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FAMILY GAMES and Toys

I Want: DIY Play Kitchen for a Boy

play kitchen for a boy

My husband can vouch how much I am dreaming about a play kitchen for our son. Most play kitchens on the market are too girly or won’t nicely fit in our home design. Which is why I want to create my own. I found my starting point for inspiration.

Ethan’s mom Becky designed a fabulous play kitchen for his little boy. Her DIY play kitchen is full on details and realistic functionalities. A magnet keeps the oven door closed while a motion sensor light turns on when the door is opened. Awesome! Continue Reading

FAMILY GAMES and Toys

Kids Can Make their Toys Do Things with ATOMS Building Blocks

atoms express toys Michael Rosenblatt

Technology seems to be a recurring theme today. This time, I like to talk a cool project that was funded via Kickstarter. ATOMS Express  Toys is a new electronics construction set that enable kids to make all sorts of cool stuff within 5 minutes of taking ATOMS out of the box. As a parent, I prefer activities that help develop creative ideas and enable children to learn as they play.  The ATOMS “plug and play” smart blocks are designed to do that. Continue Reading

FAMILY KIDS rooms

Circle Time Mats and Tiptoe Rugs

circle time mats

Tiptoe Rugs is a brand new collection of children’s rugs and custom rug possibilities from Alyssa McMurter, the woman behind AliStar. McMurter created a line of awesome 100% Merino wool felt rugs for children.

I love her Circle Time mats, which comes as circle and square mats. The Circle Time mats are obviously perfect for day cares or large playrooms. Tiptoe Rugs will be one of the 8 Modern Kid exhibits at the Interior Design Show that will be presented from January 24th to January 27th, 2013 in Toronto.

+ photo credits: Tiptoe Rugs

BABY products FAMILY

Holiday Gift Guide: What to Give to a Two-Year-Old

holiday gift guide for toddlers

This guide is made of things that my 20-month-old son already has and plays with everyday. These educational toys are sure bet for little boys and girls.

Ok, the first item is not a toy but this Woodours melamine cup was too adorable for not include it on my guide. The Woodours collection (literally “Wood-Bear”) tells the story of a Papa and Baby Bear. Papa is strong as an oak tree, but a gentle soul. Woodours combines the best of teddy-bear cuddliness with a modern flair. I not only like the design but also the story between it. I bought his Woodours cup by Ebulobo at Faon on Saint-Denis Street.

Look for the 2+ years old version of Play-Doh. Initially, I bought him a My First Crayola Super Soft Dough Shape and Create Kit that includes 8 animal shape cutters, 3 cutting tools and a dough extruder pump. The accessories are awesome but the Crayola dough dries too quickly. The Play-Doh dough is definitely easier to manipulate. Playing with dough has become one of his favorite games. He likes to play with us or by himself.

The Puzzle Duo collection by Djeco is awesome. Each box of these two-piece puzzles are designed around a theme. They teach toddlers vocabulary and notions as they develop their fine dexterity. Zack has À table!, which is no longer available. I plan to by him the Habitat set. For 3 years old, Djeco makes Puzzle Trio. Zack has also have one. Right now, he plays more with the Duo. The puzzle comes in a nice box. My son have fun emptying and putting the pieces back in the box. Available at Renaud-Bray. I bought mine at Educa-jeux at Place Ville-Marie.

My son has several packs of First Builders by Mega Bloks. Having a kit with wheels open new creations for him. The more he plays with them, the more unique and complex his structures become. Personally, I prefer the Mega Bloks to the Lego DUPLO. Both have the same educational and fun values.

We bought him a B. Meowsic Keyboard a month ago. Zack likes to sing in the microphone that amplifies his voice and makes music with the keyboard. We bought ours at PinkiBlue in Montreal.

Lastly, I must mention again his Hippo Zoo backpack. I bought it when he started daycare. The backpack plays an important part of his daily routine. He carries it with him on our way in or out of daycare. When I forgot to put it next to the car seat, I am quickly reminded that he wants to be able to touch his backpack. I prefer that he carries outside the home a backpack than his cuddly night buddy.

You probably noticed that some items are from French companies. I have no problems finding them in Montreal. I am not sure how widely available they would be in your area. Some products might be available at Amazon. Still, I shared them because of their aesthetics. You might look for similar items that are easier to buy in your area. Happy holiday shopping!

 

FAMILY GAMES and Toys

Qubis Haus: from a coffee table to a dollhouse

qubis haus used a coffee table

qubis haus from dollhouse to coffee table
Qubis Haus by Amy Whitworth £400 (approx. $650 USD as we speak) at Southbank Centre.

One thing about young kid toys is that they tend to overtake your living room. Parents often wonder where to hide them when their kids doesn’t play with them.  Amy Whitworth addresses this issue with her Qubis Haus.  She brought dual purpose furniture to a new height by designing a coffee table that transforms into a dollhouse with the simple addition of sliding panels made from wood and perspex. As a bonus, you or your kids can update the space layout by changing where the sliding panels go. Amy Whitworth won Boost 2012, a mentoring and development program organized by Southbank Centre’s design shop, with that design.

magnetic oak furniture set for qubis haus
Qubis Bedroom Set £35 by Amy Whitworth Design.

Since no dollhouse would be complete without furniture, Amy Whitworth created three furniture sets: a bedroom set, a living room set and a dining room set. Made of magnetic oak wood, you assemble the furniture using the wooden blocks in each set. Fabric accessories further decorate the rooms. For example, the dining room set contains 1 table, 4 chairs, 1 side board, 1 lamp, 3 sets of table legs, 1 plant pot, spare blocks for creating, 1 table cloth, 1 rug, and 1 pouf. I like the fact that it promotes creativity.

qubis haus used a coffee table

Qubis Haus seems pricey if you look at it from a dollhouse viewpoint. You can take comfort in the idea that it is more than a dollhouse and that it has a second life after your kids stopped playing with a dollhouse. Personally, I prefer the coffee table with one or two acrylic sheets. If it was in my living room, I would use the shelves to display way more than miniature mid-century icon furniture.

FAMILY KIDS products

Fun and Funky Medical Alert Bracelets for Girls and Boys

medical alert jewelry for girls

medical alert jewelry for girls
sourcing: Fruit Punch Medical ID Bracelet $49.95 | Tropics Stainless Steel Medical ID Cuff $39.95 at Lauren’s Hope

I bet that you will not to fight with your kids to wear their medical alert bracelet if their bracelet looks like that. I think that it is a brilliant idea to have access to fun designs. The selection goes from silicone alert bands to stainless steel or leather bracelets or dog tags for boys. The selections get bigger for girls with the addition of fun and funky models. You won’t have to be jealous of your kids, Lauren’s Hope carries them in adult sizes.

medical id bracelet for boys

Parents of active kids who do many sport activities, you will appreciate that they are waterproof and durable. There is also a vast collection of necklace for kids with allergy and In Case of Emergency necklaces.

Medical alert jewelry is something that I now care about. My son has a stent. I need to carry a card with me to be shown to doctors and dentists that would treat him. Even if most of the times that medical information is irrelevant, you never know when it will. He is still too young to wear a bracelet or a necklace but when it will get older I would certainly revisit Lauren’s Hope to pick a bracelet that suits his style.

FAMILY GAMES and Toys

Three DIY Toys that You Can Do with Your Kids

french postal truck toy

cupcake or ice cream truck
photo: cupcake or ice cream truck by Martine Camillieri

Crafting projects let you pass quality time with your kids. I wanted a project that I could do for my boy, who adore trucks. I found three project ideas fron France that repurpose things that you have at home.

french postal truck toy
photo: La Poste, French postal truck by Martine Camillieri

The first idea is from Martine Camillieri. This french woman has been transforming cleaning product containers into cars and trucks since 2007. Her upcycling creations appeared in a book and many exhibits over the years. Although she failed to provide tutorials to make your own, it seems that she affixed two caps to make wheels and used stickers and paint to decorate the vehicles. It is definitely a project that you can do with your kids.

diy pickup truck toy
photo: DIY pick-up truck toy by Martine Camillieri

The second idea is from a limited-print series called Bolides. I encourage you to explore your own boxy style. After a few trial and error, you could design your own templates. I would use mashi tape to create the various car or truck elements. Washi tapes come in a variety of colors and it is easy to reposition them. Cut a straw in two to support the wheels.

bolides

You could make your own paper tipi toy. Let your kids create their own patterns. Each tipi stands tall with 3 sticks.

make your own paper tipi toy
photo: Tipis by Morse

These are not toys that are designed to last. Nonetheless, they are fun to make. If you want to keep them longer, you could always tell your kids that they are making art pieces for their playroom.

FAMILY GAMES and Toys

Zack’s New Cardboard Playhouse

cardboard playhouse

my son playing in his indoor playhouse

You know that you have a great toy when you see smiles on your kid’s face. Zack is at an age where kids are constantly on the move. He likes to get in and out of the doors of his new playhouse, sit for a moment, look by the many windows, decorate the interior with furniture. Today, we coloured some walls and we played peek-a-boo while he was inside the playhouse. He laughed so loud! Like one credit card company would say, these moments are priceless!

cardboard playhouse
sourcing: My Pretty Playhouse $34.99 at Cascades

My Impressions as a Parent

My Pretty Playhouse is made in Canada of 100% recycled cardboard recovered in Canada and in the United States. The playhouse comes flat in a box. Make sure to keep the packaging. You can reuse it to store the pieces when you don’t use the playhouse.

The assembly went smoothly. The instructions say that it requires two persons for assembly  It’s true that having an extra pair of hands is helpful. If you are alone, my guess is that you could be able to use a corner wall as a support for assembling the two wall sections; that is the only time where being two persons is handy. My husband and I did it in 5 minutes. Zack was so excited to see the playhouse that he was always in our way.

As many urban parents with young children, our play room is a dedicated area in our living room. I like the fact that the playhouse is not too big. A few kids will have no problem to sit inside. I sit with him inside the house and there is a little bit of space left.

pretend play

You could win your Pretty Playhouse by entering before Monday, October 22nd, 2012 noon.

Disclosure: Cascades gave me the cardboard playhouse for me to test. I shared my experience with the playhouse because my son truly enjoyed it. 

FAMILY LIVING with kids

What to Do this Fall: Apple Picking

apple picking jerome

Part of my childhood memories is to go apple picking with my parents. I love apples! So for me, that was always a treat to grab it from the tree. I want to continue the tradition with my son. So, yesterday we went with a bunch of friends. We couldn’t had a better weather for an outdoor activity.

zack eats an apple
photo: my son shares my love of apples (and Apple…)

Zack was delighted by his day. He is a typical boy that loves being outside. My son enjoyed the tractor ride to get to the orchards, he was able to run between the trees, he ate apples that he picked himself and he played with the other children.

apple picking zack

We even spent some time at the nice play area for toddlers that is one of the activities for kids at Vergers Petit et Fils, located in Saint-Hilaire. I recommend the place if you have kids because there is a lot of free, fun activities for them to do.

apple tree

I brought home 4 apple varieties. Some to eat fresh, others to cook. Tonight, I plan to bake the apple crumble recipe from Jamie Oliver in ramekins.

I’m looking for more ways to cook with apples. What is you favorite apple recipe?

+ top photo: my husband harvested the apples at the top of the trees

FAMILY KIDS products

Day Care Essentials

day care essentials

Besides the obvious diapers, wipes, clothes and sunscreen tube, these are items that you may need to bring at your toddler’s day care or nursery school. A playful backpack is not really required — since I usually carry it for my 18 months old son — but I think that it adds a cute touch. In my book, the classic Croc shoes work the best for wearing inside all year long since they can be wore with or without socks.

I was glad that the day care asks for a toothbrush and toothpaste. They will teach my son how to use it. Some day cares supply the sheets for nap time while others ask that you bring your own. Both options have their pros and cons. More importantly for me is the fact to bring them a doudou. Zack likes to hold his muslin blanket while he sleeps. His must have plush is Mr. Tsé Tsé. I bought him a new one to bring at the day care because I don’t want to risk the chance of forgetting it one day. My husband called the second one, Yé Yé. So far, he doesn’t care for it. I still want to hope that he will develop some attachment towards Yé Yé.

Here are the specific items that I brought at the day care:
day care essentials

Something New: 1.  Hippo zoo backpack by Skip Hop $20 USD, 2. Kids’ Crocband II.5 $36.99 CAD, 3. Stage 1 toothbrush by Oral-B and Colgate toothpaste, 4. VITAMINER RAND 4-piece crib bedding set $14.99 CAD

Something Old: 5. Mr. Tsé Tsé beginner doll by Raplapla $44 CAD, 6. Aden + Anais Star-bright swaddle set $49.95 for pack of 4

Next week, I will tell you about labelling your toddler’s things.