will be so easily entertained. Often, when the toy is first given to them, they will even fight over it (these toys are designed for the entertainment of the individual child, not with social play in mind!). However, very often my children will quickly lose interest in the toy, which consistently performs the same trick over and over again. So boring! The toy will end up standing in a corner somewhere until we decide to bring it to charity. Such a waste! Heirloom toys are not always the cheapest investments to make, but if you consider that they will be played with so much, for generations even, it’s all worth it. My children still play with some of my own childhood toys!

I thought it would be nice to write down a list of some tips for evergreen toys that have proven to be very successful in our household — toys that are played with by children of different ages and don’t lose their appeal, ever. I asked input from Emilie and Courtney and some of my friends, so this is very much their list as well. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about toys in general, and please do share your children’s favourite toys!

Toys we like (for inside play):

  • Wooden marble track: the perfect toy for all ages. Small children will like to play with the blocks and start stacking them (without the marbles of course), bigger children will build intricate tracks (and parents will gladly help).
  • Building blocks: stacking and building structures, but also great to combine with other toys (f.e. Schleich animals – build compounds, zoo, etc.) or just line them up. Any ordinary blocks will do (we also like this blocks set).
  • Dolls: Kathe Kruse and handmade Waldorf dolls look beautiful, but any good quality doll is fine. And some dolls’ clothes.
  • Doll’s bed: a simple fruit crate with some small towels will do, but a baby needs a bed, of course.
  • A sturdy dolls’ pram with little pillows and blankets. Invest in a good, sturdy dolls buggy and it will be played with forever.
  • Schleich animals: wonderful quality toys, they look beautiful and will be played with a lot. Great for all sorts of adventures.
  • Wooden play barn /house /dollhouse /structure: to combine with Schleich animals, Playmobil, all other little characters that children will find or create and need a place to live.
  • Lego & Duplo: building and inventing, creating. We love the original, plain blocks.
  • Puzzles (educational ones or just the old-fashioned jigsaws!)
  • Playmobil: we love the old-fashioned characters, great to mix with all sorts of other toys (see above).
  • Kapla: some of our favourite blocks for super creative tower-building (see building blocks).
  • Dress up clothes: some old shawls, hats, dresses and sunglasses and some pieces of fabric will get you very far. Let the children be creative – no need to invest in expensive dress-up outfits, which are much less imaginative anyway.
  • Train track: a simple wooden train track (Ikea) is great for all ages – a puzzle first, then a road, then it becomes a landscape (enter Schleich and Playmobil for surroundings)
  • Garage and cars: a wooden garage appeals to most children and it a great space to store the cars.
  • Nesting dolls: my kids love these! And they make great decor too.
  • Play kitchen & kitchen toys: a wine crate on the side with circles drawn on top makes a good enough play kitchen. And a little set of pots and some mini kitchen utensils will be played with loads. (Regular kitchen utensils are just as successful, BTW!)
  • Stacking cups: babies love playing with them, and all my kids still love them in their bath!
  • Wooden spinning tops: fun for everyone and they look pretty on your coffee table.

PS Like I mentioned above, these toys are mostly for indoor play — maybe we can share some favourite toys for outdoor play and some great baby toys later.

Something I noticed in Copenhagen…

IMG_1103Last weekend, Tamar (my husband) and I spent a few great days together in the wonderful capital of Denmark, Copenhagen. We really enjoyed our stay (albeit we had quite some rain!), and I’ll definitely share some of our favourite discoveries here very soon. In the meantime, I wanted to post about something fascinating I noticed in Copenhagen…

IMG_1102 IMG_1104Even though it rains a lot in Denmark, and it can also be quite cold in winter, the Danes believe it is super healthy for their children to spend most of their day outside. Every time a baby or young child naps during daytime, it sleeps outside. For this purpose, there are special prams that are much bigger than the practical pushchairs we tend to use here in the Netherlands (f.e. the Bugaboo). I was chatting to a mum and she told me that Scandinavian children consistently  sleep in their prams for daytime naps until they are at least three years old! It is generally believed this is healthier for the children, and also that they sleep much better outside. Amazing!

Even when it rains, the babies sleep in their prams. They all have a huge (black) cover that completely covers and protects the sleeping child. When out and about, and a child wakes up and wants to sit, there are are special banana shaped pillows to support it in the back. Also, prams (with the sleeping baby inside!) are often left outside of shops or cafés, while the parents shop, sip their coffees or have lunch inside.

Copenhagen parenting outdoor play rain suit IMG_1101Another thing I noticed, is that children of walking age all own a special one-piece ‘outdoor suit’. It’s like a thick, warm rain / snowsuit that is worn on top of the ‘indoor clothes’. I’m told that often, the ‘indoor clothes’ are very easy-to-wear: often these are leggings and long-sleeved tops or all-in-one jumpsuits, made out of cosy cotton jersey or thin wool knits. When the child goes outside, the ‘outdoor suit’ is simply put on on top of the cosy (and easy-to-layer) indoor wear. So practical! Even when it’s raining or snowing, Scandinavian children spend most of their day outside.

Tamar and I were so inspired by all of this. We pledged to take our children outside even more, and definitely be bothered less by ‘bad weather’. (We even went to a department store to check out the ‘outdoor suits’!) Because as the Scandinavian say — there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

xxx Esther

Petites Pattes, delightful baby socks

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baby socks petites pattes

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petites-pattes-4Petites Pattes are a UK based hosiery brand with just the cutest collection of baby socks imaginable. The brand’s philosophy is ‘to introduce an interactive experience between the customer and the product by offering unique designs’ and we can’t agree more — the darling patterns and colours, which can all be mixed and matched, are so sweet! Socks come in darling giftbox packages and make the perfect little baby present. And then there’s also a family gift box — how sweet is that?

Available through Scout & Co.

xxx Esther

PS we spotted Petites Pattes at Playtime Paris — read about more Playtime Paris favourites on the fabulous Pirouette blog!

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