Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year but I think we can all agree it can be pretty stressful with all of the end of year events at preschool, school and sport not to mention carols, family parties, get together’s with friends, work parties and did I mention actually getting in your Christmas shopping somewhere?
This year I have a few giveaways coming up on the blog which will mean for the lucky winners they have some of their kids gifts all sorted.
We already hosted the incredible Kazoops Soft Toy giveaway which was met with HUGE enthusiasm especially from all the non Australian fans. And this week, I have teamed up with a beautiful local Sydney maker and creator, Tess from Funny Little Things. Tess makes the most beautiful handmade crayons which make perfect stocking fillers, party favours and birthday gifts.
The news all Kazoops fans have been waiting for…Kazoops toys have been released! The full toy range includes plush toys, figurines, play sets and games and we here in the Kids Gifts and Toys household are super pumped to see them available.
The plush toys were released last month by Tomy in Australia and feature Monty, Lily the Alien, Suzy the Dinosaur, Otis the Warthog and our household fave Jimmy Jones. This month they have also launched in the UK via Toys “R” US and Amazon.
This month we have a wonderful creator and shaker for our ‘Meet the Maker’! Ha I love a good rhyme. But seriously, this month we shine a spotlight on to a gorgeous handmade toy industry that I have long admired and even asked my mum to make one for my eldest when he was born. This month it is all about knitted and crochet toys and a Japanese art form called Amigurumi from US based maker Eliza Ryan from KnitSquid. I am super excited to be showcasing it on the blog as these handmade toys are just super creative and utterly gorgeous.
I first discovered crochet toys when I found the brand Anne-Claire Petit and I bought my eldest an awesome rainbow plane in London, we still have it and it is what started my appreciation for crochet and knitted toys. I know making them certainly isn’t easy, I think you need a whole heap of patience, skill and time! I wanted to find out more and when Eliza approached me about her fab brand, I was all ears.
Since we moved back to Australia, we have taken a keen interest in gardening and growing our own vegetables, herbs and flowers each Spring. It is just so nice to have our own small piece of green space and to teach the kids a little more where food comes from in the hope they may eventually eat vegetables… ( still waiting for that!)
This has also translated to indoors as well and this year the boys and I have finally worked out how to take care of some succulents which we bought at our local fabulous sustainable nursery, New Leaf. We have gone from killing our succulents to watching them thrive! The boys (and I !) now know that their plants need watering once a week or longer and not every day… It has been a learning curve for us all.
We have also been discovering crystals and learning about gems this year after being introduced to them by a close friend. We found out a few months back that one of our fave shops in the area, Little Paper Lane now stocks crystals and gems, so we went to check out what they had and the boys came away with a clear point crystal quartz and circular rose quartz. The boys have been cleansing them at full moon and loving learning about their healing effects.
Lastly on a road trip up north in July, we visited the incredible Crystal Castle & Shambhala Gardens, which is close to Byron Bay. This place is sheer magic; the whole area is imbued with beauty, peace and the crystals make you feel so energised and renewed( this is coming from a former skeptic!) The boys absolutely loved it there and we added to our crystal collection with an agate, amethyst and labradorite. In chatting with the staff up there, we bought some large rough hewn amethyst and rose quartz as well they were on sale (hehe love a bargain!) and we thought we might use them one day in our garden.
The boys and I decided to get a little creative this week in preparation for Father’s Day coming up in September. We thought we would gift their Dad some awesome art works that we could then hang around the house.
I had a spare few canvases floating around and using Pinterest as my inspiration we decided to try some tissue paper art! I worked out pretty quickly thought that our tissue paper didn’t bleed as much as we liked so I found some spare crepe paper which worked a treat!!
I am a massive fan of birthdays as you can imagine being a toy blog and gift guide site, so when I was introduced to Jo Power aka “Happy Birthday Girl” extraordinaire I had to find out more about her.
Jo is the head honcho over at Things By Bean and has been since she started the company in 2011. Things by Bean is an awesome stationery brand based in Melbourne that now stocks in over 50 retailers in Australia! A phenomenal effort in such a short space of time, oh and did I mention Jo became a Mum during that time as well.
Jo has even had the honour of travelling to New York City for the National Stationery Show which I think is pretty awesome as basically stationery stores are like my FAVE stores after toy stores. There is just something about cards, gift wrapping and all that paper. I have been known to be lost in stationery stores in NYC, Paris and even Tokyo!
This year, Jo expanded Things by Bean introducing an awesome blog and podcast. The blog has heaps of cool DIY party ideas as well as some pretty crazy kind of cake recipes.
The podcast is next level, hosted by Jo Power and Jeremy Gay, Happy Birthday the Podcast is about all things birthday and celebrations. Introducing some fab ideas I had never known, like Ancient Egyptians were the first to give birthday cards! Given my major at University was Archaeology, that is one of the coolest things I have heard all year.
This month we are testing out some seriously awesome handmade colouring in mats from Australian maker Noble Cubs and I have to say my kids are absolutely loving them!
All designed and handmade in Queensland by mother and creator Martina Noble, these eco-friendly toys are completely machine washable, and brilliant for entertaining kids whilst out and about. I would much prefer my kids play with these fab washable mats than the dreaded tech ( oh tantrum city when you tell them no more playing!)
Martina kindly gifted us two colouring in and doodling mats to test out and review. My 5 year old was so excited to see the construction mat when he opened it up and he was super intrigued as to how it was going to work. I have to admit I was too. I wasn’t sure how the washable markers were going to colour onto the fabric and I was equally intrigued as to whether they would wash out in full to enable further uses of the mat.
We did a change up with our playroom last month and as a result there is now a little cubby area. Well technically it is meant to be another desk/craft area but Hudson has taken it as his little den.
As a result he decided he now needed a “Spy computer” for his new secret area! He has such a creative imagination that I just can’t resist when he asks me to make him something and well, as I have such a love affair with cardboard I thought, why not!?
Inspired by the brilliant kids book “My Color is Rainbow” by Agnes Hsu of the awesome Hello, Wonderful blog, the boys and I created a little rainbow craft for kids.
The book’s message is about kindness, love and acceptance of all. Through the text and illustrations the child understands that it is through their own actions and kindness that can help make a difference to another.
I can’t believe how quickly this year is flying and that I haven’t had the chance to share with you the cool DIY Geo boards we made last school holidays.
I happened to have some spark cork board tiles which I picked up from Bunnings as I had been inspired to make a cork board wall (still a work in progress!). I had seen cool Geo boards on Pinterest so I went and bought some brightly coloured rubber bands and push pins and with a ruler and pencil that was all we needed to start our activity!
March 2nd is World Book day and is celebrated across 100 countries around the world. I know that Australia doesn’t celebrate it as much as countries like the UK and US but anything celebrating reading and books is something I want to be part of!
All this week I have been sharing on my Instagram account, some of our favourite books and as such I wanted to share these with you too!
With all the kids toys we have in our household we are in constant need of more storage for them! We use Lego storage boxes, canvas bags, fabric bags, wire baskets, and woven storage baskets to name but a few but I have had an idea in my head for a while now to source out another bookshelf for toy and book storage.
I was quite keen to try to find an old piece of furniture that we could upcycle to reduce down the impact on the environment as well as reduce down costs.
Ahh Lovers Day around the world, may love and happiness unite!! We don’t celebrate it all that much as I think everyday should be the day you say “I love you” to your loved ones. But it is still nice to think about your loved ones on Valentines day and how much they mean to you.
We made a little heart shaped dream catcher out of our Kwik Stix to celebrate Lovers day but also to help capture any bad dreams that my boys are having, which of late seems to be quite a few!
With the start of school this week in Australia, I thought I would get into the school mood with my next few posts!
I know a lot of parents don’t like to attempt too much art and craft at home because of the mess. They prefer to leave these messy creative activities to when the child is at preschool, day care or school so they don’t have to manage the mess themselves!
I totally get it as with toddlers in particular, after you have taken 15 minutes say to set up, they have painted their picture in 2 seconds and moved on to the next activity! Mummy, keep up, I have moved on from that paint session and now I want to play with blocks or lego or play dress ups…
Yep I totally understand it and find creative sessions can get messy and a little stressed filled with paint, water, sparkles or feathers flying all over the place.
So what would you say to a fun creative painting session with your child but completely mess free? Yup, uh huh, I am telling the truth here, no joke and its name is, wait for it, Kwik Stix!! Oh sorry did I mention it was quick too! Of course it is.
The boys were extremely lucky at Christmas to be gifted some incredible Candylab toy cars from Keld Industries, the Australian distributor of these awesome US designed cars.
We are long time fans of Candylab Toys having helped to crowd fund their second campaign by buying up the second edition of cars that they designed in 2015. We have added to our collection over their 3 Kickstarter campaigns and we are hoping for a 4th campaign this year, c’mon Vlad and team!
As it is summer school holidays the boys and I thought we should give our cars a new home, so we started to create a garage town out of cardboard boxes and paint. And yes, they may have racing stripes on the garages as well as the car numbers on the side of the garages, just so we know which garage they live in!
Following on from my post last month about the fabulous new Australian brand Dinoraw, I wanted to get to know the maker behind the brand, Sarah Kermode.
I love that this Sarah, mother of 2 sons, Jack and Ted is now producing gorgeous dinosaur prints and I will be honest, I think they are THE best out there for any Dino loving child. With a retro vibe, classically playful yet educational for kids, these prints are just ahhmazing!
So let’s find out more about her inspirations, aspirations and how she goes about perfecting her dino drawings.
I am always on the search for amazing gifts, hey it’s my job right? I found French brand Omy Design & Play a few years ago when I discovered their large scale colouring posters and I mean LARGE scale and fell in love!
They were one of the first, if not THE first company, to produce them back in 2012 and I adored that they created pages of some of our favourite cities like London, New York, Paris and Sydney. My sister gave one of the London box sets to my eldest son for Christmas in 2014 and we have had so much fun colouring it in since then.
I have to admit that prior to being a mum of 2 boys, I was not hugely interested in Dinosaurs. I could honestly name 3 dinosaurs and that was pushing it. Fast forward 7.5 years and well as you can imagine so much of my life has changed and now I know dinosaurs by the dozen! Diplodocus, Cryolophosaurus, Trodon, Utahraptor, Ankylosaurus and the list goes on…
We have Schleich dinosaurs which the kids use as bath toys and to play games with, we have dino books and even a dino game, Bingosaurus! But at times, it can be hard to find really nice Dinosaur themed gifts, a lot of the time the dinosaurs are true to life and quite scary for little kids.
Until we found Dino Raw… this Adelaide based company is injecting the divine into dinosaurs with stunning results. Sarah has created pastel coloured dinosaurs, gelati coloured dinosaurs for dino loving babies, dinosaurs with smiles and dinosaur cushions too!
Halycon Nights are a gorgeous Australian kids bedding and now clothing range that has captured my imagination through their brilliant use of colourful prints and artist collaborations. Recently we were lucky to test out some of their bedding range and I have to say we love it!
With a background in fashion retail and product development, this Melbourne based wife and husband team, Kym and Reuben have collaborated with some amazing Australian artists to bring the fun back into bedding! From dinosaurs, rainbow mountains, space ghosts, colorful kaleidoscope playgrounds to Australian outback animals. Every design is filled with creativity and allows kids to imagine just as they drift off to sleep.
Lil Baddits is a gorgeous new babywear range that is launching this month in Australia and seriously this baby wear is just divine!! I will be honest it may make me secretly want a third baby!
Lil Baddits babywear is designed in Australia with hand drawn watercolour prints and made ethically in India using G.O.T.S certified organic cotton and non toxic dyes. It is made of THE softest organic cotton you have touched, seriously AS soft as the baby’s bottoms they are going in!
There are some absolutely brilliant new baby milestones cards that launched this month, Seriously Milestones, an Australian based company set up by mama Issy Kerr. All cards have been designed and produced here and showcase “real parenting moments”.
They are a humorous take on the gorgeous cutesy baby milestone cards that you see a lot on Instagram of late and I have to say I adore them! With and $1 from every box set being given to Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) donation, I think these are a brilliant and fun gift idea for any expecting mum.
Not happy to settle with just producing their gorgeous handcrafted wooden peg dolls which are produced under fair trade conditions in Bogotá, Colombia, Anna and Juan Donado, the amazing couple behind the brand, have now turned their passion and energy to a new element of their company, book publishing!
One of my favourite Instagram accounts as well as blog is the utterly brilliant Hello, Wonderful, run by one Agnes Hsu, of the most amazing and creative Mama’s around, this blog will give you so many fun and clever ideas to craft, create and make. It is filled with so many great projects as well as a wonderful source of inspiration for food, DIY, birthday cards, presents and so much more. It really is a one stop inspiration of all things wonderful, hence the completely apt name!
Agnes and her daughter Alia have recently begun the Rainbow Rock project, which is all about painting rocks with a rainbow motif and then sending them out to the big wide world and spreading their message of kindness to others.
As a toy blogger I see a lot of kids toys as you can imagine, but the ones I am always drawn to are ones that will last generations, ones that our children can enjoy, but also their children. In this very consumerist society, it can be easy to give your children toys upon toys upon plastic toys. But the ones that they will remember won’t be the plastic ones that break or run out of battery, but those that provide them with hours of imagination and wonder. The ones that are sturdy, robust and built to last, which is why I tend towards wooden toys. Aesthetically from a parent’s perspective they are beautiful to look at which is important as you will be seeing it daily, but from a consumerist perspective, they are also ones that you know will survive the rough and tumble of children. They won’t be thrown in the bin because they no longer work!
Art as we all know is very subjective, what one person sees in a drawing, the next person may not. However, my experience in looking at art, whether it be drawings, paintings, sculptures or installations, is that the viewer will usually know straight away if they like the piece of art or not. It will stir in them a passion, a raw emotion, a reminder of the past or a feeling in the present, but a sensation nonetheless.
Swedish based Maja Säfström is one of those artists. Her approach to illustrating is full of wit and humour, it makes you smile even if you are having a long, frantic, horrible day.
Each drawing is quirky, usually of animals, mainly monochromatic but always so stunningly simple and funny. You can spend hours lost in her world of drawings and not to mention laugh deeply to the little quotes that sometimes go with it. I can imagine to have a coffee with Maja or even better a glass of wine, would entail a sore tummy from all the laughter she would provide you with.
When dressing my boys I like to mix up bold prints with minimalist colours, one brand I have been going to for the last few years has been Nununu, the brilliant Israeli brand which season after season brings out perfectly designed clothes that are timeless, yet on trend and always with the same beautiful quality.
One of my favourite things about blogging is finding beautiful new products that I can then let you, my readers, know about, whether it be toys, decor, or clothing.
I get super excited with little butterflies in my stomach when I find a product or piece that I fall in love with and is wonderfully unique and stunning too! Such was the case when I discovered the gorgeous new dutch label Fabels out of Vintage, earlier this year.
As I look to embark on setting up a new business this year, I thought for my blog, I would seek inspiration from other mums and woman who have already done this and most importantly, succeeded!
Hopefully hearing their story can not only inspire my procrastinating little body to be given a kick up the behind, but perhaps motivate my readers to also step outside your comfort zone and take that leap of faith!
I am super excited to announce that I have some guest bloggers joining me this year on the blog, to share with us their wealth of knowledge and passion for their art whether it be kids interiors, toys or gifts.
First up is the truly divine Jess from petitpapercrowns who has started her own interior design blog Petit Paper Crowns, having previously run her own successful online kids store, Arrows and Paper Crowns.
It is that time of year again when all the major kids fashion brands across the globe release their gorgeous new SS16 designs. I am so in love with all the collections I have seen and thought I would do a pick of my faves for you.
One of our all time faves, Gardner and the Gang releases their SS16 collection “Land of no difference” today (Eeep!). We adore the bright and playful prints that GG brings out each season. This one is no exception plus there may be a few models in there you recognise!
As you know we adore Inkibabinki here on this blog, it is one of our fave Australian kids fashion and decor range for their minimal, design led approach.
They have done it again this festive season with their new limited edition Minimalist Christmas Tshirt. We loved it so much that we thought we would get into the Christmassy spirit in November and have a bit of fun!
Wow, I cannot believe we are almost in November, where has the year gone? I am super excited about this “Pay It Forward” as we were extremely lucky to attend an “Under the Sea” themed birthday party way back in February ( it seems many moons ago) and much to our surprise, we received a Shark tail outfit from Schooza as Jasper’s party favour. I nearly fell over myself after seeing the label, realising I was going to be writing a blog feature on this brand later in the year.
Grids, monochrome, stripes and geometric design, all of this gorgeousness encapsulates the work of Inkibabinki. A fellow mama and lover of all things handmade, Indri is a beautiful mama based in Melbourne, who I discovered through our mutual love of monochrome.
Indri produces stunning cushions, softies, onesies and t-shirts. All created with this utterly perfect geometric design. They are timeless, classic design pieces that won’t fade with trends. You can mix things up a bit like I do and add some pops of colour to your kids room to soften the look. With a quality to match, I have been blown away every time we buy a product from Indri.
Today, I have decided on a new name for my boys, they are no longer Jasper and Hudson but rather the… “Café kids”!! Yes, I have to admit, it may be partly my addiction, ahem, obsession with coffee that has made me make a beeline for a café, when I am out and about with the boys.
Last week, we went to have a look at the Bahai temple, a place we travel past daily which is a house of worship for the Bahai faith. As we came outside, Jasper asks “So where is the café mama?” “ Ahh Jasper, it’s the equivalent of a church here, there is no café!”
Firstly, welcome to my new look logo and blog design, I hope you love what you see!
This is another new beginning, nearly a year after I lost my original blog to cyber hackers. It has taken me longer than I had hoped to get my new logo and blog design up and running but I am so happy with the results and hope you like the new clean, more modern feel to the blog.
Ok, so I admit not all of these books have necessarily been published in 2015 and it isn’t the end of the year, yet! However they make my pick of kids books for this year and will make great, ahem, Christmas presents! Yes it is nearly 14 weeks away…. there I said it. Sorry!
September is always a wonderfully special month here in Australia, as we celebrate Father’s Day. This Father’s Day, we gave our Papa ( a throw back still from Germany) a lie in, breakfast in bed and cooked him a yummy late brunch. Plus he was spoilt with lots of tools, handmade cards and chocolates!
We also presented him with 2 awesome toys that he could share with the boys, “Buildme wooden toys“. He was blown away by the “Build Me” boxes he received and a week or two later we had a chance on a rainy Spring afternoon, to construct them.
Buildme Wooden toys toys are an awesome brand established in Melbourne and started by a dad, Darryl Thompson, whose past experience as a shipwright in the Royal Australian Navy and later as a graphic designer, has enabled him to develop the wooden toys from concept and design through to production. I adore that he is trying to bring back some time honoured traditions and to teach children life long skills especially in this techy age.
Well after a glorious Summer like week of weather last week, this week we have had gale force winds, rain and a big drop in temperatures. It feels like Winter again and I am wanting to keep all warm and cosy. I am blaming myself of course as the day I put away all our winter heaters, winter came back with a vengeance! But I digress as always, as all we want to hear about are these super gorgeous timeless knits by the fabulous Misha and Puff. They are oh so perfect for this colder change in temps.
Designed by Anna Wallack in the US, each knit is ethically hand made in Peru. Here the women are given opportunities to support their families through working from home or at a knitting centre that provides meals and childcare.
Gosh I don’t quite know where to start with this feature. I have just finished watching “The True Cost”, a documentary about the horrific and detrimental effects of “Fast Fashion” on the environment and most importantly on human beings. It was recommended by an inspiring mama Kathryn, who owns the eco-friendly kids fashion label “The Smallest Tribe” and who I wrote about last week in regards to her brilliant Kickstarter campaign.
We are all aware of Fast Fashion and most of us would have a basic understanding of what this means, but did you know that the fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry after wait for it, oil. Oil! That statistic shocked me I have to say. With an annual turnover of $3 trillion annually, large corporations are putting profit before the environment and before their workers. There are approximately 40 million garment workers in the world today who earn less than US$3 a day.
If you are a regular reader here, then you will know I am a HUGE supporter of Kickstarter and helping people realise their dreams. I get emails almost weekly from FAB upstarts and wish I had the time to blog about all of them, as ALL of them have done such a brilliant job in getting themselves a campaign going and fingers crossed success!
It was with serious excitement the other week that I find out via email that “The Smallest Tribe”, an inspiring Australian kids fashion label which I discovered at Finders Keepers last year in Sydney, had a Kickstarter campaign starting.
It has been way too long between fashion posts on this blog and for that I apologise profusely!!! But this little label we love and I wanted to let you know about them as the kids have been rocking their tees of late.
Little Wild Things T (LWT) is a gorgeous new kids label based in Melbourne focusing on t-shirts which are made from high quality 100% organic bamboo cotton fabric. Producing a limited run of 30 tees for each collection, which means none of this fast fashion that is so prevalent today. This label is all about creating super soft clothing with designs that won’t date. They launched in December last year and they have already designed 2 collections for ages 1-6 years.